First day of two in Qinghai Province
After spending three days in Ningxia Region, my friend and I caught a plane to Qinghai Province via Xi’an as there are no direct flights. Qinghai is located north/east of Tibet and took us about six hours from Ningxia and we landed in its capital Xining. We then travelled about half an hour to Huangzhong County to see the Ta’er Monastery which is Buddhist but the buildings combines the architectural arts of both the Tibetan and Han Chinese nationalities. It was very cold once we got out the car, with snow still around the area.
In the Tibetan language, Ta’er Monastery is called ‘gongben’, which means ‘10,000 figures of Buddha’. The whole area covers more than 36 acres with mountains surrounding.
The Monastery has 9,300 rooms and fifty-two halls. It’s actually not just one building but a group of temples and halls. It really is quite lovely with monks strolling past – some young and some old. The younger ones were laughing and pushing each other around just being young boys. It was very nice to see.
It only took us around an hour and a bit to get around and I suppose it was so cold we were walking a little faster than usual but it was worth the visit as this monastery is one of the two most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries outside Tibet itself.
It presents a beautiful landscape of temples and residences nestled in the peaceful hills of Xining’s suburbs. In each of the temples there are huge candles and we found out that the local people provide yak butter to make them as well as to make sculptures (for seasons that are not too hot) and beautiful traditional embroidery which are hanging all throughout the temples.
By the time we finished walking around it was past 5pm, so we headed downtown to our hotel but on the way we stopped off at the Dongguan Mosque which is the largest mosque in Qinghai Province and one of the four greatest mosques in Northwest China. We could not enter the actual mosque but could take a walk around the grounds which didn’t take us that long really – about 15 minutes.
By this time it was definitely time for dinner and we were tired from a very long day of travelling and sightseeing and quite hungry so our tour guide stopped by a small noodle restaurant where the noodles didn’t really look all that appetising but I must say they were absolutely delicious as was the plate of vegetables…My friend Jon also took my advice and tried a ‘tea egg’ which is a boiled egg cooked in tea and some other spices…like me he really loved them.
Then finally it was to our hotel – and this was not far from the mosque, in the Muslim area, so no alcohol could be bought – but you know what I actually enjoyed the abstinence for three nights – my friend Jon managed to find a bar and with his seven words of Chinese stayed out late drinking beers with his new Chinese friends…me – I was asleep!!