Destination: Lanzhou, China (Gansu Province)
Number of Days Spent: 1 day
Where we stayed: We arrived via flight very late at night and went directly into the hotel near the the bus drop off at (it was late and we just wanted to sleep. It had a swanky looking entry way but a tired, musty smelling room but it was just for the night so we settled in. After looking around Lanzhou (which has earned the distinction of one of China’s most polluted cities) the next day I’m not sure we could have done better anyways. There’s little tourist traffic in this town and the Chinese businessmen are not quite as discerning about where they stay.
Best restaurant: I can’t remember anything standing out. Does an ice cream cone at McDonald’s count?
Best of: After being told we would have to wait for bus tickets and leaving our passports with the ticket-taker we hoofed it to the local temple where we were surprised to find out that it was Buddha’s birthday!
Worst of: We flew into Lanzhou in order to get closer to the Amdo Tibetan area. Unfortunately we arrived at the bus station only to be informed that there would be a delay in getting bus tickets and that we should return later in the day. We didn’t relish spending a lot of time in the polluted city but decided to make the best of it and to visit one of the local temples instead.
Lanzhou is like standing in a long line for a ride at Disneyland – you dread the time spent in line, but do it for the reward at the end of the line. Our intention was to land at night and get on the first bus to Xiahe (loosely pronounced shhh huh) the next morning. After arriving at the bus station, we were informed that we would have to wait while they ran a check on our passports. The government is always suspicious of Tibetan unrest and moves rather quickly if there is any notion of dissent. Since we were western and heading into a Tibetan area, they wanted to make sure we were not “trouble makers”.
Having the extra 4 hours of ‘standing in line’, we opted to leave our bags at the station and head down to the river to check out a couple of temples. Sometimes things happen for a reason and by the end of the day, we were thankful that we had been delayed. It was Buddha’s birthday!
Burning Incense, candles and paper (prayers?) filled the air with a dense cloud of smoke. Devotees filled the square around the temples giving prayers and offerings while monks chanted away inside the temple. With Lanzhou being a work-a-day town there were no flash bulbs going off, no trample of tourists, just us and the common people doing their religious duties faithfully.
We quietly strolled around the temple just taking in the atmosphere. Sometimes, standing in line isn’t all that bad.
After we had sufficiently killed the 4 hours, we headed back over to the bus station. Without further delay, and perhaps seeing us as non-threatening, gave us back our passports and allowed us to board the bus bound for Xiahe, Gansu Province!