Bai Ta and Baita.
Sharing the same name, one ancient and one brandnew, I decided to visit both locations in one day with a friend.
One’s a 7-storey octagonal tower, built in the Liao dynasty, the other’s an airport branding the same name and only finished it’s first expansion recently.
Bai ta, also known as ‘the white pagoda’ is 18 km’s east of Hohhot, or some 4 km’s east of the airport.
With a height of 55.6 meters, it stands quite tall in the surrounding flat landscape, dominated by brick walls and dry land.
The Liao dynasty took place somewhere between 907 and 1125 A.C., created by a tribe that called themselves the ‘Khitan’.
Their capital is the same as the present day capital; Beijing, or then known as Yanjing.
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The full extend of the reason for building it is not entirely clear to me, but the fact that it’s an impressive sight is.
Ofcourse it has been restored in the past, but nevertheless its structure and feel is quite imposing.
Inside there are 2 staircases that wind around eachother to form an internal corkscrew that leads to the seventh floor.
Once at the top we experienced the weirdest thing; because of its structure and probably materials used, when you stand precisely in the middle of the top, under the dome that forms the roof, you hear yourself speak in a resonating tone.
I don’t know what the science behind it is, but it must have something to do with soundwaves.
Anyway, the sound of your own voice or the people with you bounces into your ear the moment you or they speak, which makes it sound really strange. Other than you’ve ever heard it before.
It’s not like an echo, or actually maybe it is, an immediate one, that makes you hear your own voice multiplied a few times at once.
Really great experience.
Although unfortunately not having seen much of it, supposedly the pagoda’s inside should be inscripted with various old minority languages, like Sanskrit, Mongolian, Turki and even an old Syriac language.
I did see some inscriptions, but they seemed Chinese to me.
I loved all the wood used inside though, some of it they couldn’t have had replaced during any reconstruction, simply because of the position it was in.
Finally, the pagoda gets its white colour from the the clay and chalk used for the outside layer, also known as malm.
After this we wandered back in the direction of Hohhot, and ofcourse we couldn’t resist the opportuniy of doing so ON the railroad.
After a short lift from a friendly local, we stopped at the fence of Baita airport, at the end of the runway, which is basically located next to the road. Here we stayed for a while to watch the airplanes come over and land and take off.
Baita airport is part of a large plan of the Beijing government to improve north China’s air transportation system.
The new terminal was created to serve as an overspill for the upcoming Beijing olympics.
Although not a busy airport, it has destinations to some 30 cities all over China, and an international route to Ulaan Baator, capital of Mongolia. From Beijing its a short 45-minute flight to Hohhot.
I have just bought an electric bike so I hope to explore the likes of Hohhot a bit more very soon. Till then.