Entries Tagged as 'Gansu Province'

Xiahe夏河: 1990 From our Diary: Final Report of our 5 Part Review of Xiahe

Xiahe 夏河: November 1990 From our Diary

Gansu province, China

PREVIOUS ARTICLES: 1 Xiahe revisited 2 Xiahe & the Labrang Monastery 3 Excursions from Xiahe 4 Xiahe; a Reflection

Introduction

This is the final part of our travel report on Xiahe and the Labrang Monastery in China’s Gansu Province. The article is an unedited extract from the diary that Margie kept during our two year trip around Asia and the Middle East. The trip began in Lahore, Pakistan in early October 1990. By late November 1990 we had reached Xiahe.  Though we have now visited Xiahe 3 times (see previous articles), it was our first visit that really stood out, probably because  we hadn’t really experienced Tibetan culture before.

Xiahe Monks 1990

Wednesday 21/11/ 1990 (Lanzhou to Xiahe)

We have to get up early to catch the 7.30 bus to Xiahe; the only one of the day. The scenery gradually becomes more and more interesting. The whole morning we have been driving through a winter landscape of soft brown, reddish and yellowish shades. Every available scrap of land is being used: all the mountains have been terraced and divided into tiny vegetable plots, while the fields are used to grow potatoes, cereals and barley. There are haystacks everywhere and corns on the cob on every roof, drying. The villages, of a pinkish-brown hue, form an indistinguishable part of the landscape.

Looking out of the bus window, we can see many non-Chinese people, walking along the road. Most of them closely resemble Uyghur people, and they are wearing greatcoats, animal skins and furs, as well as heavy leather boots. The majority seem to be Muslims, judging by the white skull caps of the men and the black velvet and lace headscarves of the women. Many of the men also wear the large, round, horn-rimmed sunglasses that seem to be typical around here.

We stop for lunch just outside Linxia, a large Muslim market town, situated atop a reddish loess plateau. We can see lots of yaks milling about; as well as a whole pile of severed yak heads lying in a cart. Apart from yaks, there is a busy traffic of donkeys, pony’s and bicycles. Lunch, of course, consists of [Read more →]

Xiahe 夏河: 3 visits; a reflection

夏河 Our three Xiahe’s; a reflection

Xiahe Monks

Xiahe Part 1

Xiahe Part 2

Xiahe Part 3

Xiahe in 2011

The Xiahe we found on our last visit had changed considerably since 2004. It was no longer the rather innocent, peaceful, Tibetan little backwater we had enjoyed so much before.

Labrang Kora

The Chinese new town is much larger now, with charmless, concrete buildings, traffic lights and plenty of motorized vehicles. There was building work going on everywhere: in the new town, where more and more buildings were being put up at the usual breakneck speed; opposite the monastery, where a large coach park was beginning to take shape; and even in the monastery town itself, where [Read more →]

Bajiao Walled Village 八角 / Ganjia Grasslands 甘加草原 / Trakhar Gompa / Tsyway Bon Temple/ Excursions from Xiahe

 Xiahe Part 1
Xiahe Part 2

Part 3: Excursions From Xiahe

Once you have seen all there is to see in Xiahe, you should go and explore the grasslands. Though some of the areas nearest to town have become quite commercial, there is still plenty of scope for exploring.

Stupa over the Ganjia Grasslands

We went on a great day trip, for which we hire a car through our hotel. At first, the price of 400 Yuan for half a day’s sightseeing seems a bit steep. However, when our vehicle appears, a shiny, brand-new black Sedan, driven by a sleek young Tibetan guy with shoulder- length hair, a golden tooth and lots of big rings, we are quick to appreciate the difference between this car, and any old taxi.

Monasteries and stunning scenery await the traveller on the Ganjia Grasslands

We drive out of Xiahe, which takes so much longer now that there are traffic lights and lots more traffic, and head towards Tongren. Immediately, and almost imperceptible, we start climbing and before we know it, we [Read more →]

Xiahe & The Labrang (or Labuleng) Monastery (part 2)

Labrang (or Labuleng) Monastery

Labrang Monastery

Part 2

Click here for part one

Despite many of the changes taking place in Xiahe,  mentioned in the previous article, don’t be put you off from visiting. Xiahe, and in particular its monastery, is still a fascinating place; though you might want to get there quick!

