China
Gansu

Here you’ll find travel reports about Gansu. Discover travel destinations in China of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

14 travelers at this place:

  • Day20

    Day 20: Train part 5, to Lanzhou

    August 9, 2016 in China

    Damn that station at Urumqi is horror, I needed to pick up my backpack at one side and had to walk around a whole parking lot like area to get through ticket check and security. They found my rescue tool which was not allowed since it is a pocket knife. Well that was fucked up, I need that thing also because they don't serve cuttlery in these trains if they serve at all. And it was a gift, so I begged for the return of it and finally I had an Idea, if they could only wrap it up somehow and they had some taped so I helped doing that as much as possible to get my swiss tool back and it worked, wow. That was exiting. Then find your perron, there were none, only waiting rooms???? What the F.... ok it took me 20 minutes to find my waiting spotand shit it was crowded there. I was getting used to the pushing and overtake people at qeue's. So I came in front while dripping of sweat and only there I felt some breeze. The backpacks where getting heavy but after 20 minutes the gates opened finally. I was the first for my wagon, how I did it?? Being taller than all the rest helps ;-). I arrived in my Cabin and changed to fresh clothing, then this Chinese family came in. Really nice people, the girl spoke a little english and eager to learn to speak since she wants to become a lawyer. The father was Master in Chinese Medicne and the little boy was full of energy ;-). I had fun, I had been all by myself often enough anyway and this was good for my Chinese as well ;-). Also the girl really liked me, she made hearts and a sunflower for me, so kind and sweet. In the end she also said that she didn't want to say goodbye already. We had to, but there is always a borderless thing called internet :). So of I go into Lanzhou, walking became harder with all these obstacles on the road to my hotel. Had to climb and pull myself over some fences and through road blocks cause I didn't want to walk around it. 2.5km was nothing when I started the trip ;-) . I was happy that my room had a bath, lovely deep but very short for a Dutch guy ;-). Wanshang hau :).Read more

  • Day21

    Day 21: Yellow river, yellow river

    August 10, 2016 in China

    Here I found peace, inner peace and outer peace. I was getting a little anoyed by all these chinese staring at me. When they don't look at the ground (or not seeing clearly ;-)) and bump in to me every 20 meters, they see me from 20 meters away and keep staring even if you're passing by. Wow yeah I am blond, have blue eyes (which I hide behind sunglasses), am more white then yellow (which I hide behind a beard :p ) and am taller than all of them. Do we do that in the west as well? Ok so I was beginning to say Ni Hau to most of them... no respons, made the peace pesture (especially when they take photo's) no respons, ok different tactic an experienced master said once: attack is the best defence. So I decided to photo bomb their selfies before they even noticed me, hahaha that made me smile and laugh and so did they. That was the trick, smiling couldn't have been easier ;-). So I was starting to play with this and got a few nice selfies with this unique but lovely people. I also found a really nice place to " rest and be thankfull" it was a spot that was actually behind a closed fence. But a climber that I am could easily get around :). I made a nice selfie with my sleeve hung up in a tree, creativity came when the Inner Peace was in body and soul. About creativity, I don't know if I am a good writer, but what I learned is that I must write asap after the actual events. So therefore are some of my texts written a bit hasty, my appologies ;-). Short summary of the sightseeing today: crossed the yellow river 4 times but it didn't make the river yellow, I think it is more brownish haha. Ok up to the place that was so damn beautifull, White Pagoda Mountain, when climbing up it was already nice because all of the Chinese Pagoda's (roofed terras like things situated in nice gardens) but when climbing down the view was even better. See for yourself. One more thing about today, after the last bagage check with the knife, I changed the way of packing it ;-). Actually hiding it, but when I know that I am hiding something it also makes me nervous. So there I went into the station, bagage check in front, all the attention on me anyway, I was just keeping busy with my stuff and diverted the attention of employees by asking if the plastic bag also needed to go through.... I dumped my small bag with the load :p, first and threw my backpack partly on it. There were 4 more bags on the same square meter ;-). I got searched, not thorough, and could take my bags of directly when they came out. Not hanging around, I took my bags and what normally is an ok procedure and in these country's a more stressfull procedure was now an adrenaline rush. And that for something that was actually allowed earlier ;-). Ok kept my cool, walked to my waiting hall (more a people stall) and oops one more bagage check, but no line and no other bags. Same routine, and...... yeah did it again. I think I did a good thing to put it next to the laptop with my phone and battery chargers around it ;-). Hurray, and now to Xi'an and it's Terra cotta army :).Read more

