Qinghai, “big, bold and beautiful barren” as described in Lonely Planet travel guide which is dubbed as thebackpacker's blue bible, at the end of August with more ideal temperature and less visitors...
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Qinghai, “big, bold and beautiful barren” as described in Lonely Planet travel guide which is dubbed as thebackpacker's blue bible, at the end of August with more ideal temperature and less visitors, finally had the blue flag of BYCON waving from it’s capital Xining to China’s mirror of the sky: Chaka Salt Lake.
1. BYCON Group Photo by Qinghai Lake
2. On the way to Qinghai Lake (1)
4. On the way to Qinghai Lake (3)
Qinghai means “the Blue Sea” in Chinese, just as the name suggests, Qinghai Lake really presents you a scenery that you wouldn’t expect when traveling inland China. Vast shoreline sure makes all of us feel like this is a sea instead of a lake lying ahead of us. A truly fantastic view for an INLAND LAKE.
5. Qinghai Lake
Crystal clear water with fish swimming under, cool lake breeze with seagulls hovering around, together with a Tibetan prayer flags by the lakeside. You just let your mind cleansed naturally by this combination of calmful and a bit religious scenery.
6. Tibetan Prayer Flags by the lakeside
We spend a whole day visiting the Lake area, sure it’s astonishing but exhausting as well. An after-dinner walk (of course with everyone anticipated too!) simply calls it a day. The next day, at 7 AM, we would set off to Mirror of the Sky: Chaka Salt Lake! Definitely the most attractive spot for a lot of people in our group during the whole trip.
Grey sky, boneaching wind, stinging raindrops set the tone of the whole day. I’m quite disappointed with this unwelcoming weather. However, nothing can stop the passion of others. They rush into the center of the lake; hundreds of travel photos are taken that day.
7. Trail to the Center of Chaka Salt Lake
When we leave the lake center, instead of walking back to the exit, we pick the unique small train carrying us out of the lake. By saying small, I really mean it, the railroad gauge is 61 cm to be exactly, giving you the image of how small the train is now? If not, here is the picture of it. A row of seat can only hold 2 passengers, see? Small but a truly unique experience.
8. Small Train for Sightseeing
Back from Chaka Salt Lake, we eat the most memorable meal the whole trip, a Whole Lamb Roast. Shortly after finishing it within an hour (we were so hungry back then, almost none of the meat was wasted!), we head to Xining, considering Xining as our base during the entire trip, and most importantly it is a 5-hour drive.
9. Whole Lamb Roast
With the meat still digesting in our stomach, we aren’t so sleepy (thank you little lamb!). We play games, sing songs, and a 5-hour drive doesn’t seem that long anymore. A laughter-filled coach is driving all the way to Xining.
The following day is scheduled forKumbum Monastery (orTa’er Temple). For people don’t familiar with Tibetan Buddhism, Kumbum Monastery is the birthplace ofJe Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Legend has it that a sandalwood tree grew up where drops of blood from Tsonkhapa’s umbilical cord had fallen on the ground. And this 446-year old monastery is ranked in importance as second only to theMahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, India.
10. Kumbum Monastery Front
Walk into the entrance and take a few steps up, soon we see the famous The Eight Pagodas of Kumbum Monastery located in the front square. The eight pagodas are built to commemorate the eight merits and virtues of Buddha. Delicate scriptures are decorated on the waist of each pagoda.
11. The Eight Pagodas of Buddha Shakyamuni
Listening to tour guide’s vivid and detailed explanation while visiting the halls and sculptures of Kumbum Monastery purify our heart with rich religious history and heritage. For there are 2 major extant branches of Buddhism: Theravada and Mahayana, and as Tibetan Buddhism being one of the important parts of Mahayana Buddhism. Since, Mahayana Buddhism has influenced China for thousand years, Kumbum Monastery is really worth a visit when traveling in Qinghai.
Now it is time for some gorgeous natural landscapes, our next stop is GuiDe National Geological Park, it is not far from Kumbum Monastery (only an hour drive, I think, considering Qinghai is a remote province, any location within an hour drive should be called “not far”).
12. GuiDe National Geological Park
13. Gorgeous Landscape of Danxia Canyon (1)
14. Gorgeous Landscape of Danxia Canyon (2)
15. Gorgeous Landscape of Danxia Canyon (3)
“GuiDe National Geological Park offers the sort of scenes associated with epic treks laden…with huge blue cloudless skies stretching above towering topography, and the jade-green waters (sorry not in my photos, but you can feel it, right?) …the park features the breathtaking vistas one might expect to find in the wilds of Arizona…” Said James Draven fromNATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.
After viewing and feeing the gorgeous natural landscapes together with the rich cultural heritages, finally here comes the last day of our trip. Since we will take the night flight, we only visit the Dongguan Grand Mosque in the Xining City.
16. Xining Dongguan Grand Mosque
Dongguan Mosque is said to be originally built in Ming Dynasty the year of 1380, but it’s been restored a lot of times through this six hundred year of history. According to Islamic Association of China, the mosque has the most Muslim worshippers across China. Now, the Grand Mosque is still the most important mosque in Qinghai and serves as a center of Islamic religion education for the region.
After visiting the Buddhist monastery and Islamic mosque, we also plan to pay a visit to a famous Taoist abbey nearby, called Tulou Temple. But, because of some reasons, it didn’t happen eventually. Maybe save for next time?
When we are siting in the airport waiting for the flight that night, none of us expect the 5-day trip ends so soon.
Well, summer will pass and trip will end, but the passions and enthusiasm of every BYCONer will never fade away. The blue flag of BYCON will soon waving all around China, even aboard, just wait and see.
Thank you for reading this long travel notes, please stay tuned, and this is Kelly signing off.
17. Hi, BYCON!