Monday, September 11, 2017


When I was doing research about China there was one place stood out for me. It was a bit random, out of the way and it caught my attention the moment I started reading about it, Jiayuguan. Situated in the north west part of Gansu Province it is home to the Jiayu Pass, a Fort that was build to protect the area from the invaders from the North, particularly the Mongols. The Jiayu Pass is also where the North West section of the Great Wall of China begins. Seriously, we all talk about the Great Wall but have you even once thought about where it starts, or ends for that matter? Me neither.

After 6 months and a few nervous moments I have discovered that travel in China is simple, direct and usually hassle free. If you know a bit of the language, smile, raise your tolerance, acceptance and patience levels to new heights you will spend more time being amazed in China then complaining about it. Now that being said I am sure my next effort will result in a shit storm of issues.

Also on this trip was Dunhuang, an "oasis town" a slow 5 hour train ride into the Gobi Desert that also travels through some of the most industrialized parts of China. The good and the bad I guess. Dunhuang was a real life saving oasis to the traders of the silk road. A large crescent shaped pool surrounded by the greens of life in the desert. With a little help reorganizing my work schedule I found myself with 6 glorious days to hit the road. A flight to Jiayugaun for 2 nights and then a train to Dunhuang for 4 nights is exactly what I needed to recharge for my final 6 months here.

This was going to be my second solo trip in China and my first "multi-location" attempt. There is an elaborate but simple to use bus service to the Xi'an airport from various locations throughout the city. Personally I will do anything to avoid taking a taxi, just personal choice. The closest bus to me was the Number 5 departing from the Jianguo Hotel which is an easy 15 minute walk from my apartment. You buy your ticket inside the hotel at the concierge desk for 25rmb (I just watched what everyone else did). I caught the 7:20 am bus and 80 minutes later I was dropped off at the front doors of Terminal 3. Check in was a breeze and the 2 hour China Eastern Airlines flight included a hot meal. A quick 60 rmb taxi ride from the airport (sometimes you have to take the pain) and at 1:30 I was checking into the Herdsman 2 Hostel, curious about my sleeping pod

I usually explore the town I am in but I wanted to do was find the train station and pick up my ticket to Dunhuang eliminating any stress the morning of my train trip. It took a bit of wandering and I found it easy enough noticing the entire area from my hotel to the train station was under construction. New asphalt, sidewalks, curbs, planters and store fronts . The ticket window at the station was not busy and I was in and out with my ticket in about 20 minutes. A short note about picking up a pre-ordered train ticket. You must bring your confirmation number either printed or by showing it on your phone plus your passport. Do these simple things and you will have no issues. I grabbed a quick beer a shop and sat drinking it watching live evolve around the train station. It was getting to be late afternoon and I figured the wall and fort have been there for 2000 years so they would still be there tomorrow. It was time for a meal and another well deserved beer, both easily found.

After a short "travel conversation"  with a few Brits and some language exchange with some very excitable Chinese it was time to hit the pod.  Definitely designed for the younger travel crowd it was secure, comfortable and clean. Personalized AC, a radio, TV, lots of room and lighting. It was easy to get comfortable and the privacy was fantastic. Sitting I had plenty of head room to read and as I am not the "tallest cactus in the desert" there was plenty of room for me and my gear. There were options for lockers but I was to lazy and packed light anyways.

Settling in I had a "holy shit I am going to climb the Great Wall of China tomorrow"  moment which brought thoughts and reflections about the other Man Made Wonders I have been to. After tomorrow my sight will be set firmly on the Taj Mahal in Agra, India and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro Brazil

With that I fell asleep in my comfortable cocoon.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

I could use one of those Pods.