Sun Moon Mountain, Qinghai Lake and the Qinghai Museum
Our second day in Qinghai Province in China was a full one. It is the fourth largest province in China and has a population of about 5.5 million, not a lot of people really considering Beijing has around 23 million and is a lot smaller in size.
We were met in the foyer of our Chinese/Muslim hotel by our tour guide and driver and as we wanted to make the most of our second and last day in Qinghai, we set out early to visit places that were long distances from each other. Our first stop was Sun and Moon Mountain. As we were driving along we could see the mountain in the distance so I asked our driver to stop (on the freeway) so we could take photos…it was spectacular but rather scary to stop on the side of a busy freeway. This mountain divides Qinghai into two parts; the stock raising and farming area and the watershed of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
We then drove for some time further and stopped in a more safe area so we could take more photos. Wow…the mountain was truly spectacular.
It was absolutely freezing cold when we got out of the car and we saw a few men and women sitting on the hill; our guide told us they were waiting for work. There they were sitting around chatting in the bitter cold but wearing appropriate clothing and balaclavas – unlike my friend and I who had come to Qinghai without any gloves, hats or warm coats!!
Our guide then offered us a stop for lunch which we accepted as we were feeling rather hungry and a little bit cold. We stopped off at a local farmhouse which didn’t look very appealing, our tour guide was concerned it would not be up to our standard, but as I had eaten wonderful food at these types of ‘restaurants’ before I quickly said ‘yes’.
It was so worth us stopping. The food was excellent. We chose eggplant (of course), green beans, shredded potato and a vegetarian noodle soup….each dish was amazingly fresh and truly mouth watering. And we knew our crockery was clean as it was a paper plate and bowl in plastic with lovely little bamboo chopsticks.
Our next stop was Qinghai Lake; a really beautiful salt water lake which is just over 3,000 metres above sea level. The altitude was high enough to give my friend a little bit of a headache. For some reason I was ok and didn’t feel too ill but both of us definitely felt a tightening in our chests whilst walking around. The lake was partly frozen near the shore and there were lots of frozen icebergs near the edge of the water. It was so lovely.
The water is six percent salt, which means that it’s much more saltier than sea water with is about 3.5 percent salt.
My friend Jon and I decided to take a long walk around the lake area and met a lovely man from near Shanghai who was trying out his English skills which enabled me to use my Chinese; we were both suitably impressed with each other’s skills. This made me very happy as it showed me my many years of language lessons have not been in vain. Again the views across the lake were just beautiful so we just kept walking and enjoying the sights.
By the time we got back into our car and drove back into the downtown, it was getting dark but we decided to stop off at the Qinghai Museum which from my research, is said to be one of the highlights of Xining and I definitely wanted to see it. It used to be the residence of a local warlord of Qinghai and its refurbishment was completed in 1986 and now has over 10,000 items on display inside.
It was a very interesting museum with stone implements from the Palaeolithic Age, bronze seals and figurines along with porcelain, calligraphy and paintings from both the Ming and Qing Dynasties. I enjoyed this visit very much.
By this time we were hungry again, so we left the museum and stopped off for another beautiful Chinese meal. The restaurant was quite interesting as it was absolutely huge and when we arrived we were the only people there…about ten minutes later another group of about ten or so people arrived – not many for such a big restaurant but I guess it was winter and not many people were out and about.
Our guide advised us to try the local bread which we did (little bit boring without much taste really) but looked pretty interesting.
And we of course ordered my favourite dish, eggplant, and some other lovely dishes including egg and tomato (a wonderful dish that I really love), a fried potato dish that was very spicy but so delicious and a spicy tofu dish (which was a little bit too spicy for me and I think it was ‘stinky tofu’ and I really don’t like this – smells like old socks!!) and finally a beef dish (which my friend said was a bit tough).
Then it really was time to go to our hotel as the day had been long…and as it was a Muslim hotel there was no alcohol, so we couldn’t relax at the bar with a glass or two of savignon blanc…ah well!!!! We needed a good night’s sleep as the next day we were off again early travelling to another province; Guizhou.