First of all, I want to apologize for my absence. Once I returned from travelling, I picked up a lot of side jobs to make extra money for my semester travelling plans. Then people started to return to Nanjing after the summer break, my job started again, and I found myself wrapped up in everything but writing. BUT, I'm back.
I have decided to use this space to wrap up my summer vacation. Then I'll try to catch you all up on my travels of last semester up to this point:
Before leaving Langmusi to head to Xiahe, Molly and I had made a bet with Winnie and Rowan about hitch hiking to the next town. While we left Xiahe by bus, we had to stop half way to transfer which is where we hitch hiked our last two hours to the next small town. The man spoke very little English, so Molly chatted with him using the Chinese that she knew. I listened to music and enjoyed not having to ride on another bus.
Once we arrived, we ate at a little place that we read about in the Lonely Planet Guide:
We frequented this restaurant where we met a guy who was staying in our hostel and who we ended up spending a lot of time with. His name was Max, and he was from Canada. One of the best parts of this trip was the amount of people we got to meet from all over the world. Because of its small size Xiahe was another very relaxing town. We spent a lot of time hiking and bike riding and just exploring the small shops. Again, we did a lot of reading and writing in different places all over the town.
After this first day here, the Chinese government came to town and told all hotels and hostels that foriegn visitors would be requried to vacate the city. Not complying with this order would put the hostel in danger of getting into trouble. When we went to book another night at the front desk we were informed of the news. However, it took us awhile to understand why we had to leave the town. Basically, the Panchen Lama is second in command after the Dalai Lama, and he was coming to town sometime during the next two days. Apparently, a few years ago, there were some riots and people were killed and injured. They don't want something like that to happen in front of foreigner eyes.
It was an interesting feeling being part of the minority group that is told where you can and cannot be. While it was kind of discouraging, we decided that we were not going to leave. Even if no hostel or hotel would allow us to sleep in a room for a night, we decided to put our money together to buy a tent and the essentials for sleeping in the mountains where at night it got pretty cold. Luckily, after visiting essentially every accomodation in the area, we found a place that allowed us to stay. But it was obvious that this rule was being enforced. First of all, we were turned down by many places including the renting of bicycles from one place. Next, the presence of the authorities was much more prominent than it had been before where it seemed almost non-existent. Our friends Winnie and Rowan were prohibited from even entering the town at all and had to skip over it. And, prior to the demand for us all to leave, we saw other foreign faces roaming up and down the streets. It was clear that they had all obeyed the command to leave Xiahe.
In our effort to stay in town, we managed to concoct a scenario where we would see a major political uproar. To our disappointment, nothing happened and it was very calm. It's definetly better that nothing went down, but it would have been a pretty cool story.
Because we were able to stay, we also rented bicycles and rode way out of town to see some scenery:
Needless to say, this place was absolutely gorgeous. We were also able to get up one morning at 5:00am to visit the monastery. While I don't have many pictures of this, it was a very meaningful experience to watch the devotion of the monks.
The man on the left was laying down in an almost push-up-like position then strategically raising himself to a standing position. Another man on the opposite side was following the same routine. As they both practiced this worshipping ritual, they chanted prayers in Tibetan. We watched them for about 15 minutes, and the pattern was never broken. I imagine that along with getting in their morning prayers, they killing two birds with one stone and getting in their daily excercise.
One thing that we all found quite ironic was watching the monks circle the monastery in a worshipping walk in their monk-garb, in Nike sneakers, playing on his Iphone. I wish I would have snapped a shot of that.
Molly and I finally left Xiahe...not because we wanted to, but because we were running out of money and we still had to get back to our homes. We did have to stop in Lanzhou for a night where we ate some local delacacies in the night market. Then we turned in and took the long, 20-hour train ride back home.
I can honestly say that this was one of the most interesting, meaningful, and rewarding vacations I have ever been on. I thank the people I was able to travel with and all the wonderful people I met. Although I was gone for almost a month, it just barely scratched my travelling itch - I am ready for more!
Here's to stressful yet successful travelling!