My first impression of Mohe was of a charming, quaint, and slightly rustic town.
There was a concrete train platform, but it was so much shorter than the train, that anyone in the last three or so carriages at either end just climbed down the stairs and jumped the gap to the dirt ground below.
Following the others passengers I found the ‘car park’ which was just an open area of dirt ground.
I quickly located a taxi driver and showed him my pre-printed hotel address in Chinese.
‘Here’ I say pointing to the address knowing that the English verbal addition was useless.
He squints at the address, and then looks at me. He points at himself looking totally confused as if to say “me? Drive you here?” Confused I nod. He’s standing right next to the marked taxi he just got out of. What’s the problem?
Smiling suddenly he nods and skips around to the drivers side. That confusing exchange passed, I get in.
Mohe quickly comes into view, all of its buildings are Russian style since a fire burnt the whole town to the ground in 1985 and all the buildings were rebuilt in that style.
There are pot holes the size of small children littering the roads around the town.
It is a slightly bizarre jarring feeling to be here.
After living in Harbin with its 12 million people for so long, and visiting other cities such as Jilin, Qiqihar and Daqing all with at least a million people, and Beijing which is bigger than all of them, it is odd to suddenly be in a rustic backwater town.
There are almost no cars on the road! I think I almost forgot what that looked like.
There are no true high rises and the buildings around the outskirts of town are haphazardly strewn about.
I knew that Mohe was small (Google Maps told me so), but the reality is still oddly surprising anyway.
Mohe is right at the end of China, right at the top of the part of Heilongjiang province, it is a twenty + hour train trip from Harbin.
I almost didn’t come. It is out in the middle of nowhere, a 20 hour train ride away and non of the other foreign teachers or Chinese teacher assistants had been to Mohe or knew anyone who had been there. Only one foreign teacher had heard of the place and all the Chinese teacher assistants could say was “why do you want to go to Mohe? It’s cold”.
(Which mystified me because I was looking to go in summer, so no matter how cold it was, this was a giant case of the pot calling the kettle black since Harbin’s -30 degree Celsius winter is its main tourist season.)
I also couldn’t find any other bloggers who had been, and all my e-book of Lonely Planet could say about accommodation was:
‘that there were many restrictions on where foreigners could stay at the time of writing.”
What was a compulsive planner like me to do?
In the end I just booked train tickets and booked the only place I could find on Trip Advisor that actually had prices listed, all while cringing at the amount.
In short my ‘no regrets’ philosophy triumphed my budget philosophy.
And I’m really glad I went. It is a quirky little place.
I’d recommend exploring the town on foot as opposed to getting a taxi. I ended up doing both.
The first day I stayed, I arrived late, so after freshening up from the train I set off to explore on foot. I hope that I never get tired of exploring new places. It is the most exhilarating feeling.
The next day I was trying to plan a day trip to Beijicun for the third day – I wanted the hotel staff to show me where the bus station was on the map so I could get a ticket. For reasons I’ll discuss later I ended up taking a taxi instead of a bus – I’ll talk about Beijicun in a later post. My taxi driver wanted to drive me around Mohe as well – free of charge.They seemed to be worried that I’d get lost.
You’d have to be really talented to get lost in a place as small as Mohe.
If anyone manages it, I’d salute them.
In the end I agreed just in case I would miss something exploring by myself.
So first he took me to North Pole Star Park which I had found myself in my brief exploration the night before after my train had arrived. Then we went to North Polar Pine Trees Park which I hadn’t been to but was in a direction I had not walked yet and had been planning to walk before I was conned in to this. 🙂
He then took me to eat at a tasty little restaurant. This was really nice of him, but grated at my independent spirit. So now I can’t find my own food? Really?
When I was dropped off back at the hotel, I said thanks, smiled, walked up the steps, hid behind the pillar while he left, came back around the other side and fist pumped the air.
Freedom! I was no longer being babysat. Whoopie!
I then explored more of the town on foot, which is so much better just for the greater ability it gives you to see the town. From the places out of town that they would never take you, with dirt roads and old houses, to having miming conversations with street side sweet corn vendors, to noticing that even in close to the centre of town all main paved streets are connected by little side streets that are just dirt tracks.
Where I stayed in Mohe.
Most expensive place I’ve ever stayed in, free buffet breakfast included, helpful trip planning staff, only place that I found that could be booked online or even had prices online, great location in the centre of Mohe, good internet. I’m not really sure if it lived up to the price as I have nothing to compare it to.
What to see in Mohe.
North Pole Star Park (北极星公园; Běijí Xīng Gōngyuán)
This is good to get an aerial view of Mohe. There are also lots of locals hanging out here in the evening.
North Polar Pine Trees Park (北极松苑; Běijí Sōngyuàn)
This is the only part of the city that survived the 1985 fire. The local government building has been built beside it for good luck.
Over to you. Have you ever visited far-flung places like Mohe? Where? Would you ever make the trip to visit Mohe? I’d love to hear from you.