Labrang Monastery

Labrang Monastery

The Labrang Monastery

Temple in the Labrang Monastery

Start your first visit with the obligatory guided tour around some of the main temples and halls. These days, there are English-speaking guides and our 2011 guide was truly excellent; a great improvement on the 2004 one. He tells us, among other things, that he learnt all his English in Xining and that he is a second-year philosophy student. Apparently, the monks studying philosophy have to pass 13 levels of knowledge, the equivalent of 13 years’ of study.

Xiahe Monks

He says that many of the younger monks find it quite difficult to be [Read more →]

Xiahe Revisted: 1990 / 2004 / 2011

Xiahe Revisited

Stage 7 of our 2011 trip (from our diaries) & Part one of a series of articles on Xiahe (Gansu Province) and the Labrang Monastery

Part 2  Part 3   Part 4  Part 5 

Young Monk in Xiahe

Getting there from Lanzhou: 18/9/2011
When we emerge from our hotel at 6.00am to catch the 7.30 bus, it’s still pitch-black and still pouring with rain. Yet, we are lucky because for once there’s a taxi waiting by the gates, and we don’t even hit one of those infernal Lanzhou traffic jams! At the station, we find a handful of shivering passengers huddled in the spartan hall. The toilet is in a little shack to the right of the waiting room, with a gorgeous, but miserable-looking, soaking-wet Husky tied up out front.

Lanzhou Street

Lanzhou Street

The bus leaves on time, half-full and with only a couple of tourists on board, none of them Westerners. Our driver moves slowly and carefully down the brand-new, almost deserted, motorway. Adam starts reminiscing about how this ride once took 10 hours … back in 1990. For this is not our first visit to Xiahe, or even second, but our third!

Margie in Xiahe 1990

We whizz through Linxia; now a large, bland, Chinese city, but then an exotic market town with a distinctly Muslim feel to it.

Next, an amazing thing happens: [Read more →]

Zhangye Danxia Landforms Geology Park (张掖丹霞地貌)

Zhangye Danxia Landforms Geology Park

Gansu province near Zhangye

 (张掖丹霞地貌)

Lunar Landscape at Danxia Landforms (张掖丹霞地貌)

For more on Zhangye and around click here: Zhangye / Mati Si

On our last day (in Zhangye), we decided to visit this newly developed geo-park, a scenic area of multi-coloured rocks, which has been put on the map by Zhang Yimou 张艺谋 who shot (part of) his film San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi 三枪拍案惊奇 here. This film, which is known by the titles A Woman, A Gun And A Noodle Shop 三枪拍案惊奇, as well as A Simple Noodle Story, is Zhang’s personal take on the Coen brothers debut film Blood Simple.

Danxia Coloured Rocks

The geology park is about 40 kms, or an hour’s drive from Zhangye, in the opposite direction from Mati Si.

Zhang Yimou and Cast

We are told to get on a bus, and after a short drive we are let off at a viewing platform, from where we gaze at the amazing scenery.

Lunar Landscape

The landscape is positively lunar, or something out of a sci-fi pic: we are surrounded by row after row of [Read more →]

Mati Si 马蹄寺 (The Horse Hoof Monastery) Gansu Province 甘肃省

Mati Si: a day trip from Zhangye

Mati Si 马蹄寺

Click here for Zhangye  & Danxia Landforms Geology Park

Once we’ve passed Zhangye’s outskirts, where a whole forest of gleaming highrises is springing up, and have negotiated the chaos of smallish lorries, pick-ups, tractors and loaded carts that convert the narrow, two-lane road out of town into such a nightmare, we can begin to enjoy the scenery.

Scenery just outside Zhangye

An initial rural stretch of fields, haystacks and little mud-brick farms descends into a dry, dusty bowl, after which the ground starts rising again and the land becomes fertile once more. A huge mountain range comes into view on our right and, to our amazement, we see that some of the peaks are covered in snow!

