Difference between revisions of "Gansu"
Revision as of 22:04, 4 March 2007
The northwest province of Gansu spans the Qinghai-Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Loess plateaus in the upper reaches of the Yellow River. The topography is complex and the climate unpredictable. The river valleys in the south belong to a subtropical zone while the north is an arid temperate zone. The province was a center for East-West cultural exchangesas early as the Han and Tang dynasties. Many people go to Gansu to seek out the the roots of world civilization. The 1,600-km-long Silk Road of the Han and Tang dynasties unfailingly brings the visitor to such places as the grottoes at Dunhuang (a veritable world-class treasure house of art), the Jiayu Pass on the Great Wall of China, Majiishan Grottoes of Tianshui, the Labrang Temple of Xiahe, the Great Buddha Temple at Zhangeye and the bronze sculpture of galloping horse in Wuwei.
Gansu contains some of the largest and most important Tibetan monasteries outside of Tibet. Travel by local bus across high, frigid plateaus to reach them. Ride horses across the plateaus past yurts. Share lunch with Tibetan monks. Share yak butter tea with monks. On second thought, don't. It is revolting. This part of China bears almost no resemblance to Eastern Han China. Empty, wild, culturally and ethnically distinct, it offers some of the most exhilarating travel in the world.
Imagine 7 hours of travel across a high plateau in a rickety bus dating from 1970. Every few hours, one of your neighbors, swathed in yak wool, stops the bus, dismounts, and starts walking to the horizon. You can see for 20 miles in all directions. There are no towns in sight. It is an empty and riveting land.
Beware of the time of year you travel there. It is wicked cold even in May. In rural areas (the most interesting areas are rural), very few housing options are available. Probably, there will be no heat. So bring layers or buy a yak wool coat.
Some train access. But to get to the interesting sites, local bus is a necessity. Think of it as an adventure. And get ready to use non-verbal communication.
Ride horses for days on a trek. Hike through the hills. Hang out in monasteries. If you don't like the outdoors, this is not the place for you.
Don't go to Gansu for the food. Yak meat, yak butter, yak yogurt. In traveler's places, they often have scrambled eggs with tomatoes. Excellent.
Avoid yak butter tea, generally. but try it just once for the excitement.
Beware of local rice whiskey. It will burn like nothing you have ever tasted. And, if homemade, it might just make you blind.
OK, the horses are fun, but perhaps not the safest option.