Xiahe, Langmusi and the road to Chengdu
If there is one area in China where you can find Tibetan culture outside Tibet, it's in Xiahe and Langmusi. I traveled the road from Lanzhou to Chengdu once in February. It was in the time that many areas in China were officially closed.
Lanzhou and Xining
I arrived in Lanzhou by train in the evening. Lanzhou, then was not a city I felt very welcome. It was cold, it was dark. The only hotel in town was not very helpful to get me a room. With the help of a local woman, an English teacher, I was finally able to get a room in a further almost deserted hotel.
Xining, the city center in February, cold and uninspiring
My new Chinese friend told me she would pick me up the next morning to show me some of Lanzhou. My Lonely Planet didn't tell me much about the city except a park on a hill site. And that was indeed what we visited. Basically it was a long stairs to the top of the hill where a temple was located.
We had an early dinner in a small restaurant: Mongolian hotpot. We had a typical little room with a couple of chairs and a table. The pot with hot fluid came in and we were supposed to put the meat and the vegetables, cook it and eat it. My new Chinese friend told me it was the specialty of the northern provinces.
The lady told me she would help me buying a train ticket the next day for the train to Xining, about 4 hours west of Lanzhou.
I had a hard seat for the train but that was ok as the journey would only be 4 hours. Xining was more of the same, a grey city where it seemed all happiness was abandoned. But I was lucky. I ran into a few nice people and with them I spend a good day.
Just south of the city lies the Ta Er Si monastery, one of the biggest Tibetan monasteries outside Tibet but inside China. Obviously I wanted to visit it. The monastery was partly closed due to the season. But I saw a wide range of people walking around the temples and monasteries.
Xiahe (Labrang) and Linxia
After a long day in the bus, I arrived in Xiahe to visit the Labrang monastery. After Ta Er Si this was the second big Tibetan monastery on the way to Chengdu to visit. Xiahe had apart of the Labrang monastery also a significant Muslim population. The city was smaller then Lanzhou or Xining and had a much better feel. I visited the Labrang monastery.
The food in Xiahe was interesting too. Here I was able to buy some Muslim kebabs and breads. Sure, it was cold, but it was also beautiful. It was the first time since I had arrived in China I was able to eat some breads.
The little restaurant had a thick noodle soup that was tasty and warmed me up. Inside the restaurants it was pleasant warm. The plastic doors kept all the warmth inside. On the floor were little pots with cokes to keep ones feet warm.
The bus to Linxia was quick but instead of traveling further I decided to give Linxia a visit for the rest of the afternoon. Apart of eating there was little to amuse me so I went back to my hotel room to watch a bit of TV and sleep.
The next days would be hard traveling, I expected. And indeed it was. The next morning I had an early bus out of Linxia to the next destination: Hezhou. And there I would learn what it is to travel on your own. Read the story about Hezhou and Langmusi here
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The bus in Hezhou
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