Pyramids that could be haystacks!
Yinchuan Travel Blog› entry 316 of 658 › view all entries
People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Kim (USA), Linia (England)
It was after 22.00 when the train finally reached Yinchuan station, which according to our book was still a fair distance from the Old Town. Our first objective was to procure train tickets for the following nights journey to Lanzhou, and once we achieved this, we headed out into the night.
A few steps from the exit and we were approached by a young guy, who uttered 'Hotel, 50' and pointed just down the road. We nodded and some old man came and escorted us 100m to some shady looking building.
The room we were shown into was a good size, looked reasonably clean and was en-suite, so we decided that even though we were in the less interesting New Town, we would settle for it anyway. We were brought a kettle of hot water, some extra blankets and a key and in return offered a few xiexie's (Thank You's), and were finally left in peace.
A quick trip down to some night stalls near the station led to us buying some fruit, noodles and water, as we hadn't eaten a proper meal since morning. Been the gentleman that i am, i let Julia take the first shower, although the lack of noise sounded ominous.
The following morning we had one goal and that was to go and see the Western Xia Tombs. Our 'trusty' Guidebook advised that we take the number 2 bus as far as Xixia Qu and from here a taxi would only be 15RMB ($2.10) each way. To save on time though, we noticed that it was only 90RMB ($13) for a return taxi trip to the tombs from the Old Town and the New Town was approximately half way between, so we figured on around 45RMB ($6.
Instead, we searched around the bus station and asked a number of people where the bus left from and kept getting pointed to different bus stops, none of which had the number 2 route on them. It was pretty clear that the people didn't really have much clue themselves but were trying to help anyway.
20 minutes of fruitless wandering and we decided that it may be wise to just catch the number 1 bus into the Old Town and then from the main bus station try and find the number 2. The bus entered Yinchuan Old Town 40 minutes later and en route passed the impressive Xi Ta (West Pagoda). We terminated at the Long Distance Bus Station, situated next to the South Gate of the city, where it looked like they had made a recreation of the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing, as the portrait of Mao hung over the door.
Once again there was no sign of a number 2, so we went into a restaurant for some brunch and then went to the nearby Nanguan Mosque. Typical of China, there was construction all around the area, including building work on the 2 minarets, so we didn't get any closer than having a look from across the street. Back to the bus station, which was actually just the road with a couple of stops and still there was no indication of where this illusive bus could be.
Julia was just about to ask the driver of a bus where we could catch a bus heading in the direction of Xixia Qu, when it dawned on her that she recognised the name. After flicking through the guidebook, we found an earlier description saying that the area around the train station in the New Town was called Xixia Qu! What dumbfounded us was why they recommended taking this non-existent bus number 2, when bus 1 made this journey every few minutes!
Feeling a bit miffed, our next game plan was to take the number 1 bus all the way back to the New Town and from here try to flag a taxi that wasn't stationed at the train station and bargain hard.
Kim and Linia were luckily both students of Chinese at Xi'an, and had spent the last 4 days in Yinchuan, so knew there way around a little bit and were also looking to head to the tombs. Their Chinese skills had managed to find out that bus number 2 was infact a unicorn - a mythical creature - and that we needed to take bus 102 to its terminus and from here try and get a taxi. An hour bus ride, which was 20 minutes past the train station, only cost us 2RMB ($0.25) although when we were dropped off, it was clear that we were in the middle of nowhere!
For 10 minutes we stood in the baking sun, trying to flag down one of the passing taxis, all of which were full.
A small buggy transported us from the entrance to a museum and then an area of dioramas and pagodas, before we finally walked on to the main attractions. The Western Xia Tombs were described in the book as pyramid like, but the first word that came into my head when i saw the main one, was 'haystack'.
Approaching the tomb, there are still visible signs of the wall that circled it and lots of small mounds, which were possibly turrets or tombs of his concubines and family. To be honest, the information on site was disappointingly non existent, so i really need to study it a bit harder for myself! The central tomb was a decent sized earthen mound, which was now the habitat of a large population of birds.
30 minutes nosing around and the decision was made to trek out 5km to the 'twin tombs', that appeared as blips on the horizon. It was an hours walk in the sweltering sun and the 4 of us were relieved that we had stocked up on water before making the journey. Slowly but surely, the tombs increased in size, until we eventually reached them, leading to the girls collapsing in the shade.
I on the other hand, decided that i wanted to have a good walk around and take some photos, so spent the next 20 minutes wading through light bush, in an attempt to find a decent angle, from which to photograph the fascinating structures. Finally i gave in to the relentless sun and went and joined the girls in the shade.
30 minutes were spent eating oranges, popcorn and biscuits, before it was agreed that we really should be making a move as it was already 16.45 and i had it in my head that the place closed at 17.00! It was a relief to arrive back at the main gate around 18.00 and find that not only were there still people visible, but also there were a couple of taxis waiting.
The 4 of us hopped into one and took it to the bus stop, from where we caught the 102 back to the train station and the girls carried on to the Old Town.
Julia and I searched around for a restaurant that looked passable and ended up in a place with wonderfully friendly staff and decent food. The last task of the day was to use the internet, where we got the great news that Portia was flying out from the USA to spend 10 days on the Silk Road with us and also our Swedish friend Hannes had finally made it to China and would be joining us shortly. At 22.40 we boarded the night train to Lanzhou, bringing to a close our stay in Ningxia Province.