  • Day33

    Dunhuang

    March 20, 2015 in China

    An oasis town and once an important hub of the silk road, Dunhuang has little left of its historical character. However, out of town lies a wealth of fascinating sites.
    Arriving at the train station in the dark, cold early morning, I was greeted by a wall of taxi drivers all competing for passengers. Behind them dozens and dozens of old volkswagons were lined up, nose to bumper. I found a driver and he led me to his car... Now, how were we going to get out? There was a lot of impatient shouting and manouvering of cars through tiny spaces until we were free.
    In the morning I explored the Mogao caves; over 700 buddhist caves built into the sandstone in the Gobi desert. I found another westerner (German man) and we had a tour together. The frescoes and statues inside were inredible and so we preserved given many are over 1000 years old.
    Later, I went to the sand dunes where the original oasis is. The chinese have managed to give it a slightly theme park air to it but once I had scaled the first dune (via the stairway to heaven), the views were incredible. I even joined a group of chinese to do a tandem rubber ring down the other side, flying through the sand very fast. For dinner I tried donkey which, if you're wondering, tastes like roast beef.
    The next day I took slowly and spent the afternoon sitting on the rooftop of the Silk Road Hotel with Tess and Francesca, a mother and daughter team who are cycling the Silk Road. Very admirable. They are lovely, interesting people with many stories to share.
    Read more

  • Day32

    Lanzhou

    March 19, 2015 in China

    Not a terribly exciting day although Ellen on the bus did help me with my Chinese. I can now count to ten and vaguely ask to go to the train station. Essential vocabulary in my case.
    Lanzhou is a very industrial town; a forest of lego-like high-rises emerge from the lunar landscape. This was the start of my silk road adventure, onwards to Dunhuang on the night train.

  • Day74

    Lanzhou & Xiahe

    May 11, 2016 in China

    We arrived mid morning in Lanzhou, capital of elongated Gansu province, a key artery of the Silk Road. We could tell we'd returned to off the beaten track China - there wasn't another westerner in sight. We negotiated a taxi ride to the bus station, a frustrating 1 hour drive along dusty gridlocked streets, with a friendly taxi driver who bought us a breakfast of the Chinese staple we labelled grease sticks - they are essentially long, salty doughnuts with a palpable oily taste. Continuing our marathon stretch on public transport, we caught the bus to Linxia, a 3 hour journey that took us through an area known as the Muslim Mecca for its high population of Hui Muslims. Travelling the bustling roads filled with people in Islamic dress in the blazing sunshine, the only clue that we were in China and not the Middle East were the ubiquitous Chinese characters on signs. Reaching Linxia, we began the last leg of our journey, hopping on a coach towards Xiahe, a town on the edge of the historic Tibetan province of Amdo. The journey took us up winding mountain roads, notable for the vistas of villages with both mosques and Buddhist stupas set against snowcapped peaks. Eventually, we reached Xiahe and walked down the long main street, the architecture becoming increasingly Tibetan as we made our way towards our hostel, run by Tibetan monks from Sichuan. We settled in to our basic but cosy dorm, and then as twilight approached went for our first of many walks around the Labrang Monastery, the town's most famous highlight. Much of the monastery had been rebuilt following destruction in the cultural revolution, but it still remained the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sight in Amdo. Running along the outer wall of the monastery complex was a line of ornate golden prayer wheels which was being circumnavigated by streams of bedraggled elderly pilgrims, keen to spin every wheel. Activity at the monastery was dying down for the evening, but the stroll gave us a glimpse of the grand, very Tibetan monastery buildings and the friendliness of the mostly young monks. With night falling, we headed out for dinner where we had to wait nearly an hour for food to materialise, but when it did we had sour Yak Butter Tea, crispy fried Momo (Tibetan dumplings) and Tibetan festival food, which was similar to creamy Gnocchi. Weary after our long day of travelling, we returned to the hostel and hit the hay.

