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Introducing Yúlín

Thanks to extensive coal mining and the discovery of natural gas fields nearby, this one-time garrison town on the fringes of Inner Mongolia’s Mu Us Desert is booming. Despite all the construction, there’s still enough of interest to make this a good place to break a trip if you’re following the Great Wall or heading north on the trail of Genghis Khan.

Parts of the earthen city walls are still intact, while the main north–south pedestrian street in the elongated old town (divided into Beidajie and Nandajie) has several restored buildings, including a Bell Tower (钟楼; Zhōng Lóu) first erected in 1472 and destroyed several times (the current tower dates to the early 20th century). With several restaurants and antique shops, it’s a nice street to wander at night, when it’s lit by lanterns.

Seven kilometres north of the Yúlín bus station, on the outskirts of town, are some badly eroded sections of the Great Wall and a Ming-era four-storey beacon tower that dates to 1607. Bus 11 (¥1) runs here from Changcheng Nanlu, about 200m west of the main bus station.