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Mongolia is one of the countries bordering our country and has close relations with it in terms of economy and resources.
The Mongolian city with which we have the closest relationship is Zamyn-Ude, a small county near the Mongolia-China border.
This small county is only 9 kilometers away from our city Erlianhot, which not only relies on our country for electricity transmission, but can even use RMB directly for daily consumption.
Its ease of living has led some people in the country to view it as a tourist destination. Of course, there are also some people who think that its customs and culture are not very different from some counties in China, and its name does not live up to its name.
But it is such a small city that, since Mongolia has planned it as a self-trade port, it has ranked among the top cities in Mongolia in terms of GDP, thanks to its close ties with the Chinese city of Erlianhot.
What exactly does it trade with our country? In what ways has China helped it? What kind of customs does this small county, less than 10 kilometers from China, have?
Small Town Life
Zamyn-Ude is located in the southeastern part of Mongolia and has an administrative area of 460 square kilometers, which is the size of Beijing's Chaoyang District.
However, the entire city has a small resident population of 1,428 households and 6,071 people.
This remote county is actually quite important in Mongolia. Zamyn-Ude, which means the gate of the road in Mongolian, is the most important import and export port of Mongolia to China.
Mongolia's light industry and agriculture are not developed enough, and most of the daily necessities and food are imported in large quantities, and the biggest import trade object of Mongolia is the nearest China.
As the closest Mongolian city to China, its status naturally speaks for itself.
Coupled with the low cost of visiting the country, tourism is also well developed. Zamyn-Ude ranks 9th among all cities in Mongolia in terms of economic level, and its economic development is much faster than other cities in Mongolia.
If you want to go to Zamyn Ude, you can find many travel agencies in Erlianhot that have day trips to Zamyn Ude, so you can fly through a foreign trip as long as you have your ID and passport ready.
As a city with a strong tourist industry, Zamyn-Ude has a variety of architectural forms, incorporating the architectural styles of different regions and countries.
However, because of Zamyn-Ude's proximity to China and Russia, European-style architecture and Chinese-modern style buildings are most common here.
Because of the small size of Zamyn Ude, there is not much to see. The most unique feature is the small train station, which is used to welcome tourists.
This train station is European in style, with a high spire and simple European decorations.
Perhaps for us such a style has long been seen, but for this small county, it is already very iconic.
It also doesn't have many stores and the variety of products looks similar to the level of domestic street supermarkets.
Inside are a number of imported products, of which the most imported from China, will also be interspersed with some Russian products and French products.
Visitors can find many chocolates and food products from Europe, which are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
In 2004, Mongolia established Zamyn-Ude as a free trade zone, so there are no tariffs here and the prices of many products are much lower than in the country.
In addition, as a region with more trade between Mongolia and China and Russia, a lot of people like to come here to buy some products specifically, mainly alcoholic beverages.
Here you can buy not only Russian spirits, but also wines from France, as well as local Genghis Khan wines.
This has caused a lot of local alcoholics, and many times before going on a trip there are special instructions to stay away from alcoholics and not get caught up with them.
The food in Zamyn-Ude is not quite the same as the traditional Mongolian food in order to welcome the tourists who come to travel.
The local restaurants are more Russian in style, serving not only Mongolian cuisine like grilled lamb chops, but also lamb chops with dalebas, tomatoes and onions.
The local people also like to drink milk tea, but unlike the street milk tea we often drink, this milk tea tastes salty and is more of a supplemental drink for Mongolians.
From this point of view, it is actually not too different from the Inner Mongolia tour.
If you want to experience the authentic Mongolian flavor in Zamyn-Ude, there is no place to go.
About 3km away from the county, there is a special Mongolian style resort where you can eat pure Mongolian food, enjoy Mongolian song and dance performances, as well as horseback riding and hunting, making it a more enjoyable scenic spot for travelers to visit.
Of course, the mainstay of Zamyn Ude is still the import-export trade, and the development of tourism is a by-product of the import-export business.
It is not cost effective to visit Zamyn Ude specifically, but it is a port of entry, so if people want to travel to Mongolia, they usually leave from here, so staying here for a day is an option for many people.
The local young people actually prefer to come to China for pleasure, and they often pull Chinese goods down to Zamyn Ude in the daytime, and bring fur and other trade goods to China in the evening.
Stay in China for the night and have fun, then continue business the next day.
It is not too much to say directly that although they are Mongolian, they live in China.
Local people are also basically engaged in trade-related work, not only because of the convenience of the local location, but also because the local natural environment is really not suitable for the survival of traditional industries.
The natural environment of Zamyn Ude is very harsh. It is located in the continental arid climate zone, so the land is severely desertified and there are many desert areas.
Many nationalities visiting Zamyn-Ude for the first time are not very comfortable, after all, the level of hygiene is not high and the staffing ration for basic services is relatively low.
