The next several posts chronicle my trip around China over the last couple of weeks. Many posts I wrote on the train in between destinations. On the trip I spent just over 100 hours on 7 trains traveling almost 10,000 kilometers. If I add the excursion to Leshan by van from Chengdu then I broke 10,000 km on this trip not including walking, camels, subways, buses and boats.
I traveled with my friend Aaron. We visited five UNESCO World Heritage Sites and added two more provinces to our list not including train travel through many others. Before I go into detail about each adventure, here is an introduction to our trip and why we went where we went.
Our first idea was to visit Tibet, but we felt we could see more of China for less money by going a different route so that’s what we did. It turns out our decision was well made since the week before we left, they canceled all permits for travel to the Tibetan Autonomous Region meaning anyone with plans would have to change them and anything already paid for would be lost.
In Chengdu, we met a few people who lost their opportunity to visit Tibet. Many of them changed their plans to instead visit Tibetan regions of other provinces like western Sichuan and northern Yunnan.
For our trip one thing was sure, we were going to visit Sichuan to see the pandas in Chengdu and the giant Buddha in Leshan. After I planned that, I explored many options including Yunnan, Inner Mongolia and Gansu. In the end, due to time limitations and recommendations from students, we decided on Dunhuang in Gansu province. We started routing trains and planning accommodations.
Our final plan was to go from Chengdu to Lanzhou, the capitol of Gansu, to Dunhuang. Then from there we would hit up Zhangye in the middle of Gansu. After all, Marco Polo stopped in this town for a year and nearby there are mountains and a Tibetan monastery. This plan was swiftly foiled by the train situation – we couldn’t book a ticket out of the city. Maybe that’s why Polo was there for a year. Anyway, instead we exchanged the ticket to Zhangye for a new route that took us from Dunhuang to Xi’an and then Xi’an to Beijing, which was our next destination.
Making it to Beijing would let us do two things, each one something that one of us wanted to do since we were there ten months ago. For Aaron it was to visit the Beijing Film Academy and for me to visit the National Center for Performing Arts. Both were a success. We also had time to visit some other sites, hit up some markets and just relax.
After Beijing we were planning on visiting Hangzhou, but we were both ready to get back to Hefei. We figured out a train route and finding that one full we chose another that would actually be faster albeit a little more expensive.
The following posts are of our adventures riding camels, visiting pandas, eating quintessential Chinese food, exploring ancient history and art, and experiencing China’s modern side. I hope you enjoy.