Today, I said goodbye to Zhangye, and traveled by train to Jiayuguan. Before I left, however, I took a walk around the city, and found whole different worlds on the interior of the large blocks. Buried behind the modern buildings facing the street, were traditional neighborhoods that had been around for centuries, and were still occupied in the same way. I also came across a sculpture commemorating Marco Polo’s visit to Zhangye. I’m basically following his route in reverse, but this was the first time that he and I met eye to eye. The cheese factor was incredibly high. Also, it’s been argued recently that he never even made it to China, but just wrote his diary based on other the stories he had heard from other travelers, so I guess I have one up on him there.
I nodded off on the train ride, so I don’t have much new to report there, but I arrived safely in Jiayuguan, which is another oasis town. It’s got little history remaining, and is now pretty much a communist era city, which was fascinating to see for a change. Here, while searching for dinner, I ran into a couple of Americans who have been teaching in China for the past year. We ended up having a feast together.
Here are the photos. Remember that you can blow them up if you click on them.
My traveling predecessor, Marco Polo, as commemorated in Zhangye
Zhangye is a city of contrasts. These narrow alleys are lined with traditional mud brick and rammed earth homes. They've been occupied by the same families for centuries.
Modernism is slowly taking over. Now, these traditional neighborhoods only occupy the center of blocks. Modern high-rises occupy the main streetfronts. You have to search for these old neighborhoods to find them now.
To be honest, though, it's not all rosy in these areas. The stench is overpowering. There is no plumbing, and bathrooms are communal.
This is another little friend that I made in the train station.
Here she is with her even smaller cousin.
My snacks for the train ride: Uighur peanuts.
My hotel left these snacks out for me in my room. Not a bad welcome.
Jiayuguan is a frontier town with some historical sites on the outskirts. This is part of the legacy of the last fifty years.
Mao had these housing blocks built - quite a contrast from the inner neighborhoods of Zhangye.
Who says communist housing can't be quaint?
This sis the beer that I mentioned in my last post. It hasn't gotten any better.
A freshly barbecued meal in Jiayuguan.
The infamous rice liquor from this region is sold by the cup-full out of these enormous casks.
Pretty fresh seafood at this stand. They will cook it up for you in a matter of minutes.
A feast with some new friends from the states, both of whom spoke Mandarin. This time, I actually knew what I was eating: tofu with scallions, spicy green beans, and chicken with hot peppers. It was delicious, and it was nice to swap some stories with fellow travelers.