A Few Days in Hohhot
Spending a few days in Hohhot was amazing. For the first time since I crossed into China from Zamyn Uud of Mongolia, I finally found a local who can speak good English, who owns a small nice cheap hostel in the middle of Hohhot city. Hohhot is almost the size of KL, a city with a population of 3 million people, bad traffic and easy for me to get lost since I’m traveling without any GPS. And this is not even Beijing yet, I imagine Hohhot being only a suburb compared to Beijing. Cant imagine the size of Beijing and how hard to cycle and navigate inside Beijing city. Once I reached the city, it took me more than an hour to find the cheap hostel. The map I have isn’t so detail and asking the local people wasn’t a good idea. I got lost even more after asking some locals. So at one point I decided to follow my own instinct instead. But at least cycling here in Hohhot is not as bad compared to Urumqi a few years ago.
Once I found the hostel, I was greeted by a Chinese man, followed by his daughter who speaks good English. I felt so relieved that at least someone really understand what I’m saying so I took the advantage by asking her so many things that I need to know here. The first important thing that I did was to get a Chinese number so that I can make a call and can use the gps on my phone for me to navigate around the city. I went to the nearest China Mobile shop telling them that I want to buy a simcard but they told me to go to the nearest hospital. It was hilarious. Sometimes, being in a country that you don’t understand the local language can be fun. I still remember once in a restaurant in Chengdu, I was asking for the bill and the waited for more than 10 minutes, and suddenly she came with 2 eggs and a banana instead. It didn’t look so right and I was laughing so hard until I got teary.
I also found a nice delicious but quite expensive Uighur Xinjiang restaurant not far from the hostel. They greeted me in Arabic and they easily guessed that Im from Malaysia. Being so hungry, I look like a lion eating a zebra. The food was good. I also spot many Hui people around here (Chinese Muslims) in Hohhot. I went to a Giant bicycle shop near the hostel to get some minor repair on my bicycle, and everybody in the shop surrounded my bicycle. It seems that they never seen a Surly bicycle here in China… at least not here in Hohhot. Seems like a nice place here and I got everything I wanted here in this city.
I also went to an old mosque in Hohhot, it was nothing new to me, I’ve seen many mosques before in China and they all look almost the same. But the reason I came down here is to visit the Muslim community here. When I went there, I tried to step in inside the prayer hall and someone shouted at me not to go in. I then went to him and greeted him in Arabic. I introduced myself that I’m a Muslim from Malaysia who are now cycling the world… and in less than 5 minutes, I was surrounded by so many curious Hui people. They were asking me so many questions and when I proceed to the prayer hall to perform a prayer, I realized that they were all watching me, perhaps curious on how Malay people perform the prayer… which must be exactly the same thing. It was fun to see them laughing at me struggling to pronounce each chinese words while talking to them. One of the man then took me and show me around the Chinese Muslims neighbourhood around the area. Everybody was friendly and greeted me in Arabic, “Salam Alaikum”, which means peace be on you.
We then went to a Chinese Muslim restaurant and the owner let me to eat for free. A few Hui guys then joined us at the table to eat together. They told me to stay in their place for free. But I had to tell them no this time, since I wont be long in Hohhot. One of the asked me where do I sleep in this city. I told him in a hostel nearby the big park. He then raised his voice and tell me not to sleep there, he said something “bu hao, kafir”, which means not good, kafir. I snapped, didn’t say a word and look down a while, thinking of how to tell him. I then tried my best to explain to him with my so broken chinese, “wo men bu keyi shuo ni men kafir. Allah ke yi… but.. wo men bu ke yi”. Not sure if he really get me, but from his facial expression I think he understands me. How can we human judge someone to be a kafir. No matter what religion we believe in, no matter what we do in this life, none of us can judge others. Our knowledge is so limited. Our human brain is not built for that. We can only see the cover, but we know nothing about the inside. Only the creator of the universe can decide the destiny of each soul in the afterlife, his judgment is so deep in his knowledge is unlimited. Only He who knows our intention behind our deed, everything that belongs inside our heart… but not us humans, whos knowledge is so limited and so blind to judge others. This universe is growing in 2 different paths, it gets bigger and bigger, 99999…. (towards the greater infinity) and smaller and smaller, 0.00000….1 (towards the smallest infinity) and it is so refined. Our brain just cant comprehend so many things, yet alone to judge other soul, which requires a very deep knowledge… so its good enough if we think good on others in this life. Thats what Ive been practicing for years being on the road. Not to judge others, not to think bad about others. But sometimes I do fall inside the hole, sometimes I do think bad about others, which I’m still struggling to change. But my experience living my life on the road, as a nomad… helps. Thinking good about other soul, can lead to being grateful, which slowly can lead to happiness…