"A changing town"
Hohhot (pronounced roughly 'who-her-how-ter) is changing fast.
It was founded in the sixteenth century, and became the capital of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in 1952.
There's plenty of history here, but these days you have to look for it.
Much of it is now a town of wide boulevards, swish new buildings - and fashionable shops. There's even a Holiday Inn, the first international hotel chain to come to the city.
The old area, Yuquan, is now being promoted as 'the rising district'. Over half of the houses in this 6 square kilometer area have been reconstructed, over 150 new roads have been built, and the local economy's growing at over 10% a year.
Pretty soon the area's going to be unrecognisable - a lot better for the residents, but without the characteristics that still make it a fascinating place to cycle or walk through.
The picture shows what will be a new shopping parade, attractively decorated in traditional style.
Much of the development is 'standard Chinese modern', but it's not for me as a foreigner to be concerned about that. Those who actually live in a place should set the priorities, not those of us out for an afternoon stroll!
But if you are in Hohhot don't miss the chance to stroll around Yuquan.
Just beyond Da Zhao Temple is is one of the most interesting streets I've come across in China. It's full of what looks to me like distinguished examples of Qing Dynasty architecture, and it also contains the only shop I've come across that sells only CCP memorabilia. Bargaining for this huge statue of Mao starts at 28,000 RMB (just under £2,000). The pose is a little stiff, though, and the best thing in the shop's actually a head of Zhou Enlai.
A little further along, down a small alley, there's a sculpture workshop with some with an outdoor display. And lots of shops selling Inner Mongolian souvenirs, some of which charge fair prices, some of which don't.
But it all seems a world away from the huge westernised department stores in the city centre, which you can get to in under 20 minutes on a bike.
The city as a whole I like less than Nanjing, where we were teaching before. The roads are TOO wide for my taste, and I miss the sense that something interesting might be around the next corner.
But the people here are friendly - there's usually someone to lend a hand if you're having a problem. Mongolians pride themselves on their hospitality, with justification.
Anyway, any Chinese city's full of unexpected pleasures. These women were part of a street concert and were eager to be photographed!