XINING, Qinghai Province
Looking out the train window I've realised that there is not an inch of a land that hasn't been moved or somehow altered. Only the bold, rocky mountains of the region seem to be getting away with the 'change'. That is until they come into the way of progress. Then they are moved and levelled to the ground, drilled for tunnels and exploited for minerals or simply planted with neat rows of trees... It's like in their eyes everything needs improving and altering. All artificial, plastic, man made... 'Hello Kitchy!', this is China. All the pushing forward seems too quick and lacking second thought. People on the streets are poor, that is apparent on first sight, while shopping malls are full of wealthy 'chosen' ones. China is rich beyond anyone's imagination, yet people are often lacking basic needs. Arriving to Xining in Qinghai Province makes me think that the rich governors of Chinese provinces are competing, who can build a better, bigger, faster, more futuristic city. It's almost like walking into a computer game from the 'Tycoon' series.
Arriving in Xining was fairly easy and a spanking new railway station greeted us. As it was getting close to 11pm, the safest and quickest way of finding our way was to take an overpriced Taxi, who dropped us on front of our Hostel. Private en-suite double room is a very fancy, idealised name for the room we have scored, but is not that bad either. Majka feels under the weather, so next day is just myself going to explore the city. I take the first bus and find out that 1¥ notes work as bus tickets. Just throw one in the box by the driver and you're good to go. On the bus I've also learnt about the next level of busy public transport. Locals seem to find free room in spaces I would think of as impossible to squeeze into. At one point I had two different people standing on my toe and I wasn't sure which of 4 hands I'm seeing is my own. Long story short, London, stop complaining as it does get much worse! My first bus ride took me very close to the railway station in about 10 minutes and 29¥ cheaper than the Taxi last night. Stupid tourist! From here I set to explore the markets and small roads with street vendors, selling seemingly everything, but nothing useful. Loads of plastic, sparkle and colourful LED's. Diversity of ethnic groups strikes me again. China is not only Chinese people. I see Chinese, Mongols, Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Tibetans, Chinese looking Buddhists, Tibetan looking Muslims and every possible combination of those... I walked the high roads, small alley ways and seen 4 mosques before I've found a Buddhist temple. One of the mosques, to my huge surprise, was a converted Buddhist monastery, that had a mosque built around it. I have walked for 6 hours before I decided is time to get un-lost. The next day we have planned to visit Ta'er Monastery a Tibetan monastery south of the city and set out for the trip. About an hour and a half later we've been walking towards the gates, where we've been asked to pay 80¥ per head to enter. That is a bad sign when visiting monastery. Usually means that the place is a museum and not a real place of worship. As you've guessed we went to see it anyway. Not so bad as disappointed I might sound, but it is a tourist destination rather than the real thing. About 2 hours are more than sufficient despite the large number of 'attractions' being open to the public. Our afternoon plans of visiting the North Mountain Monastery were disrupted as I've received a cancelled reservation for our next stay in Xi'an. Stress and running in circles it was for the rest of day. We also needed to pick up our train tickets from the station, which was extremely busy due to public holidays starting from tomorrow... Why do you hate us, China?!
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