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The Adventurer’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 14 Feb 2007

Location: Langmusi, China

MapOFF THE BEATEN PATH

It's been a really interesting and adventurous couple of days. Some closing thoughts on Xi'an. Overall, I liked it there. So much historical stuff to see, and so many historical mysteries lying beneath the land around Xi'an (like the Terracotta warriors). It had its pollution, but what city doesn't in China?

I caught the 10:30 train to Lanzhou with no problems, just a long, long, long lineup of people. I've never seen such a lineup, and you're constantly being pushed as you make your way to the front. The only available option for me was a soft sleeper--this was more than welcome for me considering the night I had on the last train ride. I have to say, soft sleeper is very nice! Shared a room with 3 other people, and it was private as we could shut the door. The beds were comfortable and I had a great sleep. There was some snoring, but I slept right through it! Woke up just in time as the train arrived in Lanzhou. Next stop, bus station.

I paid for a seat to the next town of Xiahe. It was a nice bus, modern, comfortable, warm, and not very busy. And I was entering different territory from what I'd seen before. I was now away from the cities, away from the crowd, enjoying the most beautiful scenery I've seen thus far in China. This is Gansu province that I'm in and is located on the Tibetan Plateau, and it is plateau all right. We passed through towns that were populated by Muslims and mosques. And the clothing was very different. Was I still in China? The towns are not modern by any means and they actually reminded me of small towns in Canada in say--the early 1900's. Very rural.

I ended up changing buses about 3/4 of the way there. This bus was older, smaller, and more crowded. And the people were certainly local. I got a lot of stares, but I also got a lot of smiles and hellos. The clothing was very different, for some I'd even go so far as to say semi-nomadic. Some looked as though they hadn't cleaned in weeks. Arrived in Xiahe early that day and found my way to a hostel. Paid 20 quai. The room had a little bit of charm, but the bathrooms were the most disgusting I've ever seen, no hot water, and the room had no heat. However, I dropped my bags off and went and explored the town. What an amazing place! I experienced some culture shock at first because it's just so different. You have Tibetan locals who are dressed in Tibetan attire (as you'll see in the pictures), monks everywhere, and a very large Tibetan monastery. The people were extremely friendly--smiles and hellos to go around everywhere. This place had a very chilled-out, laid back atmosphere and I was loving it. Spent part of my day arranging this side trip with Joanne, so that took away some exploring time. No problem since the side trip is all sorted. I would have loved a shower by the end of the day, but again, filthy bathrooms, no hot water, and the water only filled up into a pool on the floor because the drain was so clogged with who knows what--not very healthy.

It was a long, cold night, and the morning was no different. Made it to the bus station by 7:00 am again for the next destination--Langmusi. It was the coldest weather I've experienced yet this year. I met a couple from France who are at the tail end of their China experience. We enjoyed shivering and seeing our breath in a bus with no heat for 2.5 hours. Our feet were so cold! Then we had to change buses in another town. We were so hoping for heat. Well, there was this heated pipe that ran along the floor, so we took our shoes off and put our feet on it--a welcome respite. This bus was small and crowded, but again, very friendly people. I forgot to mention that it snowed during the night, and made for a most spectacular sight in terms of scenery along the way. The mountains were just lightly covered with snow, and since it is a plateau, not a tree or a plant to be found anywhere. Beautiful. Beautiful. Just Beautiful. Sorry, no pictures of this. The windows were too fogged up, and I was just kind of taking it all in with what I could see.

Made it into Langmusi about 1:00 pm. The French couple and myself went to this hostel that we weren't too sure about, but chanced it anyway. We got our own rooms. They were clean, I'll give them that, and friendly. But once again, no hot water, and the room was cold, though not as cold as the first one. Anyway, I dropped my bags and went exploring.

Once again, this place is out of this world--so laid back. People just doing their thing, not a care in the world. Went to a popular restaurant called Leisha's. This is where most foreigners go when they come here. I ate this humungous yak burger--yep, real yak meat. Very tasty but I couldn't finish it--just too big, and this was the small size! After that I went wandering around town. Learned the Tibetan word for hello-- Day mo--very easy. They know Chinese here but they prefer to use Tibetan. When in Rome, I say. I tried to make conversation, but there was too much of a language barrier, lots of gestures and smiles though. I've never been to such a friendly place. The town is also set in the mountains, and it reminds me a lot of Banff (the buildings not as new of course). Very rustic here.

Tibetans have sky burials, which is how they ritualize death. You can see these all around. There are flags with Tibetan writings on them in small circles. And you can see human skeletons around these sky burials. I wanted to venture out to one of these places, but decided I would leave it for the next day and go and get some rest.

Got up at 9 this morning and went to get some breakfast at Leisha's, a tasty banana pancake--that's all you needed too because it was huge, and a fresh cup of coffee. The sun was beautifully shining on the landscape that was filled with fresh fallen snow from last night. After breakfast I didn't have any small change and they wouldn't break my 100 Yuan bill, so I went everywhere to try and break it to no avail. I ran into the French couple again who said they found a very nice hotel that opened 4 months ago for 30 quai. It had heat, was clean, modern, and had hot water. We got our bags and went to this place that seemed like heaven at the time. Yep, got ourselves sorted and I was eternally grateful for these angels who came upon me and showed me the way to this beautiful place. I managed to break the 100 Yuan and went to pay the bill at the restaurant (they said I could come back again later). Then I was on a mission to find this sky burial, with the skeletons.

I hiked up this mountain with snow, slipping I don't know how many times, and my ankle still giving me a bit of hassle. I made it to the top. There was a sky burial, but I found no skeletons. Oh well, the scenery was breathtaking. I just had to stop and take it all in, on top of a snow-capped mountain overlooking this Tibetan town below with the monastery shining in the sun. Well worth the effort it took to get there. I found a not so snowy way down and made my way into a valley that took me back to town. Did I mention how beautiful this all was? Words are not enough. I was wet and exhausted by the time I got back to the hotel room. Had some hot tea and went for a nap. Woke up to go for one last delicious meal before I leave here--spaghetti at Leisha's. Couldn't finish because the portion was so huge, but very tasty, and made with yak meat. I'm now on my way to the most wonderful thing in the world--a long, hot shower (It's been 3 days now). Next destination--Chengdu, leave tomorrow, should be there by Friday.