So far the best place ever!!!
The first thing we did in Xi’an was to get train tickets back home to Nanjing. As we prognosed it wasn’t an easy task. But thanks to the ticket lady who searched for ever for all options else got two fast trains two days after.
As it hadn’t stopped raining for 3 days, we decided to take it easy and just to visit the cities museum, that turned out to quite pleasant, not boring, not too much stuff. The only inconvenience was that everybody had to get a ticket and show the identify card and fill in a form, so that took some time. And student ticket is for free, so that was even streanger.
In the morning we git some free bear tickets as a welcome drink in the hostel, what lead to the discovery of a huge bar beneath our hostel.
The next day we got up really early, as we were heading to see the Terracotta Army and we heard that its best to be there super early to escape all the tourist groups. So while visiting the expedition we couldn’t stop wondering what made a man believe that army made of terracotta would come alive in the afterlife. He made 720000 people work cor over four decades to make 7000 terracotta men. 3000 are already excavated, they still working go get the rest.
When we where finished with the terracotta army the rain finally had stopped, which gave as great opurtunity to have a walk on the city wall.
Finally the bad weather had caught us. One week left to the end of the trip and it rains constantly. That didnt stop us to visit the Maigi Shan caves. They are about 1500 years old and the scientists speculate that the carvers where hanging in ropes to make the statues, but they still are not sure and are amazed about how they did it. The steamy and rainy weather made the cave experience different, it felt mystic.
Then we headed to the bus stations to catch the bus to Xi’an. The first impression was wonderful, the newest and freshest bus I have ever been in – leather seats, big armholds. But that didnt stop the bus to break down after 20 minutes. After more then one hour waiting there came another bus and we could continue the journey just to be stuck in a traffic jam 2 hours later. We sat there for 3 hours without mowing. It turned out that the highway was closed because of the heavy rain, we even had to get our luggage up in the bus, so it would not get soaking wet, thanks that the driver was clever enough to care about that. Buuuuuut the thing that was ridiculous was that even thou the high way was closed and there was traffic jam already and the traffic was moved – the road tall took money from every car, making the traffic jam 10 times worse. So instead of getting to Xi’an at 8 in the evening, we arrived 2 in night, in the worst rain ever. Thank god the hostel was booked and turned out to be awesome.
Again a mowing forwards day with buses and trains.
Started by taking 6:30 bus from Xiahe, off course with a crazy driver as usual, speed 140 km/h and overtaking other vehicles in the most blind spots ever.
As there was no seats in the train left from Lanzhou, we had to take sleeper places for a 4 hour ride.
The evening we just relaxed in the hostel, as we had lot to see the next day.
We took a 3 hour bus from Tongren to Xiahe in the morning. The scenery was amazing, grassland mountains as far as you could see 2900 m up.
We got to Tara gesthouse, a very cosy hostel run by munks.
We started the tour by tracking over the mountains which gave as a fantastic view. Along the way we saw stone piles, which are like graves, they bring the dead up on a hill and let the birds eat them, then they cover the remains with stones.
Then it was time to see Labrang Monastery and this time with a English speaking guide. The guide turned out to be the funniest monk ever, who didn’t stop laughing for a second, we had a blast. In the end he invited us to hiss house for some tee the next day. We were really looking forward to that.
Next day we started with a Kora walk around the monastery 7 in the morning. In the afternoon we met the monk for a tea at his pace. And afterwards we saw the printing press.
It took 4 hours with bus from Xining to Tongren. Very small city, but with two big monastery places and the nicest persons ever. No meter if they where regular people, monks or children – everybody was smiling and being friendly as crazy.
In Wutun Si we saw not only the beautiful Monastery but also making of Tibetan art. Tongren (Tibetan sacred art) is very detailed painting and an A4 painting takes a month to make.
Rongwo Gonchen Gompa Monastery was the second place we visited. This is the biggest monastery in Tonga and its dating from 1301. There are still more then 500 residential monks.
After that we went to some local shops and purchased some Tibetan cloth as souvenirs. We ended the day with some wonderful food, something that we havent had for some time.
p.s. in most of the temples it is not allowed to take pictures, that explains the lack of them..
After a long night in a bus and couple more hours in train we reached Xining. There we headed to Kumbum Monastery. After trying the nr1 bus and failing we met a very nice Tibetan guy who was super helpful and escorted us with a taxi to the right bus.
The Monastery was built 1577 and its of enormous historical significance, hundreds of monks still live there.
We made a day trip to Mata Si to see an old temple carved into a sandstone cliff. It was made between the 5th and. 14h century. It is administered by munks and I need to mention that the robes they wore had the most beautiful colors ever..
We were able to climb the temple and then we hiked over the beautiful mountains and enjoyed the amazing view.
At four we headed back to catch our next night sleeper bus to Lanzhou and then in the next morning we bought train tickets to Shining.
We visited The Great Buda Tempel which was built 1098, it is one of the last wooden structures from that era still remaining in China. In the Tempel we could see of the biggest lying Buda and it was surely amazing. The temple was really well preserved. What made it even better was that there were almost no tourist at that site. The sad thing is that crowds of people can destroy the feeling of even the most amazing sites and objects. Afterwards we went to a wooden pagoda and sat down for a drink in the shadow of it.
We made one day stop in Jiayuguan to see the beginning of The Great Wall. It was the most western place in old China, beyond the gate lay the barbaric lands of Central Asia.