Local people are very fond of wearing boots, it is because of the sandy wind, the road often accumulate a lot of sand, coupled with the cleaning is not timely, so if you wear shorter shoes is easy to fill the sand into the shoes.
It can be said that this seemingly mediocre city has risen on the back of China.
The rise of Zamyn Ude was after it was completely opened as an import and export trade port.
Since 1994, the Mongolian government has increased its investment in Zamyn-Ude and started to incline a lot of resources to Zamyn-Ude.
Since 1996, Zamyn Ude has been financially self-sufficient, which has significantly liberalized the speed and efficiency of Zamyn Ude's development.
In just a few years, the revenue of Zamyn-Ude jumped to the top of Mongolia, and in 2000 the total revenue of Zamyn-Ude district (including customs duties) reached 30 billion tugrugs (Mongolian currency, 1 tug ≈ 0.0022 RMB).
As the economy grew, so did education and health care in Zamyn-Ude.
Before that, education and health care were free in Zamyn Ude, and there was only one school.
At that time, many families who were relatively well-off sent their children to China to study, and many local officials had the experience of studying in Erlianhot.
But after several years of development, Zamyn Ude's infrastructure has been greatly improved.
Already in 2000, there were more than a dozen schools in Zamyn Ude, and a new private Russian language school was built.
The hospital has also added a lot of modern equipment and instruments, and even has a spa retreat program, which can be said to give the whole county a new look.
Of course, due to the harsh natural environment and the overall strength of Mongolia, the development of Zamyn-Ude is limited by basic resources such as electricity.
And the limited power in Zamyn Ude is still the country's power transmission to it since 1994.
Every year, Erlianhot Power Supply Bureau delivers millions of kilowatt-hours of electricity to Zamyn-Ude and provides personnel and technical assistance in case the other side's power system fails.
The entire transmission line is about 16 kilometers long, and each month a meter reading is recorded and billing is done in US dollars.
The electricity from China has also turned into a peculiar "trade goods", and without the pressure of electricity, Zamyn Ude has successfully completed the take-off and transformation.
In fact, Zamyn Ude, which originally lacked water, also hoped to obtain water resources from China to see if it could trade water resources with the local Erlianhot.
Unfortunately, the distribution of water resources in China is already unbalanced, and Erlianhot is located in the same natural environment as Zamyn Ude, with a lot of sand and lack of water resources, so the request for water trading has not been reached.
In 2013, China introduced the "One Belt, One Road" policy, the implementation and continuous development of which has brought new opportunities and changes to Zamyn Ude.
We are strengthening cooperation with Mongolia not only on electricity transmission, but also gradually strengthening trade in other basic resources, as well as trying to dig deeper into Mongolia's livestock industry to achieve a win-win situation in this deal.
Zamyn Ude has also made great strides in this economic development, and now the stores in Zamyn Ude have become more sophisticated and beautiful, and the products available for purchase have become more diverse.
Of course the most of them are still light industrial products from China.
As a trade port between China, Mongolia and Russia, this small county has grown in importance with the times and has become a pearl on the border of Mongolia.
Zamyn-Ude is often referred to as "Little Hong Kong" in Mongolia, which represents the high hopes of Mongolians for Zamyn-Ude.
Also thanks to the growth and development of trade, the local people have a good standard of living and their families are in a good situation.
And they all started by doing business with Erlian Hote.
The mutual influence and integration of the two cities, Erlianhot and Zamyn Ude, is much deeper than we can imagine.
The exchange between the two cities is also facilitated by a thriving foreign trade business.
There is hardly a native of Zamyn Ude who is not engaged in foreign trade, and even if he or she is not, someone in his or her family is bound to be engaged in related work.
This has also given Zamyn Ude the strange phenomenon of a small population and a large number of vehicles.
The primary role of people here is to choose vehicles for hauling goods and doing business, so the very strong and durable military jeep "GAS 69" is very common here.
These cars are converted into lorries that can hold a lot of things and are driven by Zamyn-Ude people every day to circulate between Erlianhot and Zamyn-Ude, becoming a good partner for local people to get rich.
Correspondingly, you can also see a lot of "Gass 69" in Erlianhot, part of these cars are from Mongolia, and more are the trade cars of Erlianhot people.
A large number of "GAS 96" are lined up every day at the entry and exit points of both countries.
These vehicles make a trip between the two countries every day, and although the actual distance is only about 10 to 20 kilometers, they need to wait for about an hour at the border for formalities.
These "Gass 96" a bite a tail line on the road, sometimes if there is a minor rear-end accident, the busy traders do not bother to get out of the car to take a look.
Anyway, this military model is strong enough, such a small car accident more than let the front of the car steel plate more than a dent.
