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Published: August 28th 2017
We had flown into Lhasa so it made sense to try the train out, booked to Xining approximately 20 hours, soft sleeper, other than that no idea what to expect, maybe stock up on edibles, big box of noodles each, fruit, nuts and our staple for the trip, snickers bars. The strict diet out the window, the language barrier means a lot of pointing and often being surprised at what turns up, my fussy little friend has been seen chowing down on a piece of fatty mutton and hot spices to make your hair stand up. No pills, no supplements, no injections, no diet – whoop whoop it’s a holiday.
We are dropped off at this vast Lhasa station building, square kilometres of concrete out front, which we didn’t cross, a huge façade front with a gaping entrance that would swallow a rugby crowd, which we didn’t go through, Chinese statement architecture. Hauled aside at bag security to get scissors out of the case other than that found our way to our 4 berth which we are sharing with pregnant woman with 3 year old child and a teeny bopper, very close confines.
pass is 5070 meters, 16,640ft for emphasis, whikipedia sais this line has the highest everything in the world, an obviously amazing feat of engineering and done, along with a major highway to help bring a mostly reluctant Tibet into the economic fold and to transport Han Chinese one way.
There is stunning mountain, lake, wetland scenery along the way, the word vast encompassing the high altitude. It seemed most of the time, except when trying to sleep was taken up with the fundamentals of living and sharing this confined space. The sleepless night spent marvelling at the Tibetan affect, the people seemingly good naturedly, with laughter and jest getting on with it as the concrete, steel and glass goes up around them. A lot of traditional dress, devotion to Buddhism, temples and monasteries that are alive with fervour.
Immediately noticeable when we hit the streets of Xining, the same crowds, happy families, bustling food places, all Chinese, no traditional dress, suits and shirts, world casual, shorts and short skirls, KKs knees not such a novelty.
Even the one temple visited in Xian, a token to its former glory now uninhabited by
the spirit, a tourist stop.
The joys of finding our way round the big cities. Was not a problem in Lhasa as we were occupied most of the day with our small tour, diving out into the streets In the late afternoon, so really didn’t stray too far from base. For the bolder day excursions in Xining and Xian out came the I phone and direction map. Both Xining and Xian ended up being a comedy of the Meerkat clutching an Iphone. Anytime we went underground ie the big roundabouts, the map reader went awry, so we would pop up get our bearings and down again in required direction, only to lose it all again, so one solution was to run the traffic. Iphone map reading people all over the place, a small kid directing his mother with his map, KK came across a woman weeping over her iphone, lost, KK couldn’t be much help and herself coming in late one afternoon a little flustered having got lost after exiting a mall onto the wrong street, very pleased to stumble across the familiar Hotel.
One night in Xining, just to break the train journey
then fly to Xian to hook up with a guide for a couple of days to cover some of the big stuff. Guiding a little bit different here than Lhasa where the motto was no hard selling. The first stop on the way to the Terracotta Warriors was the place where they hand make replicas the traditional way, very interesting and just so happens they have this whopping and beautiful gift shop where you can buy full size replicas of the horses and warriors, shipped to a port near you, or the next size down shipped to your door, what a sales Lady a wonderful mixture of history and sales, we got out of there with an archer and a General, Yin and Yang, the largest hand luggage size and a couple of beautiful tea cups, $178.00 all up, managing to forego the beautifully lacquered furniture, replica swords and the horse.
Even though it was hot and the holiday crowds huge, we were quite happy to dawdle along with the crowds getting a good look at the pits and a bit of crowd watching.
The Mausoleum, the warriors protecting it, dating from the 3rd
century BCE, a staggering engineering feat, Chinese ancestry, no project too large. All the statistics can be got from Wikipedia of the shear size and numbers involved.
The next day we drive 2 hours to Mt Haushan and get a look at the outer city on the way. Once again struck by the building going on, great tower blocks of apartments still going up, all over the place and nobody in them, all part of keeping the pump going, projects all over the city and in every city in the country, not to mention road and rail and projects all over the world.
The mountain a very big tourist stop, gondolas, miles of concrete steps and paths, often along razor back ridges along mountain tops and still people filing along them all day, grannies, grandads, kids going hard.
After our two days with a guide we settle into a few days living in the city, set up house in the hotel room, washing drying everywhere, fancy teas, coffees, fruit, biscuits, chocolates scattered around. Ranging around the streets mostly within the 13km of ancient garrison walls, only 650 years old, finding alley
ways, Muslim foody streets, more glassy brassy malls than the whole of New Zealand, people, people everywhere, like most Chinese cities, breath taking in their breadth and depth.
Especially enjoyed the couple of kilometres of Muslim foody street, jam packed into the night, going flat out every night, a skewer of spiced mutton to die for, vast varieties of food, fish foot baths, specialist crafts and again happy people out enjoying themselves.
The last day here in Xian rained heavily and the fav gortex, waterproofs leaked, and what a stink. Shit they wont let me on the plane smelling like this.
Covered kilometres of streets, sports shops, shoe shops, nothing over 42, haha stinky shoes on the plane tomorrow.
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