If you ever get a chance, visit Xining, China in the Qinghai province. That’s Xining (she-ning) in Qinghai (ching-high) province in China (chai-na). It definitely ranked in the top three places I saw while roaming around the motherland. Like all cities in China unfortunately, it is rapidly growing in economy, population, and hundreds of skyscrapers. But because its becoming the hub city for outdoor adventures in China. more people are discovering this city. And its probably the closest place to experience Tibet without going there. Of course, most don’t know the Qinghai province (along with Sichuan or as you would say Szechuan) use to belong to Tibet. But China and all her glory keep that under wraps pretty good.
But back to the city Xining which is located 2200m above sea level. Yup, that’s right. This city will give you lungs of a dragon. I bunked it at the Lete Youth Hostel (100 RMB/ $14 a night) located in the penthouse of this seventeen story building. Every morning I woke up to ridiculous speaker-breaking music across the road in a park called Li Yu Chang. Of course you remember this story about some of my Asian peeps playing music and pissing off the neighbors in New York. Well this is kinda like it but in mass proportions. I assumed since it was Sunday, this was a weekend thing. But asking my new friends at the guesthouse, they told me it was an everyday thing. The first thing I thought was, Damn sucks to live in this building. But the next thing that came to mind was, Tomorrow morning, I’m out there with my new camera.
Wowsers! People of ALL ages were flying kites, circle dancing to Tibetan music, ping ponging, ballroom dancing, some sport called soccer, yo yo’in. You name it, they were doing it. It was a strange but beautifully euphoric moment realizing how active people are here. They always call us Americans lazy and fat. Well damnit, they’re right. You’d never find this anywhere in America unless it was a Woodstock concert. This happens in almost every park in China, EVERYDAY! So maybe I sound ignorant from this, but seeing everyone everyday with smiles on their faces was a dope sight to see. No wonder the opening ceremonies for the olympics in Beijing was so easy for them.
Also, Xining is quite diverse in cultures. Other than the Amdo Tibetans, there are Huis, Hans, and Muslims. When you visit big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, you don’t really experience different cultures. Ok, if you never been to China, maybe just the Chinese culture is more than enough. But seeing all the different types of culture feels more like real China.
On Fridays at lunch, I went down to the Dong Guan Mosque and saw something stranger than strange. Of course in a good way but still. I witnessed hundreds and hundreds of Muslims came to pray. That sounds normal but it just felt like everyone was going into a stadium for a sporting event wearing a taqiyah (cap worn by Muslims) and everyone has a Chinese face.
I also met a new friend, Robert, who started his own non-profit helping his Tibetan people with everyday problems like the education in tibetan schools, running water for villages projects, and preserving Tibetan culture. Its called Friendship Charity Association. I don’t know if you heard, but China outlawed the Tibetan language in schools and universities. I wanted to offer my help in creating a website video for his NGO. This kid is 23 years old and started this organization at 17. So he took me to live hardcore style in the Tibetan communities for four days where we documented the projects he’s been working on and hope to fulfill. Video soon to come. And when I say hardcore, I do mean hardcore…for the typical American. But nevertheless, amazing experience living in the Tibetan community.
Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!