Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back on the tourist road

2 weeks ago when I was fretting about my sisters' visa I really should
have wondered when mine needed renewing. As it was it occurred to me 1
day after my visa expired, so a panicky renwal process began and
somehow I even managed to avoid a fine and get my passport back 6
hours before flying off to Gansu with mum and sisters.

Upon arriving at 1am a taxi driver convinced us to ride through the
night to our 1st destination, rather than staying the night first.

Now we are very tired having not slept at all in the car but have had
an enjoyable day in Xiahe, where 15 months ago the Tibetan monks
rioted following those in Lhasa. Foreigners were only allowed to the
town a few months ago. Still foreigners cannot buy bus tickets to get
here unless as part of groups, through other destinations, or by taxi.

Not too much has changed in the monastery itself since i was here 3
years ago, though several new developments have been built on the edge
of town. The town's special feel still remains with a thousand monks
living and working in the monastery and wondering around. We even went
to a nunnery where all the nuns had shaved heads (and Kate was
disappointed they were not in black and white robes Sister Act-style).
I can barely imagine how awesome the place must have been years ago
with 20,000 monks and no new developments.

As it is the monk giving the tour in English struggled to avoid or
diplomatically answer certain questions from people with a massive
range of knowledge on Tibettan buddhism. He did a good job though.

Earlier in the morning the girls had failed to bargain with the
locals, as there was an unequal balance of bargaining power, desperate
as the girls were for some warm clothes that we all under-brought
(Xiahe is 3,000m up).

They'd done a better job in Beijing spending almost 2 days at a flea
market, clothes markets and boutiques. They also managed a day at the
beack (by a lake in the park), a day at the Summer Palace + Olympics,
a day around Tiananmen and Forbidden city area, a day at the Great
Wall and even went to the urban planning museum + lama temple without
getting bored for a day. I accompanied them to a wide variety of
meals: hot pot, ma la tang, pizza, xinjiang, BBQ, dim sum and all
sorts.

Still plenty of chinese food for them to try though. They're doing
well so far, with Beth even drinking beer (as well as shopping,
clubbing and watching the awesome acrobatics). So if you come to
Beijing, there's your 1 week itinerary pretty much sorted!

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