    We woke up early the next morning in order to catch the 10am English tour of the monastery, needed to enter most of the buildings. Unfortunately, no English guide was available so we had to make do with a Chinese one, so we missed out on a lot of the information about the monastery and the individual halls we visited. Nevertheless, the halls of the monastery were incredibly atmospheric, with the guide opening doors that allowed mystical statues of Buddha and his disciples, as well as incredibly detailed religious art, to emerge from the gloom of the yak butter candle lit temples. Adding to the sense of mysticism were the ever present smell of Yak Butter and the constant march of the Buddhist pilgrims round and round the locked temples, frequently prostrating themselves flat on the ground before continuing their never ending circles. The tour also featured some intriguing and very pungent Buddhist sculptures made of Yak Butter, the only things we were allowed to photograph. The tour ended in the monastery's main hall, large enough to fit it's 1800 monks, where we happened upon a large group of monks chanting in prayer, making an alien atonal sound that further evoked Eastern exoticism. Following the tour, we returned to the hostel for a delicious lunch of yak fried rice, before catching a minibus to the Sangke grasslands, 15km out of Xiahe. We stepped off the bus into a bleakly beautiful valley containing a one road town populated by hardy Tibetans protected from the cold by cowboy hats and decorated balaclavas, giving the village a distinctly Wild West feel. With weather alternating between sleet and bright sunshine, we made our way past out of user tourist yurt camps and into the grasslands, which were vast and fairly barren due to the time of year. Aiming to climb a ridge for a better view of the incredible snow capped mountains that surrounded us, we walked for nearly half an hour across the grasslands, filled with sheep and criss crossed by the occasional fence, eventually arriving at the ridge which had looked very close by due to the incredibly flat grasslands. Ascending the ridge, we steered clear of some fenced off, wild looking horses that had come over to scrutinise us, reaching the top which gave us panoramic views of the grasslands and the mountains that enveloped them. After soaking up the jaw dropping view, and musing that perhaps it was living in landscapes like these that imbued the Tibetans with such fervent Buddhist spirituality, we returned to town for one last wander round the hallowed monastery. We reached the end of the circular pilgrim route around the monastery, giving the prayer wheels a spin as we went, before leaving the tireless pilgrims to continue their endless cycle of circling and prayer. The long day had given us an appetite, which we satisfied at the hostel with our final Tibetan meal, with highlights including Tsampa (Tibetan barley cakes) and more delicious Momo. We sorted out some of our Azeri eVisa application, then settled down for our last night in Tibet.

    The next morning we woke up early for the direct bus back to Lanzhou. On arrival, we had an afternoon to kill before our sleeper train to Dunhuang. We decided to visit the Gansu provincial museum. On the ground floor we enjoyed an exhibition about the Tea Horse Road, a spur of the Silk Road that connected China and India which had run through Tibetan Sichuan, Dali and Lijiang, so provided a lot of reminders of the earlier parts of our trip. On the second floor, we were excited to visit the museum's highlight Silk Road exhibition, however much to our dissapointment it was closed for refurbishment. Nonetheless, the rest of the museum provided passing interest in the form of an interesting exhibition of the province's Buddhist art which piqued our interest in the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang and a laughably poor propaganda exhibition on the history of 'Red Gansu'. Once we'd explored the museum, we headed to the night market for an early dinner, where me and Freddie had the interesting experience of eating tasty cold noodles smothered in sesame sauce out of a plastic bag. From the odd looks we got from locals it seemed like we were supposed to empty the bags into bowls, but none were offered or seemingly available throughout the market. I also enjoyed some delicious spicy squid skewers, ubiquitous throughout China, and a delicious cake stuffed with an incredible sweet peanut filling. Savouring the Hui food had left us short on time, so we rushed to the station and caught our night train, where we fell asleep to the train chuntering along the ancient silk road.
    Read more

