Published: November 16th 2010November 1st 2010
I went to Qinghai province last week for Fall break on a whim with a backpack and a sleeping bag, boots and the notion of camping. Well, I never used the sleeping bag, it was colder there then I expected and due to events on the train ride there I was not feeling up to the challenge.
I took a train from Beijing on the 24th of October, two Sundays ago and because I bought my ticket that Friday there were no sleeper tickets available and I ended up with nothing but a seat for 23 hours. The bigger issue ended up being something I had not expected. Everyone seated near me wanted to talk to me when they found out I could speak some Chinese so I had a bunch of enthusiastic people trying to make friends. In China that means they buy you things, in this case beer, and it's impolite not to drink it.
Just last night my roommate actually had the same problem. He returned to the room at midnight very drunk, explaining that he had no alternative because the people he was with continuously bought him more alcohol and it he had to be
Taoer Si, Buddhist Temple
This is huge complex near Xining.
Anyway I got pretty drunk while talking to a large man who described himself as a pig and insisted on telling stories that started with, a Russian, American, and Chinese people drinking. Another man had more serious topics on mind over a flask of baijiu (gross alcohol), insisting on talking about various subjects in the newspaper he had.
In any case the next morning I did not feel well. This culminated in the guide I met on the train taking me to a Chinese style doctor in Xining. We went into a small office where one man was throwing up into a bucket and the "doctor" and his assistant were. They gave me some tea and a packet of small pills which I swallowed all at once. The experience was very interesting and I recovered pretty quickly but I was already recovering so I don't know if the stuff they gave me had any effect.
Anyway I stayed in a hotel, the four nights cost less then $40 U.S. so it wasn't a bad deal. I went to a large Buddhist temple the first day, Qinghai Lake on the second day and the South Mountain on
Near Taoer Si's entrance
the third day. When I returned home I made sure to buy a sleeper ticket and had a much more relaxing time returning to Beijing.
The Buddhist temple called Taoer Si is located on a hill in the small town of Huangzhong a little ways from Xining. I took a bus there with my tour guide, from the bus stop we walked up a street full of Buddhist craftsmen making religious statues and metal work, presumably for the huge temple at the end of the street. Many monks in traditional clothing walked about the complex as did numerous Chinese tourists. From there we hiked over a hill until we could see the main portion of Huangzhong including the the high school my guide previously attended.
The next day I went with a tour group to Qinghai Lake, stopping at another Buddhist temple, a Tibetan cultural neighborhood, and the Riyue Mountains along the way. The Tibetan culture was really promoted heavily out on the plateau which we drove across after climbing the Riyue Mountains. Cattle cover this plateau in the form of sheep, cows, and yak which is positioned between two mountain chains. Eventually, Quinghai Lake appeared as a
blue line on the horizon before gradually becoming fully visible. The lake is not only 4500 square kilometers, largest lake in China, but also is salt water and is at the altitude of 9000 feet.
The last day before I returned to Beijing my guide and I visited Xinings southern mountain which provides great views of the city and can be reached by walking through a couple of Xinings parks. The mountain has a Buddhist temple partway up and as we walked over the hill itself we came upon another park. After that we went to a diner that had some pretty local food. The spicy potatoes and lamb skewers were especially delicious.
The next day I left for Beijing around noon and the trip was far more relaxed then my trip out. I ate some fruit and read from a couple of English books I bought in Xining before going to sleep. it was very restful which is exactly what I needed at that point. It was pretty funny to realize that I felt much more comfortable having returned to Beijing and then realizing how much I've already adapted to life there.
There are more photos below