Tongliao! The biggest cattle market in China

It’s been a busy few weeks.

Since my last post in Shanghai, I have been to Chengdu, Zhengzhou, Beijing and Hailar, which a few minutes on Google maps (does Google still exist? Being in China, I really don’t know) will tell you is a hell of a lot of travel. I’ll write a bit more about these other places in a bit, but first an update from the entirely unexpected city of Tongliao!

Tongliao? It’s remote. Two summers ago, I took a seasonal train from Hohhot to Hailar, and most of the time shared my space with three huge guys who got on the train drunk and got off drunker. There was no way I was not getting in on that (seriously, they wouldn’t let me. I’m pretty sure I just wanted to sleep), so my memories of the trip are fuzzy, but what I do remember is that they got off the train in Tongliao.

The old name for Tongliao is Horchun, which translates to Chinese as Kerchin, as in the brand of beef that is increasingly all over the place in China. I’ve had it, it’s not especially good or bad, but it’s the only real brand, so after Hailar, I had a look and yes, you can get there from here. So, here I am!

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Although that filet does look suspiciously like a can of tomato paste

The other thing I know about Tongliao is that a large sheep concern I visited in Bayannuur gets their lambs from here and trucks them in to raise. So yes, this is a place to visit.

At least, for me it is. As a tourist destination, there isn’t a whole lot to recommend about Tongliao. It’s loud, sprawling, and not exactly beautiful, though the park along the Liaohe river (I rode for 25k, so it’s a big park) is lovely, and the library is outstanding, if you happen to be in search of materials on the development of local pastoral industries.

But the real attraction is in fact the cattle markets. A couple of days ago, I visited the Shebotu 舍伯吐牛市 market, which had about 10,000 head of cattle, and today go to the Kailu 开鲁集 market, which is the biggest in China. These are still about half the size they will be at their peak later in the summer.

There’s a lot to describe here, so I’ll save that for a little later. For now, I’m off to Kailu!