The morning, we got a lift again from Mr. SUV since he was headed into the same direction. Along the way, the clouds lifted and the scenery was pretty spectacular. We arrived at Shiqu (石渠), and found a car to take us to the world’s longest ‘prayer wall’, 巴格玛尼墙 before dropping us off at our next stop of Yushu (玉树). There was another person in the car that rode with us to Yushu.
Background: Yushu is a small Tibetan region within the Qinghai province famous for two things, Tibetan Mastiffs (which can easily sell for over a million RMB per dog!!) and cordyceps(虫草) – the price now for the top quality ones are $300 thousand RMB per pound. It is also famous because the city was pretty much destroyed by a magnitude 6.9 earthquake back in 2010. The city itself is still under heavy construction, but for most people it is life as usual.
The prayer wall is extremely impressive, being over 1.5km long and made of long pieces of rock with scriptures carved into it. One thing that impresses me the most though is that every individual rock is unevenly sized, but somehow someway when put together it forms a solid wall! Imagine playing LEGO with different sized pieces and try to build a sturdy wall with it! Our driver, who was Tibetan, tagged along with us to walk around the prayer wall. Along the way, he pointed to some leafy thing growing out of the ground and told us it was edible! He ripped open its stalk to unveil its celery-like inners, but it wasn’t very good =P
At the end of the wall was a large white stupa, and thinking it was the proper thing to do before turning back, I put my palms together as a sign of respect to the stupa. The Tibetan driver saw me do this, and said “Whats inside?” and started looking at the stupa to see if there was anything special with it…. THERE WASN’T. Okay…. it’s better to be extra respectful than disrespectful now isn’t it?!?!
We stopped by for a quick dinner in a nearby town, and the extra person in the car, for no good reason, treated us for dinner!! Dinner was about $110RMB, but in a place where the average monthly income was $1500RMB, I’m not quite sure how people are so generous with strangers!! The Tibetan driver was also very nice, and bought drinks for all of us. Seriously, how many drivers ever buy you a coffee at the truck stop?
By the time we got to Yushu it was already 10:30pm, and we’ve been sitting in a car for well over 11 hours and was extremely tired. We tried to find a hotel, but because of the earthquake, everything is still under construction and also very expensive! After a long, and tiring drive around a dark and power-less city, we managed to find a reasonably clean (Note: Our standards have dropped dramatically because there’s no other way, and I’m pretty sure most of the readers will not be too happy with the level of cleanlisness we’re forced to be accustomed with) place. The problem is there was no power, and without power the hotel couldn’t pump well water up to be used, so there was no water!!! Power was available through gas-powered generators, but not enough to pump water from the well.
After the past couple of days, it reminded us that most things taken for granted living in the city is not there, and it really doesn’t take much to sweep us off our feet. Either way, we once again got a great night’s sleep with our sleeping bag despite less-than-desirable conditions. Must say, having a great sleeping bag makes the surroundings irrelevant!!