Maybe it’s due to the allure of summer, I perpetually yearn for the vast expanse of the grassland. The Ulan Butong Grassland in Keshiketeng Banner, Zhaowuda League, Inner Mongolia has forever been a place of my fervent desire. On that particular day, we embarked on our journey to the grassland, traversing thousands of miles.
It was already afternoon when we boarded the tour bus en route to Wudan Town, Wengniute Banner. As per the itinerary, our first stop was Yulongsha Lake. If the weather had been sunny, I would have longed to wander through the desert, immersing myself in the primordial scenery beyond the Great Wall. However, that afternoon, the weather took a turn for the worse, and rain began to fall even before I disembarked from the vehicle. The capricious nature of the grassland weather is truly unpredictable. When rain descends, it brings with it an intense coldness. Despite donning long garments and trousers, we remained powerless against the chill carried by the wind and the slanting rain. Our teeth chattered uncontrollably. Only then did we proceed to visit Yulongsha Lake. From that moment on, I developed a fear of the rain on the grassland, prompting me to prepare my raincoat and umbrella in advance for the following morning’s early departure.
Continuing our westward journey aboard the tour bus, we made our way towards the Ulan Butong Grassland. The vehicle traversed the highway, ascending and ascending, drawing us ever closer to Keshiketeng Banner. The locals refer to it as “Bazi,” while the dam’s sides are adorned not only with grass but also beets and sunflowers. A vast field of sunflowers adorns the verdant dam, clothing it in resplendent floral attire, reminiscent of the poetic line “The sun is setting on the mangroves and green mountains, and the grass in the long suburbs is endless green.” Situated at the southernmost tip of Keshiketeng Banner, Ulan Butong Grassland was once part of the hunting garden and Mulan Paddock during the Qing Dynasty. It gained fame as the site where Kangxi commanded the Qing army in their battle against Galdan.
After disembarking from the bus, we found ourselves beneath a gray sky, and soon thereafter, rain began to fall. The drizzle enveloped the blades of grass, kissed the wildflowers, and whispered words of affection, embellishing the enchanting atmosphere of mist and rain. Clad in my raincoat, I followed the stream of people along the elevated grassland viewing plank road. Despite the drizzling mist, the moment we set foot upon the elevated platform of the plank road and beheld the grassland stretching into the distance, our hearts were captivated by the breathtaking beauty of the Ulan Butong Grassland, compelling us to exclaim in awe: “It is truly magnificent!”
The ancient wooden plank road, not particularly lofty, had been thoroughly cleansed by the drizzle. In truth, it had always been pristine. How could such a splendid human-desert tolerate any filth? Leaning against the railing, gazing into the distance, the indistinct hills resemble galloping horses upon the grassland, with their undulations and crests. At the foot of the verdant mountains, the grassland sprawls like a green carpet, tranquilly awaiting the arrival of distant guests, inviting them into its embrace. The Aobao atop the plank road stands silently amidst the slanting wind and drizzle. Its multicolored Hada, akin to rain-washed neon garments, exudes a sacred and mystical beauty. The desert stands majestic, while the grassland extends boundlessly. Such grandeur is simultaneously delicate and resplendent in my eyes.
As we ventured from the plank road into the grassland, the sky suddenly cleared, and the rain gradually abated. While strolling around the lake situated in the heart of the grassland, we were accompanied by the azure sky, white sheep, and undulating grass. Beneath the cerulean heavens, luxuriant grass gently caressed our ankles. The grasses flourished, and flowers bloomed with resplendent beauty. Various hues of blossoms swayed in the breeze, rain, and mist, including scarlet burnet, purple burnet, and more. Thyme, dog-eared flowers, golden nasturtiums, spring onions, and tangerine grass embellished the landscape. The entire grassland resembled a pristine tapestry, unfurling its light fragrance to the horizon. I secretly pondered that these must be the ethereal spirits of the grassland; otherwise, they would not grow so freely and bloom so magnificently.
Although I had previously admired the splendor of the Ulan Butong Grassland on television and had envisioned its beauty during our journey, the actual experience of stepping footon the grassland surpassed all expectations. The vastness of the open space, the gentle sway of the grass, and the sense of freedom that enveloped me were truly awe-inspiring. It felt as if time had slowed down, allowing me to fully immerse myself in the tranquility and serenity of the grassland.
As we ventured further into the grassland, we encountered local herdsmen with their herds of grazing sheep. They greeted us with warm smiles and invited us to experience their nomadic lifestyle. We had the opportunity to try horse riding, an activity deeply rooted in the traditional culture of the grassland. Riding on the back of a sturdy Mongolian horse, I felt a profound connection with nature and a sense of harmony with the surroundings. The rhythmic galloping of the horse echoed the beating of my heart, and for a moment, I felt like a part of this ancient land.
In the evening, we gathered around a bonfire set up by the local herdsmen. They treated us to a traditional Mongolian feast, featuring delicious roasted lamb, dairy products, and homemade bread. As we sat around the fire, listening to the melodious tunes of the horsehead fiddle and throat singing, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the rich cultural heritage of the grassland. The warmth of the fire, the laughter of the people, and the starry night sky above created an atmosphere of camaraderie and contentment.
When night fell, we retreated to our yurts, traditional Mongolian dwellings that provided a cozy and comfortable resting place. Inside the yurt, the soft glow of the flickering lamp created a warm and inviting ambiance. I lay on the bed, gazing up at the circular opening in the roof known as the “crown of the sky,” through which I could see the twinkling stars. It was a humbling experience, a reminder of the vastness and beauty of the universe.
The next morning, I woke up early to catch the sunrise on the grassland. As the first rays of light emerged on the horizon, the entire landscape was bathed in a golden glow. The grass sparkled with dewdrops, and the air was crisp and invigorating. It was a moment of pure serenity and natural beauty, a sight that would forever be etched in my memory.
Leaving the Ulan Butong Grassland was not easy. I felt a deep connection to this enchanting place, and part of me longed to stay and explore its hidden corners further. But as we boarded the bus to return to the bustling city, I carried with me a sense of peace and tranquility that the grassland had bestowed upon me.
The Ulan Butong Grassland is more than just a picturesque destination; it is a place that touches the soul and offers a glimpse into the nomadic way of life. It is a reminder of the beauty and resilience of nature and a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Inner Mongolia. Visiting the grassland was an unforgettable experience, one that left me with a deep appreciation for the vastness and diversity of our world.