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vbx000 Xiahe - A travel report by Veronica
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Xiahe,  China - flag China -  Gansu
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vbx000's travel reports

Xiahe- A slice of Tibet in the Gansu Province

  11 votes
Page: 1 2
The Lonely Planet guidebook says that if you go to Xiahe or Zhongdian than you don't have to go to Tibet, but instead of settling for these two Tibetan outposts I was inspired by them to visit their motherland, Tibet.

Labrang Monastery
Labrang Monastery
Xiahe is a small city, known as Labrang in Tibetan, on the path of the Silk Road. During the era of the Silk Road, the Tibetans used this an outlet of control and border protection against the Chinese. Buddhism came from two directions into Tibet, one from this monastery and the other from India/Nepal. the monastery was built in 1709 by the Fifth Dhali Lhama. History lesson aside, this is a great little town. Beautiful mountains to hike, fresh air, green grass and a lot of wandering monks on the streets. Many monks travel here on a spirital pilgrimage. There are about 1200 monks residing in Labrang, China placed a limit on the number of monks in monasteries due to Cultural Revolution non-sense.

Favourite spots:
Painting on Monastery Wall
Painting on Monastery Wall
Wake up early and go to the monastery. We woke up extra early and got to eat breakfast with the monks! But, we were a little too early I think. If you wake up around 6:30 you can walk to the monastery and walk with monks and locals, spinning prayer wheels and enjoying the brisk morning air. We also had a tour of the monks living quarters. In Xiahe, the monks live in households between 1 and 6, depending on the status of the monk. We visited a courtyard with 4 monks. It was amazing to see the chapel inside their home, their study/library, kitchen and courtyard. They also showed us the paintings they do of the Wheel of Life, the Story of Buddha and other Buddhist stories. Incredibly intricate and colorful, I ended up buying one. They weren't exactly selling them but when we asked they said okay. I always fear fakes or prints when I buy art in China, so I paid a little more but bought a piece of work directly from an official Labrang monk.

What's really great:
Another Wall Painting- I love the colors
Another Wall Painting- I love the colors
I say official because we were warned that the monks wandering the streets of Xiahe aren't part of the Labrang monastery, some of them aren't even real monks. These wandering monks were chatting on cell phones, lounging around in the internet hole in the wall, and playing pool. Some of the young kids were dressed up as monks and begging in the name of the monastery, but our guide told us it was a hoax. Many of the monks wandering around are either making a pilgrimage to Xiahe or were dismissed from their monastery for bad behavior (like talking on cell phones and playing pool.) Perhaps thats a warning, but there is really no harm in any of it. Just good to know because it hurts the image of the pious monks. Then again, in the monastery and as we watched them pray we saw them laughing and joking with one another. There were distinct groups of friends and it was nice to see that in their holiness they were still human.

The Sangke Grasslands are beautiful and a peaceful place for a hike. It's also great to interact with the local nomads. (Can you have local nomads? haha)

Call to Prayer
Call to Prayer
Baihailuo Hotel
I'm not going to give ou the number because I don't think you should stay here. Our normal hotel was under construction. This place was dingy, shoddy and rat infested. We didn't even have keys to our rooms! You had to get the fuyuyuan or wake her up and ask her to let you in. One person had their digi cam stolen, and a man walked into two girls room at night, and was hovering over them when the one woke up and screamed. No hot water, no security, no good.

That is one badass Yak! I love the Yak. I wish someone could understand my love.
That is one badass Yak! I love the Yak. I wish someone could understand my love.
No clubs just more information:

The Tibetans practice a special form of burial called "sky burial." Normally only monks are bestowed with the honor, and especially now because the government set a limit to how many of these can be performed in Xiahe.

They chop up the dead body into little pieces and spread around a certain area at the top of the mountain for the vultures to eat. This goes with the belief that we are all connected and our bodies should be given back to nature. If a person died because of illness/disease they are burned for protection.

Women aren't allowed to witness or see the sky burial place, when we were there they were already over the yearly limit so we didn't get to see it anyway.

That's what happens to bad tourists. Your skull goes next to the yak.
That's what happens to bad tourists. Your skull goes next to the yak.
Not Pubs, just a few extra tips:
The white cloth that looks like a scraf is a Hada, it is a sign of respect and hospitality in Tibet.
Always walk clockwise around shrines, stupas, Mani stones and prayer wheels. Walk clockwise around the temples too, if its a square (which is always is.)

No smoking, drinking or loud noises!
No photography except outside the monasteries/temples/shrines.
Ask before you photograph monks, in Labrang they often said no, do please ask and don't be a rude tourist.

Chanting Monks
Chanting Monks
Tibetan food is by far my favorite in China. The food here had a little bit more of a Chinese feel than in Tibet, but it was still good. Yak meat galore... and I really suggest trying yak meat. I wish we had Yak in the US. I'm not joking. Yak's rock.

Try: Fried yak (as long as you have strong teeth and don't mind chewing forever, its worth it), Yak Momo or Veggie Momo (like chinese dumplings but with bread instead of noodle), and really anything yak in nature.

Except yak butter tea. Avoid that like the plague. It's yak butter and barely tea. It's not appetizing at all, but the staple diet of the monks.

There is also western food in Xiahe. It's pretty good too actually. Pizza is generally always safe at the shoddy western like restaurants. This one place also had amazing pancakes. We woke up extra early one morning to eat eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and these amazing pancakes.

Other recommendations:
Shoes. After the call to prayer they all left their shoes on the steps.
Shoes. After the call to prayer they all left their shoes on the steps.
Great shopping here, although its really hard to tell the fake items from the real ones. The girls bought a lot of pretty necklaces, apparently the best way to tell real stone is if it's ice cold to the touch, especially Turquoise.

There is a lot of ivory here too actually, I bought a small set of ivory prayer beads for $50. They are definitely real because they are old ivory and you can see the soft lines of age.

No atms though, so bring enough cash for the stop until you get to a bigger city/town.

Published on Sunday November 6th, 2005

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Tue, Nov 15 2005 - 10:33 AM rating by gloriajames

hiya veronica
nice report and wonderful pics.
keep it up.

Tue, Nov 08 2005 - 02:24 PM rating by jesusferro


Sun, Nov 06 2005 - 01:46 PM rating by toribio


Sun, Nov 06 2005 - 10:21 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Fantastic place and fantastic report author!

Sun, Nov 06 2005 - 08:00 AM rating by horourke

Your other painting on a monastery wall has opened for me a new vista on Tibet.
The colours are different from any other image of Tibet that I have ever seen.
Your extraordinary energy and dedication is beginning to look like that of √Čire (currentMOM)

Sun, Nov 06 2005 - 07:27 AM rating by isaacmolina

Thank you for all your lovely reports on China. All of them deserve 5 points each. you are doing well. Qian li zhi xing, shi yu zu xia.
Why you do not come now to Spain for 1 year to learn Spanish? Come to Barcelona!

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