Friday, October 17, 2008

Silk Road - Day 3 - Lanzhou

Day 3
Day 3 arrived and we set off early on a medium haul journey to Lanzhou, ~400km from Tianshui, which would take about 5 hours. It would be the first of many hauls.

We also got our 'real' guide for Gansu, Mr. Fu, who had crossed half of China to take the helm.

Mr. Fu, in his quest to raise team spirit or something, is fond of loud. He tries to get us to do a rah-rah call in Tibetan: Ya shio, ya shio, ya ya shio!!! The good students at the front of the bus gave good response. We were at the back trying to sleep, not happy with having our eardrums rattled, and plotting ways of destroying his loudspeaker.

The passing scenery wasn't over-inspiring. Lots of dried-up tiered fields, planting mostly corn from what I saw. Not wheat, corn. We hadn't eaten any corn so far but there was surely a big supply of it.

It's hard to associate this drive on the highway with the Silk Road of yore: that wondrous, treacherous, magical link between East and West. Where the dirt roads were filled with arrays of horses, camels, caravans and camps. And you had to hire fighters to protect you from the hordes of robbers all along the road.

Now it's just endless tarmac stretching to the horizon...

We arrived at Lanzhou, a large metropolitan city, smack-dab in the middle of China. Here's a brief intro, courtesy of travelchina:

On a map of China with a scale of 1:260,000,000, draw a circle at a radius of 90 mm (3.54inches) to include all China in it, and you will find that the center of this circle is Lanzhou, the capital city of northwest Gansu Province. Lanzhou is not only the geometrical center of China but also a center in the northwest in terms of transportation and telecommunication. Lanzhou is home to a population of 3.14 million, including Han, Hui, Bao’an, Dongxiang, Tibetan, Yugu, Sala and more. Lanzhou used to be a key point connecting central China and the western region as well as a vital city on the Silk Road.

Get it, it's central, CENTRAL. Probably a major trade point on the old silk road, with people from east and west meeting up to barter silks, golds, camels, and the odd wife or two.

Lanzhou Noodles
We got down for lunch and had the famous Lanzhou Noodles, freshly pulled by expert chefs. There were broad ones called 'belt noodles' (as wide as belts), there were narrow ones, medium ones, round ones and flat ones. Served in soups, chili oil and spring onion sauces. That was one heck of a lot of noodles in one meal!

They were... ok. Don't know why they're supposed to be famous. Maybe in a noodle-staple diet like this North-Central part of China, they can be very particular about the quality, taste, texture and springiness of noodles. It's like wine-tasting, only with dough.

We also had rice, mantou (flour buns), various meats and vegetables. It's odd that they serve three staples at the same meal: rice, buns and noodles. But it's supposed to be normal here.

City Tour
After lunch, we were taken off on a whirlwind city tour.

First up: Yellow River. Specifically, first bridge on the Yellow River built by the Germans. Yellow River is the 2nd longest river in China, and 6th longest in world.

Next: Water Wheel Park, a man-made park that featured water-wheels churned by the Yellow River right next to it. An interesting thing about the park were the flotation devices made of sheepskin, which were traditionally used by Yellow River rafts.

Then: Mother Child Sculpture. A sculpture of mother and child. Try to guess the gender of the child, asked our jolly guide. 2/3 of the group went for male, the others went for female (cos the child sculpture did have a masculine look to it). The answer: due to controversies on choosing a gender for the child sculpture which lasted 2 years and involved various proponents having bloody battles with paper (hey, paper cuts hurt!), it was decided to place the child in on its belly, so nobody could see what gender it was. Smart eh.

Lastly, dinner and loosed to wander Lanzhou on our own. No takers for foot massage push.

And that was the end of Day 3, which we all agreed was a filler day with nothing much happening and nothing much to see. We were getting the point of the Silk Road tour now, it's covering the distance, and being on the road; not necessarily seeing awesome sights everyday. Okay... adjust attitude and move on.

No comments: