Baotou Overview

A city of massive industrial sprawl three hours west of Hohhot, Baotou (Bāotóu, 包头) is Inner Mongolia's largest city, and perhaps its least attractive. This is largely because Baotou is China's most prolific producer of iron, steel and rare earth elements, a situation that paints not just the city's reputation, but its ground, rivers and skies. You'll probably notice this if you come to Baotou on a night train from Yinchuan; check out the preternaturally glowing banks of rust-colored smog dragging across the tortured sky. Below, tangled masses of pipes and smokestacks are lit by a legion of hellish fires spitting toxic sparks from the mouths of countless blast furnaces. In the dark, and on such an enormous scale, the industrial nightmare-scape is captivating and, in a way, beautiful.

However, the industrial impact of Baotou's primary economic activity is something the city is trying to mitigate and with some success. Recent efforts to combat desertification and to improve air quality include afforestation efforts, as well as construction of green industrial complexes, a very large botanical garden, and the implementation of sustainable development initiatives, which have seen Baotou's per capita green land surpass the national average. For its efforts, Baotou has won a number of international awards.

Despite this, Baotou is still a city which offers very little to the average tourist. Although the aforementioned Arding Botanical Gardens is a nice place to take a stroll, pretty much the only other thing for travelers to take in is Wudang Lamasery (Wudang Zhao), an impressive Tibetan-style monastery beyond the city limits. Other attractions are a little distant; Genghis Khan's Mausoleum, the apocryphal site of his buried remains, is a ways south, close to the city of Dongsheng (Dōngshèng, 东胜). Also of note, and probably worth the effort of visiting, if only for the extraordinarily cheap rate charged for a round of parasailing, is Resonant Sand Gorge, site of a mesmerizing sea of dunes which grow up to 90 m in height (approximately 300 ft).

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