Qianlian mountains 前连山

This is, of course, the Qian lian range in the foothills of which the temples of Mati Si can be found, and the people of the Yugur (Yugu) minority. [Read more →]

A Few Days in Zhangye (Gansu Province) 张掖

Stage 6: Zhangye and around (see stages 1  2  3  4  5  of our 2011 trip) & Danxia Landforms Geology Park 张掖丹霞地貌 & Mati Si / 马蹄寺

Dafo Si 大佛寺

Getting there from Alashan Yuoqi

The attractive city of Zhangye is only a three to four hour bus ride away from the Inner Mongolian town of Alshan Youqi, the gateway to the Badan Jarain Desert. And, as the friendly ticket lady at Youqi’s bus station had assured Adam two days ago, there are no problems getting tickets. So we swap the tickets for the 15.00 bus which the Badain Jaran travel agency had erroneously bought us, and hop on the 8.30 one instead.

Zhangye Stupa

The bus starts out half-empty, but doesn’t stay that way for long. This is still peasant country, where local people prefer to line up by the road side with their sacks and bundles, waiting for the bus to pick them up, rather than make their way to the bus station. The main difference with 20 years ago is that most of the transactions, involving pick- ups and drop- offs, are arranged on mobile phones these days.

Zhangye Guildhall

The other thing that takes us back into time is the speed of the ride; or rather, the lack of it. In fact, we have seldom come across a driver less in a hurry. Though we normally want our buses to go slowly and carefully, ever fearful of accidents, even we think that this guy could speed up a bit. [Read more →]

Route 2011 North West China: Inner Mongolia / Ningxia / Gansu

Route 2011

Inner Mongolia / Ningxia / Gansu

Xi Xia tombs and statues near Yinchuan 西夏王陵

Over the next few months we’ll be putting up articles about the places we visited in China this summer.
The trip began in Hohhot (呼和浩特), in Inner Mongolia (内蒙古自治区), where we had arrived on the train from Ulaan Baatar (乌兰巴托) in Mongolia.

Stage 1: Hohhot
Stage 2: Zhongwei
Stage 3: Yinchuan (银川) and around
Stage 4: Yinchuan to Bayan Khot
Stage 5: Bayan Khot to Alashan Youqi and the Badain Jaran Desert
Stage 6: Zhangye and around
Stage 7: Xiahe and around

Hohot's Wutasi 五塔寺 / 呼和浩特

After exploring the city’s eye-catching Wuta pagoda 五塔寺 and Da Zhao 大召 and Xilitu Zhao 席力图大召temples, an overnight train took us to Zhongwei (中卫), in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Province (宁夏回自治区), where we visited the Desert Research Center at Shapotou ( 沙坡头) on the banks of the Yellow River (黄河) and also the Sikou Scenic Area(寺口风景区).

Shapotou /沙坡头

From Zhongwei (中卫), a quick bus ride led north to Yinchuan (银川), from where we explored the amazing sights that surround Ningxia’s capital.

HelanShan 贺兰山 near Yinchuan

From Yinchuan we headed off into Western Inner Mongolia, passing the isolated ruins of the Great Wall at Sanguankou (三关口), [Read more →]

To Float or not to Float

When you’ve visited the wonderful museum (don’t forget to wear shoes!), seen the temples and bought your onward ticket, what more can you do with a few hours to spare in Lanzhou on a sunny afternoon in summer? Two options are quite tempting. One is to float down the Yellow River on a raft made of inflated goat skins. The other is to sit on a tree-shaded reclining chair by the banks of the Yellow River sipping Huanghe Beer (Yellow River Beer), snacking on spicy munches and watching other people float down the river. We chose the latter.

Lanzhou maybe one of the world’s most polluted cities, but in summer when it rains the air seems to be at least breathable. The river bank has been nicely spruced up since we first saw it in 1990 and is now a pleasant recreational area. The part by the enormous water wheels is especially nice. You pay 5 Yuan (50 cents Euro) to enter and this entitles you to comfy chairs with great views over the river and the attractive White Pagoda Hill on the other side. Beers cost 4 Yuan and snacks 5 Yuan. Ah Bliss!