This military model of the last century seems to have become a bridge between the trade of people from both places and a special local scenery.
Even more interesting is the view of people in Zamyn-Ude and even Ulaanbaatar (the capital of Mongolia) about the city of Erenhot.
In Mongolia, the city of Erlianhot is more desirable and familiar to them than big cities like Beijing or Shanghai.
As mentioned before, many people from Zamyn Ude often come to Erlianhot for fun and shopping.
Erlianhaote people often joke that Mongolian beauties are not bad and come to shop by the truckload.
The people of Zamyn-Ude also feel that Erenhot is like a "robot cat with quadratic pockets", where they can buy everything they need, want, and even never thought of.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Erlianhot is the most familiar Chinese city to Mongolians.
These people who trade to and from the city have long since become one in this life, and when foreigners come to Erlianhot, it is difficult to distinguish who is a local and who is a Zamyn Ude.
Even many of the Zamyn-Ude people who do business are more familiar with the routes and markets of Erlianhot than the young locals.
In addition to the small trade carried out by car, the large trade carried out by train was also carried out all the time.
The railroad from Erlianhot to Zamyn-Ude was opened back in 1956.
This special railroad is a bridge linking China, Mongolia and Russia, a special route from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar and then to Moscow. It takes about 3 days for the train to run once.
The city of Erlianhot was also approved as a city in 1966 because of this particular railroad.
It can be said that this trade route not only brought wealth to Zamyn-Ude, but also brought a whole new neighbor and sister city to Zamyn-Ude.
Of course, because of the difference in railroad specifications between our country and Mongolia, Mongolia uses the Russian track standard, which is wider than ours.
So if tourists take this train to Mongolia or and Russia, they need to change the wheels in Zamyn Ude, the whole process is about 70 minutes and it will be a very interesting experience.
In the process of continuous trade development between the two places, the railroad has also been widened and repaired more than once, and now the speed here is much faster than before, which has also led to the rapid development of more trade business.
In the midst of these increasingly prosperous trade, Erlianhot and Zamyn Ude have made mutual achievements and developed together.
The two cities at the border of the country have created a prosperity and vitality that is different from that of the big cities due to their special location.
They seem to be merged into one by frequent exchanges, and many Mongolians are deeply relieved the moment they return to Erlianhot after traveling or doing business in other Chinese cities.
Erlianhot has become a window for Mongolians to learn about China and a "hometown" for Mongolians in China. The city of Zamyn-Ude, which is very close to Erlianhot, has become the root of Mongolian people's foreign exchange.
Why is it called a tourist destination
The people of Zamyn Ude also have a great love for their hometown, and although the city may seem no different from a small town to the countrymen, to the Zamyn Ude people, this is where their roots are.
It may be hard to feel small when we see the size of Zamyn Ude, but when we are actually here, it is hard to call it a "city".
With only one hospital, only one hotel, only one bank, and only one gas station, there is a lot of uniqueness here.
Except for the most important water tower locals feel that one is not enough, everything else is perfectly adequate.
And there are not even very tall buildings in the whole of Zamyn Ude, where you can't see the city skyline but only the blue sky when you stroll through the streets.
Although the exterior of the complex in Zamyn Ude is also made of modern glass curtain walls, the height is only two stories high, and it has a wonderful feeling of oscillating between modern and near-modern.
Everyone who comes to this small town will feel as if they are in a small Chinese town from years ago.
It's not only the environment and architecture that give you this feeling, but also the Chinese light industrial products that can be found everywhere, and the various stores that can be used directly in RMB.
One can even see playgrounds here that are similar to those of schools in China, except that the uniforms of the students playing on the playgrounds are more European in style.
But everywhere you look, there are signs in Russian, Neo-Mongolian (a modified Mongolian language that draws on Russian), and people speaking Mongolian, telling travelers that this is not China, but another country.
There are people who come on the trip who really like the place and those who don't.
People who don't like Zamyn Ude, naturally, because it's really not as developed as the country and is a very rustic country town compared to Erlianhot, which is more than ten kilometers away.
But it is the atmosphere of such a small town that people like here.
Although trade work is not an easy job, people in Zamyn Ude do not live with much anxiety, and people with trade vehicles can be seen everywhere on the street resting on the side of the road.
People seemed to know each other, and many would greet each other on the road in a cordial and natural atmosphere.
Being in this small town, the days are slowed down, life's expenses are small, and human interaction is simple. It's a tangible and peaceful joy.
The local people living here will not sink in comfort, the prosperity of foreign trade makes them have a passion for struggle, but also have their own lives outside the busy.
Local people are using their own efforts and hands to change their lives and their hometowns.
This small, barren and backward city on the Gobi has gradually become a "shining pearl" on the Mongolian border, despite its lack of beauty.
If it were you, would you want to visit this city? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.