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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Monks at Taer Si Lamasery
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
Monks at Taer Si Lamasery, Xining, Gansu Province, May 6, 2003


May 11. XINING (Qinghai) "A Muslim Market " It was a nineteen hour train ride from Xian to Xining. We arrived at about 5:45pm on the 11th.  Our compartment area was not fully occupied on this trip. We just had a couple of college students in the middle bunks above us who spent most their time in the aisle seats talking with each other and playing cards.

When I traveled hard sleeper before in China they came by early in the morning and ripped away your sheets but on this trip we had our pillows and blankets all day which was convenient for periodic napping.  The train started to come to life around 7:00am so we still had a fair number of hours to kill before Xining.  But, between reading, playing cards, listening to music and napping, the day was gone before we knew it. 

As we neared the Xining station we picked up a few biohazard storm troopers.  They went from car to car with their bull horn and an ear thermometer.  They seemed to just give everyone a visual once over and probably used their thermometer on any sick looking suspects.  We took one look at that thermometer and thought, "They are not going to stick that thing in our ears!"  I searched my pack for a package of alcohol wipes to keep with me just in case.

Getting off the train we had about a half hour wait before exiting the station.  Most people crowded towards the exit but since everyone had to stand in front of the ONE infrared thermometer the police were streamlining the mob into a single file line.  They had their work cut out for them as the crowd continued to push them forward and people tried to sneak in ahead of them.  It was slow going and we chose not to mingle with the mob and just stood to the side with some other folks until the line started to look manageable.  

Upon exiting the station we were immediately accosted by a tout that wanted to drag us to his hotel next to the train station.  He had the prices of all the hotels in town in a notebook to show how his hotel was the cheapest and he went on to warn that other hotels had been told not to take foreigners due to SARS.  We were more jaded travelers at this point and the only useful information we got from him was what bus to take to the city's west gate.

The first hotel we tried ended up being beyond our budget, having inflated 30% beyond what LP had noted.  It was a really nice hotel though - bummer.  We thought we might be able to bargain but they told us they were full!  In the lobby we met a couple of western businessmen who were staying there and both were skeptical that the hotel was full.  They were just afraid of taking in any travelers.  The foreign businessmen also advised us that the Taer Si lamasery and Qinghai Lake had both been closed to tourists due to SARS.  That would sort of limit our sightseeing options in Xining...

Back on the bus we returned to the station to search out a cheaper option.  Avoiding the tout's hotel we found one on the other side of the station square that readily gave us a room.  The rooms, however, left a lot to be desired.  We looked at a couple and they were both pretty dingy and had toilets that flushed with a piece of string.  We didn't even have a shower head.  But, the other hotel was supposed to be worse so we didn't have many options.

The area outside our hotel was kind of a hang out spot for random people.  Xining was a fairly modern city.  It was not interesting looking but was clean and had a wild mixture of cultures that were very interesting.  The Muslim Hui people were easy to spot.  The men all wore their bright white hats and the women covered their heads with scarves.  The Buddhist monks were also conspicuous in their saffron robes.  The other prominent population was, of course, Chinese.  

We grabbed the bus back towards the west gate again to have dinner at a Muslim restaurant, Xiaoyuanmen Shifu.  The staff were very friendly and helpful with the ordering.  Rob had a large plate of mutton and I had a tasty plate of snow peas.  For dessert we let them recommend a Muslim dessert of eight different dried fruits over hot rice and covered with a honey-like sauce.  It was delicious and filled us up after a long day of not eating very much.

We walked back to our hotel to work off our big meal.  We had gained quite a bit in altitude and were now at about 2275m which meant the air was crisp and cool.  When we returned to our hotel we noticed that our room had a odd smell since we had closed the window before we left.  It reminded me of yak butter and animal hair.  The floor of our bathroom was also flooded with water.  We would have to change rooms but we let it wait until morning and just slept with the window open.