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Published: July 23rd 2015
Since leaving Hong Kong we've felt a bit rushed for quite a lot of the time. Booking trains and hotels in the high season takes more advanced planning than we're used to, especially in and between Shanghai, Beijing and Xi'an. We then had a couple of one night stays after longish journeys. So we're now going to have at least a couple of stops that are a day or two longer than they need to be for the things we're going to see. The first of these is Zhangye.
We were happy to see the back of Lanzhou and leaving from the massive, new, almost empty West Station (more platforms (25) than daily departures (13)) was a pleasure. We had no idea that the journey over and through the Qilian Mountains was going to be so spectacular, it's stunning. There are two things we wanted to see here in Zhangye. Based on our guidebooks the main attraction should have been Mati Si, a Buddhist grotto and the side attraction the Danxia Geo Park. In reality it was very much the other way around. After MaijiShan Mati Si was the second grotto we've been to and in truth it was already
one too many. The surrounding scenery is dramatic and we had a good hike up a valley to a waterfall, but that's not what we had in mind when we put this in our plan. On the other hand the Danxia Geo Park was a fantastic bonus that completely blew us away. Another plus has been the town of Zhangye itself which has a nice feeling and atmosphere, more laid back than anywhere else we've been so far and has loads of tasty, cheap, good quality food - yesterday for lunch, ice creams, dinner and beers our combined spend was a whopping CNY49 (less than US$8) !!! There are some things in China that are just unbeatable.
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