In China’s Land of Buddhas and Fortresses, Kindness Prevails

The afternoon after my dinner with Ms. Wei, I had boarded a 6.5 hour practice to Jiayuguan, which was the shortest I might discover from the downtown Lanzhou practice station — after I realized all of the high-speed trains have been offered out and left from a brand new practice station, Lanzhou West, on the outskirts of town, anyway.

Onboard, a police officer launched me to Jo, an English trainer from Jiayuguan. She not solely woke me up after we needed to get off the practice at 2:30 a.m., however had her husband drive me to my resort, the place she negotiated my charge all the way down to $29 for 2 nights (versus the $90 I’d booked on-line). I showered and huddled below my covers with all my winter garments on as a result of I couldn’t work out the heater. But I positive was glad I wasn’t paying $60 extra for that.

The subsequent morning, at Jo’s suggestion, I walked on Jiayuguan’s broad, comparatively empty boulevards to a neighborhood restaurant, Wu Mai Er, to attempt a regional specialty: Lanzhou hand-pulled beef noodles. When I couldn’t talk my order, a person in line purchased my bowl for me and confirmed me choose it up, put chili sauce, or lajiao, in it, and then sit at a counter to slurp the noodles from the steaming broth.

Jo had additionally instructed I constitution a taxi for 150 renminbi ($22) to see Jiayuguan’s three Great Wall scenic websites. We drove via the Gobi Desert exterior town to the mound of mud that was as soon as The First Beacon Tower of the Great Wall, or the westernmost finish of the western protection. It was half of a system of 54 beacons that despatched smoke indicators down the wall to warn of enemy actions.

On the shuttle bus across the web site, I met one other lady traveler, Wei Gong, who had come by herself from Sichuan, and an English-speaking businessman from Nanjing, Yu Lihong, who helped me discuss to my driver. The three of us did not all the time preserve the identical tempo, however we stored in contact over WeChat as we circuited the Overhanging Great Wall and the ultimate web site, Jiayu Pass, or fortress, which was so enormous I had to return the subsequent day to see all of it.

The fortress underwent a formidable renovation in 2014. The night I went, because the desert temperatures dropped precipitously with the sundown, I had all the place to myself, strolling up stone ramps used for bringing horses to lookout factors and rolling down logs to crush enemies. At the exit, I caught up with Wei Gong, who was ready for her taxi. A person who ran a store promoting tea units made out of a neighborhood stone invited us to take a seat inside subsequent to his wood-burning range to heat our freezing fingers.

The Unesco-recognized Caves of a Thousand Buddhas, generally known as the Mogao Grottoes, hadn’t been on my radar, till Wei Gong invited me to come back together with her there. She was taking an in a single day practice hours after we’d left Jiayu Pass and I simply couldn’t do it. But I additionally couldn’t get the concept out of my head. The 492 devotional caves, hand-carved into sandy cliffs, home the world’s largest and longest-used treasure of Buddhist artwork on the planet, to paraphrase Unesco. They have been additionally a tempting four.5 hours west of Jiayuguan, within the desert oasis of Dunhuang, and I by no means knew after I’d be this near them once more.

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