  • Day64

    Pingyao & Xian

    May 1, 2016 in China

    Following a relaxed sleeper train journey from Beijing, we arrived in Pingyao and were picked up by our hostel from the train station. At the hostel, we indulged with an Americano (coffee is more expensive in China than in the UK). Feeling energised, we ventured out in to the Old Town, managing to blag a student ticket to the town's attractions, saving us a tenner. We decided to gain some perspective over the town by going for a walk along its 800 year old city walls, the oldest unrestored section of city wall in China. Walking along the solid stone walls with a view over the a ancient wooden rooftops of the old town was evocative of an ancient China that often seemed lost in the big modern cities, as were the deep grooves from horses and carts left in the cobblestones under the majestic West Gate. Strolling along West Street, we stumbled across the Ringshengchang Bank, China's first consumer bank, which was housed in a magnificent stone courtyard with rooms crammed with opulent Ming furniture and exhibits about the old Chinese banking system, which was centered on Pingyao and brought it considerable prosperity. The Ringshengchang Bank had branches all across China and Asia, as far away as Moscow. We also visited the museum of the armed escort services, which developed to guard the banks' money on the road and featured interesting displays about martial arts, along with some fearsome looking weapons. Towards the end of West Street lay the town's Catholic Church, a decrepit 19th century building that seemed to be a shadow of its former self. Just down the road from it were the town's Confucian and Taoist temples. The Confucian Temple, while featuring a few effigies of Confucius, was largely designed as the examination Hall for the Imperial Examinations, further clouding our opinion of whether Confucianism is an actual religion or not. Opposite was the far more vibrant and popular Taoist temple, which featured ornate wooden architecture, housing quirky shrines such as a courtyard divided between Heaven and Hell with the Hell side decorated with horrific depictions of what life would be like for sinners. It also had a grand hall dedicated to the God of wealth and stuffed with gold statuery, appropriate for a financial centre which still had a 19th century saloon called the International Bankers Club. Exhausted from a day marching along the cobbles while soaking up the almost medieval atmosphere, we returned to our hostel, situated in a historic courtyard complete with old fashioned dorms held up by red wooden columns. Hungry, we left the old town for dinner, ending up at a canteen style soup place where the locals, who obviously didn't get many foreign visitors, were very excited to see us.

    The next morning, after a bit of a lie in in preparation for the hard seat overnight journey we had planned for the evening, we went and hired electric bikes (unfortunately there were only enough for 2 between us) and made our way out to the Shuanglin Temple, an ancient Buddhist temple in the countryside featuring thousand year old sculptures of Buddha and his disciples, exquisitely carved and still retaining much of their colour. Adding to the ambience were the art students sculpting impressive copies of the artwork out of clay. Once we'd had our fill of the sculptures, we zipped around the countryside on the electric bikes for a bit before heading back to town before the batteries ran out. In town, we did a few loops of the city wall before returning the bikes and making our way to the train station for our long and uncomfortable journey to Xian.

    Getting off the train bleary eyed from a fairly sleepless night we caught the bus to our hostel, bumping into a friendly Danish guy Philip along the way. The hostel was pleasant and actually had a few western travellers, which had been few and far between on our trip. Short on time in Xian, we hopped on the bus to the Terracotta Warriors, a journey that proved surprisingly complicated considering the Warriors were touted as the eighth wonder of the world. On arrival at the burial site, we paid the extortionate £15 entry before watching a comically 80s style mini documentary about the Warriors, which nonetheless provided some good background on the Qin Emperor buried with the Warriors who was the first to unify China and is the reason we call the country China in the West. We then proceeded into Pit 3, the smallest of the more than two thousand year old burial chambers discovered so far. In some ways, it was fairly underwhelming, with few complete Warriors and predominantly just dusty excavations. Pit 2 was similar, but larger and with a few Warriors taken out and put on display, which did help you appreciate the amazing detail of these ancient Warriors - every single one has individual facial features. We moved on to Pit 1, which was considerably more impressive with hundreds of Warriors and their horses laid out in a massive aircraft hangar. The sheer number of the Warriors was pretty awesome, as was the fact that they had survived so intact for so long. Once we'd admired the massed Terracotta army, discovered by chance by some peasants digging a well in 1974, we returned to Xian. Back at the hostel, in what was a ridiculous coincidence, we bumped into three guys we'd also bumped into in Kunming, all of whom were friends with David's sister at Bristol Uni and one of whom was the older brother of a girl in our year at Fortismere. After heading to the raucous night market for dinner where we enjoyed delicious cold sesame paste noodles and a slightly odd bowl of spicy giblets, we went out for the evening with the guys from England, which ended up being quite entertaining.

