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Published: June 27th 2013
I rode from JiuQuan to JiaYuGuan under the rain but it was a bit more than 20 kilometers. After 2 days of rest in JiuQuan watching the rain fall from my cozy hotel room, I was looking forward to visiting a new site and I kept my fingers crossed for the sun to show up. And it did! Jiayuguan is not the most exciting city but it was easy for me to find a hotel and to get oriented. My first afternoon there I rode around the city and then walked around the city center, strolling around the main street (with the same usual clothes shops we can find in every Chinese town) and some small market streets where each restaurant owner invited me in to enjoy some barbecued food. JiaYuguan didn’t seem very crowded to me and it was pretty quiet. Each street is lined up with trees and there isn’t much traffic (which is rare but very nice in China). However, this city is extremely spread out and it took me quite a long time to ride from one side of the city to the other. I guess this is the advantage of being located in the desert… It
did remind me of phoenix, Arizona, at a different scale of course.
Jiayuguan is famous for 2 things I believe: the Jiayuguan Fort and the remains of the Great Wall 15km away. The fort was built in 1372 and was the gate that separated the Middle Kingdom from the barbarians on the other side of the desert. The main gates are pretty impressive (the walls are huge and thick) and the view of the mountains from the top of the walls is neat. But it’s become such a popular tourist attraction, the whole place has lost its charm… Loud music is blasted from the center of the fort where performers are showing traditional dances and martial arts. Tourists get to shoot arrows or play other silly games while touts are trying to sell us crappy souvenirs.
I rode my bike to the fort and then to the Great Wall. The location of the wall is interesting. There are 2 sites on 2 different mountains facing each other. The 2 walls really close access to the only corridor that leads to the city of Jiayuguan. On the other side of the Wall (and the mountains) a huge flat and
bare desert goes on as far as the eye can see in the horizon. Surprisingly there was almost nobody up the Wall. It seems like many tourists drove there, took a picture from the foot of the mountain but didn’t climb the Wall. Chinese people dislike walking. They think it’s tiring. So I reached the very last watchtower, took off my shoes and sat there for an hour, enjoying the warm sun and the breeze. It was a very special moment. The Wall has been completely renovated so it has lost a lot of its charm (again!) but… it’s still the Great Wall!
I ended this sunny day with barbecued mutton on a stick and met a girl who works in one of the thousand hotels in Jiayuguan. She spoke English and it felt nice to talk to someone. I hadn’t realized but I had pretty much spent the whole day without talking to anyone except at ticket counters and inside little grocery shops to buy water. I will be in Xinjiang next week and it’s going to feel amazing to spend time with Becky again. Becky and her Mom…
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