Dunhuang to Lanzhou, China

3/3 – I’ve really enjoyed our few days in this pretty town.  The New Year’s celebrations are still winding down, and we hear lots of firecrackers going off in the streets.  It is the Year of the Ram.

After our day of sightseeing, we relaxed, ate noodles and beef in little restaurants (Jim asked repeatedly where we could sample some donkey meat, but the Donkey and Yellow Noodle Restaurant seemed to be the only place in town, and it was closed), and bought our train tickets for the next leg of our journey.  

We found an open-air market with all kinds of produce for sale.

I even found some wall art, showing the areas this town is known for – the Magao Caves, the Gobi Desert, the White Pagoda.

We also checked out the local supermarkets, and brought home some samples to try (with mixed results). The food here is VERY salty, but the beer is fine! (Note the old-fashioned pop tops!). We have been looking for several weeks for dental floss, which we have determined is just not used in this part of the world.

Wherever we go, people are surprised or amused to see westerners, and ask to take our picture.  We are the only non-Asian people in this town, as far as we can tell, and even at the big hotels, not a word of English is known.  Very few people – western or Asian – try to cross China overland, especially in winter. 

We are becoming experts in pantomime and planning – Jim looks up and copies out key words in Chinese into his notebook to show people what we want, before we leave the hotel.  At restaurants, we walk around to see what others are eating, and point to things that look good. At stores, we look at the register display, or the shopkeeper shows us western numbers on a calculator, to see what we owe.  This has worked pretty well so far.  

These little girls followed us down the street, shouting giggly Hellos! at us.  When I responded Nie Hao!, they just roared with laughter.  I don’t think my pronunciation is very good…

We left our hotel at 6pm to catch a taxi for our 8pm train.  The station is about 10 miles out of town, and is quite impressive.

We had a four berth compartment to ourselves for our overnight ride  – in fact, there were only three other people in the whole car!  This must really be the off-season in China.  

Arrived on time at 7:30am, and walked across the street to the bus station to purchase our tickets for tomorrow.  Was informed by the nice Information Lady that tickets to Xiahe can only be bought at the South Bus Station, 10 km away.  Okay, time for a morning taxi ride across town!

Lanzhou is a big, dirty city, that either has many abandoned buildings, or ones that were never finished.  People walk on dirt right along the main road – no sidewalks.  

In 20 minutes we were at the South Bus Station, and asked for tickets on tomorrow’s bus.  The ticket lady informed us that tickets could only be purchased for today’s bus, and to come back in the morning.  Agghhh!   Our online blog advisors had specifically warned that these tickets sould be purchased in advance.  Oh well – at least we now know that the bus leaves at 9:30am. 

Another taxi ride all the way back to the train station, where Jm had booked a conveniently close hotel.  Best laid plans and all that…  So now we are in our kinda dumpy hotel in a smoggy city, and will rest up for our long bus ride to Xiahe tomorrow.

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