Xining has always been a crossroads city, situated near the intersections of the Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Central Asian worlds. So it was perhaps unavoidable that we would come back through this town on our way down off the Tibetan Plateau towards the old Silk Road cities of western China. As our most hardcore fan (Grandma) will recall (okay, no she won’t), it was from Xining last summer that we first launched south to pick up the course of the Yellow River.
Back then, we loved the cool air and wide availability of bread(!) and lamb meat. After a July in the stiflingly muggy (and polluted) Land of Fish and Rice, cool Xining’s offerings of Meat and Wheat were a great alternative. Now, though, we’ve matured a bit, and Xining just isn’t as exciting as we once thought.
First of all, does it have to be some variant of cow meat pulled noodles and bleached bread for every meal? And the big park and other public spaces were great when Owen could only smile back at people, but now we know that Western one-year-olds can’t toddle one second here without getting snatched up by excited crazies. And no, I don’t want to convert to your religion. But my family would sure like to convert to an earlier bus out of here.
So where are we going next? Like last year, Xining is the jumping-off point for our next phase of travel. This time, though, instead of going east, we’re heading west–way out west, along the trace of the legendary Silk Road. We may not find much in the way of exotic caravanseries and vibrant city-states, but we will see another part of modern China, a far-flung region of diverse Central Asian peoples that has been rapidly developed over the last decade in an effort to tie it closer to the East.
We just hope that progress means a few alternatives to cow meat pulled noodles.