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No way into Tibet (or anything even resembling Tibet)!

Linxia Travel Blog

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Linxia town square, undergoing redevelopment

People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)

Before even reaching the bus for Xiahe, which was parked in a petrol station, we were approached by two men who kept shaking their heads at us and saying no. It was pretty clear that they had instructions not to let any foreigners visit the town, which consists of 50% Tibetan people. I kept showing the book and pointing at Xiahe, but they weren't going to let us even near the bus, let alone on it! In all fairness, they weren't rude or nasty, they were just doing as they had been told.

The younger guy actually helped us get a taxi to a nearby hotel, where we took a cold shower (no hot water until after 18.

Temple and pagoda
00) and then ventured into the town. As we passed out of the building, we bumped into a German couple, who had managed to get some form of transport heading to Xiahe and had been kicked out at a security check point just 5km out of town. The Chinese government clearly has some serious issues not only with Tibet, but anywhere that Tibetan people reside. Its strange that they claim to do so much for the Tibetans and yet are petrified to let any foreigners near them to hear the other side of the story. If there's nothing to be guilty about, then whats to hide?

The plan of action saw us head to a laundromat, where we finally managed to get some washing done and then we popped in to the quaint little noodle shop next door for some lunch. The kitchen was completely open to the seating area, so you could watch the chefs preparing the noodles from fresh.
Mosque
A huge plate covered in steaming beef broth cost a bargain 3RMB ($0.45). Our dessert came from a local store just down the road, which sold the Chinese equivalent of a cornetto for 1RMB ($0.15).

There was no real plan of where to go or what to do in the town of 200,000 people, so we just wandered the streets randomly and veered off in any direction that seemed interesting. Our instincts took us into the main Hui Muslim district, where lamb carcasses were hung up along the road side, mosques towered above the crumbling old houses and old men with wispy beards, Muslim skullcaps and huge sunglasses could be seen pedaling their ancient bicycles, next to the honking green taxis. Small children would say hello and run off giggling, whilst the adults would halt their game of mahjong to look at the weird specimens walking by.
Me with an 'England Style' sign
It seemed like a trip back in time, although i still find it hard to believe that this had once been an important destination on the Silk Road, how times had changed... well trade wise, probably not the living standards :D

An hour or two passed by and as late afternoon arrived, we ended up in the developed area of town, where the faces, clothing and architecture all took on a new dimension. There was a much more distinct Chinese feel about this area and it appeared to be the typical scenario of the Han Chinese having all the wealth and opportunities, whilst the ethnic minorities drew the short straw. Maybe I've become a little cynical over such matters, but it seems too coincidental that the Hans are always the wealthiest within any towns that they reside in.

Of course, there was plenty of building work going on in the city, it was in China after all! The town square was been renovated and a picture at the end of the construction site showed a pretty spiffing looking complex that would be stood there in the near future.
Mosque
There were smart high rises and some international designer labels already on the high street and it seemed hard to believe that only a couple of blocks over, people were still living in a different generation. But thats what China is, a country of stark contrasts and interesting people, intermingling within societies for better and for worse.

As nightfall approached, we headed inside to an internet cafe for an hour and then bought some cheap provisions from the bakery. The German guy that we had met earlier bumped into us again on our way home and recommended that we try the night market stalls near our hotel for Dinner, which sounded like a pretty good idea.

Half a chicken, a huge piece of potato, 3 eggs and tea came to 24RMB ($3.50) and made for a much needed fix of something other than rice and noodles.
Dad and child on a motorbike
It was amusing to watch the locals watching us and I'm pretty confident that this part of the World doesn't really see any foreigners, after all, there isn't really anything of note there.

Back at the hotel the shower had hot water, so i enjoyed my first sensation of this alien fluid in nearly a week! Boy did it feel good. Having freshened up, I went out to buy us some beers, but got chatting to the German couple in a little outside bar near our hotel and had Julia worried where the heck I'd gone. Sometimes time just seems to fly by and you lose track of it and this had been one of those instances where an hour had gone and i didn't even notice!

Our 50RMB ($7) room at Shuiquan Binguan came not only with en suite (partial hot water!), but also with a TV that had CCTV9, an English speaking Chinese channel, which we decided to watch.
Me with some local sunglasses
This has to be one of the World's most bias networks, with a stream of programmes telling the watcher how the government has only brought happiness and prosperity to Tibet and helped improve its culture and society. Obviously no Tibetans have a say on the channel and the 'experts' all tell us how we should just listen to what they say, after all, questioning the Chinese government can have its repercussions!

Within the last few days there had been a huge train crash in the east of the country and this warranted a one minute segment on CCTV9, which basically offered little explanation or compassion. On the other hand, the news was wrapped up with a five minute heart touching article on a Chinese Panda that had just died in a Japanese zoo, are these editors for real!?

There was one mind boggling fact that i learnt from the programme, and this was that 3 BILLION, yes i said BILLION, plastic bags get used every day in China.
Making noodles
Can you imagine? I noticed that every shop you go in, they seem almost desperate to give you a bag regardless of what you buy. I normally make the conscious effort of declining, as i very rarely need one, but someone really needs to get this into the average Chinese persons head. Even in a country of 1.3 billion people, this is a staggering number and seems totally unnecessary.

Friday morning was occupied by catching up on lost sleep, which had become much needed. We checked out of our room and went to collect our laundry and eat at the noodle shop again. There were plenty of skullcaps on display in the street as the men poured out of the mosques and onto the streets. I had to go and try on some funky glasses that i saw the old men walking around in, but i was staggered to find out that they cost 210RMB ($30), so decided against their purchase as a comedy item.
Me scoffing some noodles
Once our belongings had been collected from the hotel, we made our way to the bus station and caught the 13.30 back to Lanzhou.

Deats says:
I know, its scary isnt it~?!
Posted on: May 29, 2008
cmgervais says:
3 BILLION bags per DAY? That's just nuts. When we were there they were selling canvas bags at Carrefour -- that's what we used but I noticed no one else did. THREE BILLION. Wow.
Posted on: May 28, 2008
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Linxia town square, undergoing red…
Linxia town square, undergoing re…
Temple and pagoda
Temple and pagoda
Mosque
Mosque
Me with an England Style sign
Me with an 'England Style' sign
Mosque
Mosque
Dad and child on a motorbike
Dad and child on a motorbike
Me with some local sunglasses
Me with some local sunglasses
Making noodles
Making noodles
Me scoffing some noodles
Me scoffing some noodles
Mosque
Mosque
Lamb carcuses hanging up under a p…
Lamb carcuses hanging up under a …
People gather outside the Mosque
People gather outside the Mosque
Hui Muslims in their skullcaps
Hui Muslims in their skullcaps
Hui Muslims in their skullcaps
Hui Muslims in their skullcaps
A range of designer glasses
A range of 'designer' glasses
Deal done
Deal done
Hui Muslim men
Hui Muslim men
Guys gather around in the street
Guys gather around in the street
Chefs in the noodle restaurant
Chefs in the noodle restaurant
Chefs in the noodle restaurant
Chefs in the noodle restaurant
Making noodles
Making noodles
Getting the noodles ready
Getting the noodles ready
Julia getting ready to tuck into h…
Julia getting ready to tuck into …
Julia tucking into her noodles
Julia tucking into her noodles
Julia eating her noodles
Julia eating her noodles
Linxia
photo by: Biedjee