A Travellerspoint blog

Xining, China

Our gateway to Tibet

sunny 65 °F

Xining is about 24 hours away from Lhasa by train and is the last major city before entering Tibet via railway. We met a nice college kid on the bus who totally helped us get off the bus at the right time and then found an awesome hostel in an apartment building with a quiet wifi living room and a great view of the city where we could work on finalizing our Tibet Permits.

Lhasa used to be open for tourists to meet up and plan trips across the Himalayas, however with the increased conflict between monks and the Chinese military, all foreign tourists are now required to obtain a permit before even purchasing a train ticket into Tibet. Tourists are also are now required to purchase a package through a guide service since only the guide can apply for the permit. Needless to say, this is quite a complicated process.

Being the last stop before Tibet, our hostel was full of tourists exchanging stories of seemingly random reasons why their permit application was denied, and hoping to meet up with other travelers to arrange a new tour. We sent in our final paperwork over two weeks ago however we still hadn’t heard any news from our Tibetan guide. We met up with David and Karin in the hostel, but sadly both of them and our new friends Emil and Emilia were also denied permits. The whole hostel of travelers seemed to be in a holding pattern and some were even abandoning ship and flying to India/Nepal, others were waiting it out for over two weeks. Two nights before we were scheduled to get on our train, we received the good news we were hoping for… we got our permits! Luckily, we had decided to take a tour with just the two of us, which minimized the complexity of getting a permit with mixed nationalities. Months of preparation and a whole lot of Chinese Yuan made this possible. Heading to the ATM to pay off our guide, we confused the hell out of the bank trying to get a bill larger than 100 RMB (which we found out later doesn’t exist).

With confirmation that we were actually going to be allowed in, we set off on a last minute shopping spree to stock up on snacks and goodies for our 24-hour train ride, and 9 day adventure through Tibet. Most travelers seem content to just purchase food along the way, however with Kevin’s obsession of always carrying food and being on the ‘eat a bolus every hour grazing plan’ we had to dedicate one of our day packs to lots of dried fruit, fresh Asian pears (apple pear), oranges, biscuits, a bag of lollies (candies), homemade muesli (oats, nuts, raisins, milk powder, coconut flakes, cornflake, sunflower and pumpkin seeds), instant coffee, a zip lock of Yunnan leaf tea, hard boiled eggs (with a little container of S&P), the Chinese version of trail mix, dried ramen noodles (with additional packs of freeze dried peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, and baked firm tofu), a handful of steamed pork and red bean buns, the Muslim Bakery’s version of a cinnamon roll, crackers, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, soft cheese wedges (we don’t remember having eaten laughing cow cheese since elementary school), two take-away boxes of fried chowmein, a can of tuna AND two cans of some sort of sweet bean soup in what looks like a tall boy soda can. Could you imagine what a security officer would be thinking if we were stopped for some reason? Hey, at least if we are detained, or our tour guide’s jeep breaks down, we’ll have enough goodies for a tea party on the side of the road :-)

While in Xi’ning we increased our workout routine in an attempt to help us acclimatize to the high altitude (Xining is at 2,200 meters, Lhasa is just about 3,000m and our highest point on the trip would be above 5,000m). The parks around our hostel had exercise equipment, and we fit right in with the locals….. not! We became quit the spectacle from the locals all starring in amazement. The park was jam packed with a dozen ping pong tables, multiple soccer matches, lots of stretching and massaging legs on what appeared to be short pull-up bars, more people than we’ve ever seen on a 400m track at one time AND a brass horn band (wtf?). We showed up in shorts and tank tops to a brisk 50 degree day while everyone else wearing slacks, coats and what seemed like normal street business attire…. Oppsie! This was not a tourist town and there wasn’t much English to be had, however that didn’t stop us from trading sets of exercises with a not-so-fit, but extremely excited group of men.

The town was more than what we expected. There was a pretty posh shopping street, a bunch of local markets, and lots of good eats. We enjoyed a different Muslim style of dumplings, and a random soup with what we think might have been something’s stomach.

We also frequented a place with 1 RMB kosher cabob skewers and thick noodles…to our amazement, the noodles were made by hand right in front of us (without any sort of machine). The chef simply grabbed a lump of dough, stretched it out a few times, folded them in half a few times, stretched them out again and Wa Lah! It was quite amazing to watch.

We paid a visit to the Dongguan Mosque Friday’s lunchtime prayer. We were not allowed into the Mosque but were told that there are usually about 50,000 Muslims who come to pray, and come they did! The streets were flooded with little white hats as the huge Mosque completely filled up and prayer mats overflowed into the street. Turns out that this part of China has quite the Muslim influence.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 03:49 Archived in China

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


I love the list of all the food! Kevin is an eating machine :)

by megandibiase

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.