    The next morning, knowing we had yet another sleeper train to catch that evening, we decided to take it easy. We admired the more restored city walls and the historic Drum and Bell towers from afar - they were very expensive to get into before walking towards the Muslim Quarter, a neighbourhood that had been inhabited by Hui Muslims, descendants of Silk Road traders and their Chinese wives, for hundreds of years. The Hui are famous for their food and we really indulged, enjoying an enormous lunch of Bangbang Noodles (spelt using the most complicated Chinese character made up of over 100 strokes) and then Roujiamo (Chinese Hamburger) followed by out of this world persimmon cakes stuffed with a sweet sesame sauce. Our hunger satiated, we wandered out of the slightly touristy food area towards the bird market, where we saw plenty of beautiful songbirds for sale. Nearby, we stumbled upon a junk shop which had some interesting historic niknaks, including an attractive bottle of Mao Tai Baiju from the year Mao died that Freddie bought as a souvenir. After some more souvenir shopping in the quarter's fairly touristy bazaar, we visited the Grand Mosque, a beautiful building combining Chinese and Islamic architecture, with a pagoda for a minaret and ornate carvings in Arabic. We soaked up the relaxed atmosphere in the 8th Century Mosque's Chinese style rock strewn grounds before gorging ourselves on more Hui food in preparation for our sleeper train to Lanzhou.....
    Read more

  • Day78

    Dunhuang and Jiayuguan

    May 15, 2016 in China

    The quirks of the Chinese train system meant that our next stop on the Gansu silk road was at the far western end of the province, further from Lanzhou than our next destination, Jiayuguan. We arrived in Dunhuang after a lengthy sleeper train journey and got picked up from the station by our hostel, which had, like many in China, been bought by non English speakers who were still riding on the previous owners' good reviews from foreigners. The drive to the hostel in the oasis town was beautiful, with views of stunning sand dunes Luckily, a friendly Taiwanese cyclist was there to translate. Once we'd settled into the hostel and had our first showers in too many days, we caught a minibus to the Mogao Caves, the most famous Buddhist artwork in all of China. Entering the state of the art visitors centre, we saw a surprisingly informative film telling the story of the caves' development from small shrines for silk road travellers into elaborately decorated private halls of worship for leading families in the area. We then saw another film, which was a 360 degree view of some of the most significant of the caves, which provided more insight into the changing symbolism of the cave art during different dynasties. After watching both films, we caught a bus from the visitors centre to the cave site. We queued outside the caves, which externally are not particularly impressive as the exterior decoration were mostly destroyed by an earthquake in the early 20th century. We, along with a pair of French tourists, were assigned an English speaking tour guide and we began our tour. We visited around 7 caves, all ornately decorated and often filled with sculptures but sadly not photographable due to their fragility. Highlights included a very early Zhou dynasty cave which fascinatingly combined Chinese and Indian Buddhist art, with Buddha's disciples and angels appearing as males, unlike later more Chinese art that depicted them as largely female while at the center of the cave lay an Indian style stupa. Later Chinese caves also had more prominent sculptures of the 'Happy Buddha' - the fat gold man found in Chinese restaurants, apparently a manifestation of future Buddha rarely found in Indian Buddhist art. We also visited a Tang dynasty cave, which contained a giant reclining Buddha, surrounded by exquisitely carved arhats (guardians), with the cave walls depicting Chinese visions of paradise. While the caves open to the public rotate to ensure the art is not too damaged by light and oxidation, tour groups always visit the small library cave, where in 1901 Aurel Stein bought thousands of priceless manuscripts from the caves' caretaker for a pittance, much to Chinese chagrin even to this day, with many of the manuscripts now held at the British library and other foreign institutions. The tour finished with the Grand Buddha (the only section of the caves that was for public, not private use), in some ways more magnificent than the one in Leshan as the colours had faded alot less, as it was partially covered. Once we'd thanked our very informative tour guide, we caught the bus back to Dunhuang, via the caves' gift shop, had a fairly average meal and then headed to bed.

