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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
View from Jade Gate - Gateway to the Northern Silk Road
CLASSIC CHINA Beijing April 23 April 24 April 25 April 26 April 27 April 28 April 29-30 May 1-2 May 3-4 May 5 Pinyao, Shanxi May 6 May 7 Xian, Shaanxi May 8 May 9-10

TIBETAN PLATEAU Xining, Qinghai May 11 May 12 Tongren, Qinghai May 13 May 14 Xiahe, Gansu May 15 May 16-17

THE SILK ROAD Lanzhou, Gansu May 18 Dunhuang, Gansu May 19-20 May 21-22 May 23 May 24-25 Turpan, Xinjiang May 26 May 27 Kashgar, Xinjiang May 28-29 May 30 May 31 June 1-2 June 3-6 Hotan, Xinjiang June 7 June 8-9 June 10-11 June 12-13 June 14-16 June 17-19

A LAST LOOK Shanghai June 20-29 Beijing June 30
View from Jade Gate, No. Silk Road, Gansu, May 24, 2003


May 18. LANZHOU (Gansu Province) We had an early bus to catch to Lanzhou at 6:30.  Our hotel was dead quiet as we departed out the back exit.  The guy at the front desk had even given us back out deposit and taken our room key the night before so we didn't have anything to sort out before we left.  The bus was practically empty so our bags got the choice storage spot in the truck of the bus.  Of course, after the ticket ladies got off the bus the driver and his second in command, the ticket guy (in this case two of them), worked their way slowly through town hoping to pick up some extra passengers.  By this time we'd figured out that this was extra money for them and since our bus was empty to start with they were going to make this a very profitable day.

Our driver drove like a maniac along the road, pretty much straddling the center divide and sitting on his horn the whole way.  It always amazed me how drivers would create a sort of imaginary third lane down the middle of the highway for swerving and passing other vehicles, or, in the case of our driver, just trying to own the road.  This is what must have made our bus the express mini bus.  But, at the end of the trip, after stopping for bread, gas, numerous passengers, a car wash, and the SARS check we actually got into Lanzhou and hour and a half late.

The road turned to dirt and mud as we got nearer to Lanzhou.  When the mud turned back into pavement the streets was lined with one car wash after another.  I guess you can't take your bus back all muddied up.  A team of people used a hose and rags to scrub down our bus in about ten minutes and we were back on our way.  The SARS checkpoint looked like it would take a good long while but this checkpoint team had gotten a system down for managing the large amounts of traffic coming into Lanzhou. We didn't even have to get off of the bus.  A infra-red thermometer clad bio hazard storm trooper just boarded our bus and zapped everyone in the head.  Our name sheet was passed off to the checkpoint staff, they sealed the bus doors with large stickers and were off again.  The stickers represented some sort of a "seal" that couldn't get broken until we reached the bus station in town (as if they don't know how to use windows in China).

We rolled into the bus station at around 1:00 and took a cab to the train station, hoping we could get a sleeper to take us directly to Dunhuang. We had no such luck.  The next train was leaving for Dunhuang at 9:30 the next morning so we'd have to stay the night in Lanzhou.  The hotel across from the station proved to be convenient, relatively cheap, and clean with a comfortable beds and a bathtub!

There isn't a whole lot to see in Lanzhou but it is a pleasant city.   We didn't encounter another foreigner during the whole time we were there and clearly the local people were curious about the foolish foreigners that would travel in China during the SARS epidemic.  We located the bakery that was recommended by LP and bought a soft loaf of banana bread for our long day trip to Dunhuang.  Across the street from the bakery we tried a tasty hotpot dish that consisted of a metal pot split into two sides, one for spicy herbs and one for milder herbs, heated at our table and served with our choice of dishes for dipping (tofu, mushrooms, mutton, etc.). It was very filling and after a long hot bath at the hotel we settled in for a good warm night's sleep.  It was the first time in China that the beds weren't too hard or too squishy that we had to use our therm-a-rest mats for a comfortable rest.