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From the city of Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia we headed for Dongsheng. The landscape is indeed very wide and dry (borders of the Gobi-desert) and we have seen many Ker’s (Mongolian tents) in the two weeks following. We enjoy the countryside of China, many different landscapes and a lot of friendly, and curious people. Most of them have never seen a ‘white man’, I think so they were special to us but it was also the other way around.
In Bapoa we met a farmer with a large cattle of black and white cows imported from ….. Holland (Friesland). He was very eager to show us his farm and cattle and we drank some Yak-butter tea with him. Some of the hotels we are visiting have been built because after finding some minerals and metals in the ground they expected a large crew of engineers to come. That never happened so the hotel looked older but was hardly used up until now.
In some of the places we visited in Inner-Mongolia we were the first foreigners they ever had seen. So we were as much looking to their country as they were looking at us. In Yinchuan we had our first 5 minutes on TV. So everybody was aware of our presence.
We visited many historic and Buddhist places such as the tombs of the kings and queens of the Qing dynasty, the Ningxia thombs, the site with the 108 stupa’s etc. and via Lanzhou we came to Xia’he and the monastery of Labrang. A very interesting place to visit and a first taste of Buddhism from its roots. We were lucky to have Arnold Pilon amongst our group. He travelled already many times through China and Tibet and made a thoroughly study of Buddhism so he could tell us quiet some details about what we all got to see in this beautiful Gelupai monastery of Labrang. We stayed 2 days and then took the secondary roads over the mountains and high planes to Ruoergai and Jiuzaigou. The landscapes were vast and very beautiful with thousands of Yaks and sheep and some nomads living in tents. History seems to take a pause here and to stand still.
We are at an average height of 3500 meters and we get slowly adjusted to it. In Jiuzinghou and Songpan we saw the beautiful nature reservations with large forest, lakes and the wildlife. We took the road down again along one of the rivers leading to the Yantze and saw a scenery of a nice evolving stream that ended up in a big river. End of May we ended up at Wuolong, one of the breeding centres in the area where the Giant Panda is still living. We got a chance to see several of them in the breeding centre and heard about the situation of this special animal; originally it was a carnivore but it learned to eat bamboo and now it is a herbivore but their metabolism is not so strong on that so they can hardly survive in the wild. The programme of trying to save this animal from extinction will take many more years.
Then the voyage took us to Siguniangshan were we visited and walked through very beautiful green valleys before we took the road to Chengdu. Here two other members joined the RoundTableTour and we visited our 2nd project: SOS children Villages in Chendu.
Realizing that this was one of the last big cities to visit everybody went out shopping to buy what they thought that they would need going into Tibet for more than 2 weeks. We passed by Leshan going to Kanding and so entering Tibet.