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Hometown nostalgia in Inner Mongolia

By Martyn Joseph Newlands | | Updated: 2023-07-24 09:24
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Horses running during the Qiangu Masong show in Inner Mongolia. [Photo by Martyn Joseph Newlands/]

Inner Mongolia is known as one of the many gems of China in thanks to its culture and the warmth of its people. Visiting here was one of my top priorities when arriving in China in 2019, but unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic I was not able to make that dream come true until recently. As a representative of China Daily, I jumped at the chance to partner with "A Date with China" in order to finally visit Inner Mongolia. Little did I know that the picturesque countryside would provide the warm familiarities of my home country, Scotland.

The nostalgia for my home country hit me when we were taken to watch a performance, one which reminded me of attending the Highland Games as a youngster. The show, Qiangu Masong, was a love letter to Inner Mongolia's relationship with horses, something I was quite familiar with growing up next to a multitude of stables. The show opened with a stampede of white horses galloping around the performance area. Soon came the riders, gracefully launching themselves into flips on and around the horses. I was in awe at the miraculous art, something that obviously runs through the performer's veins, and the skills that have been passed down from generation to generation. The narrative of the performance followed one family's journey with their horse, showcasing the love and respect their people have for these graceful animals. The performance also featured majestic aerial skills and indulged us in the national treasure of throat singing, something that I had heard great things about from friends who had previously visited this region. I was amazed by the skill and talent of the singer's abilities.

As our trip went one and we were showcased around the diverse landscapes of the region, I began to feel a comforting warmth. I soon realized the similarities in a lot of the landscapes to my beloved Scotland. I saw my pride in the mountains, my home in the grasslands and my youth in the wetlands. The eco-systems of Inner Mongolia relied on a symbiotic relationship between all the plants to create a beautiful painting. A painting where all the strokes were purposeful and unique. It truly felt like a home away from home.

Roasted mutton, a typical Inner Mongolian delicacy. [Photo by Martyn Joseph Newlands/]

Growing up in the countryside in North East Scotland, I was raised on fresh produce, so one thing I had looked forward to the entire trip was the meat, I had heard so many delicious things about the area's delicacies and couldn't wait to get my hands on some roasted mutton. The tour took us for a traditional feast which showcased some of the best food the region had to offer and the prized jewel amongst it was indeed the roasted mutton. The meat was tender and flavorful with a charred glow to it - the chefs had been slow roasting it over a wood burning fire for the past three hours. Before we could dig in, they invited us in a ceremony which involved addressing the beast before cutting it. The experience is one I will never forget, and neither will my taste buds.

My journey to Inner Mongolia was long awaited, but well worth the wait. The generosity and warmth of the people truly makes it one of my favorite places I have ever visited. I am already marking my calendar for my next adventure back, as I feel I have only scratched the surface of what they have to offer.

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