    Waking up late as usual, we rushed to buy our train ticket for that evening to Jiayuguan at the local train ticket booking office, before catching a local bus to the Singing Sand Dunes. Unwilling to pay an entry fee for what was a totally natural landscape, we attempted to sneak into the dunes, however as we wandered past the camel stables and further and further from the entrance, we began to realise that the dunes were better defended than the US - Mexican border, with miles of high fencing, peppered with frequent motion sensing security cameras which yelled at you if you came close. Defeated, we returned to the entrance and enquired about the ticket price and whether we could get a student discount. Unfortunately we couldn't, and the obscene £15 entry fee was beyond our budget, especially considering we only had time for a few hours there. Admitting defeat we returned to the town centre, where we enjoyed surprisingly tasty local speciality Donkey with Yellow Noodles. We then got a taxi to the train station, arriving with plenty of time for once, for our 5 hour journey to Jiayuguan. The journey was to prove entertaining, with high school kids from a coal mining town near Jiayuguan, along with other curious travellers, quickly surrounded us, asking questions about our lives, with the high school kids translating for the other passengers. Highlights of the journey included; a friendly older man who was fascinated by our passports and foreign coins spontaneously offering me his daughter's hand in marriage; a lovely middle aged guy from Qinghai (a neighbouring, very remote and mountainous, province) who gave us loads of tasty cured yak meat while imploring us to visit his homeland and Theo defeating all the high school students in an arm wrestle. All the attention and photos did grow wearing after a while, so we were relieved when our train arrived in quiet Jiayuguan at around 11pm. We had booked into a cheap business style hotel as there is no hostel in Jiayuguan and luckily our female taxi driver (common in Western China, hardly ever seen elsewhere) knew where it was, so we were quickly rushed along the town's Pyongyang style wide boulevards to a comfy bed with luxuries such as free tea and shampoo.

    Things did not feel so luxurious the next morning when we woke up to a power cut, which sadly also put the showers out of action. We then spent much of the morning trying to find the train ticket booking office, walking along roads lined with shops with generators whirring outside - obviously power cuts are common in this steel producing centre. Eventually, we gave up and coughed up for a taxi to the train station. Train tickets to Urumqi for that evening in hand, we travelled through the identikit Soviet style apartment block suburbs, painted the blue of the local steel company to the Jiayuguan Fort, a large citadel that marked the end of the Great Wall. The Fort had an amazing setting, looking out over endless mountainous desert, although the black fog of incredibly dense heavy industry near the town meant it was best to keep looking in one direction. We strolled along the ramparts admiring the Fort's grand gates, which people exiled from China had been kicked out of in centuries past. After soaking up the frontier vibe of the fort, we stopped by its museum which had some interesting exhibits on the history of the Great Wall. We finished our sightseeing by hiring a taxi driver to take us to the Overhanging Wall, which, though slightly tackily restored, afforded amazing, evocative views over vast desert planes, as well as a Chinese military base swarming with tanks and mobile artillery. Savouring our last steps on the wall, we headed down slowly to our taxi which returned us to town where we enjoyed a tasty meal of Lanzhou fried noodle, before catching our sleeper train beyond the realms of traditional Chinese civilisation, to Urumqi in Xinjiang....
    Read more

  • Day12

    Badaling Section Great Wall - Day 7

    October 24, 2015 in China

    We set off for our last day on the wall relatively early , around 8am.
    As we had got lots planned for the evening to celebrate.
    I could sense mixed emotions , excitement , nerves and sadness due to this adventure is coming to an end.
    By the time we got to our set off point and stretched , we set off at 9am,
    It was 635m pure up hill torture , then 635m down. No flat.
    This was tough but we all dug deep and smashed it within two hours ,
    Pulled out a record time apparently from what our Tour Leader told us
    Lots of tears , hugs and photos were all done at the top ,
    It was such an amazing feeling to get to the top after that two hour climb.
    Nice casual stroll down to the bottom , we were met by a charity challenge finish line , I HAD FINISHED THE CHALLENGE!
    That one was for you Dad!

    Feeling absolutely exhausted and my legs on fire and feel like led ,
    Mr Shay our bus driver got the beers in to congratulate us.

    Arrived in our accommodation , had a while to freshen up before heading out tonight.
    Tonight we surprisingly were going out to a fancy chinese restaurant ,
    Then to a Acrobatic Show which was insane, and lastly for a massage to try and relieve the pain.
    Amazing evening , just what you need after what you put your body through , but i would do it all again !

    Beijing city tour tomorrow! , can't wait. 6:30am start.
    Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Gansu Sheng, Gansu, Province de Gansu, 甘肃省

Join us:

FindPenguins for iOS FindPenguins for Android

Sign up now