although it is actually a road bridge with traffic crossing in both
directions, it was solidly packed with people crossing on foot. Here
and there there were also people crossing on bicycles and at intervals
part of the carriageway was blocked by salesmen with hand carts
offering various hot foods - chestnuts, corn on the cob, sweet
None of this stopped the flow of traffic which by driving slowly at
pedestrians until they got out of the way and sounding the horn when
they didn't, managed to continue flowing in both directions.
Foreigners are unusual in this part of China and though Lanzhou does
attract some western tourists, so that the stares are less blatant and
less frequent than in Baiyin, there are still stares. Occasionally we
even get asked by random Chinese if they can take their picture with
us. On the bridge a teenage couple insisted on the girl taking the
boy's photograph next to Mike who dwarfed the young man.
Once across we were at the foot of the hill where the park and its
beautiful buildings stretched up ahead of us. We inadvertently entered
through the exit gate but no one seemed bothered and we quickly set
out up the hill. A white marble terrace led past a waterfall and to
the first of a series of zigzag paths and stone steps that climbed
fairly steeply up. As we climbed we paused frequently to look back at
the ever-expanding view of the city which was simply amazing. On our
side of the river we could look down on the grey roofs of the older
buildings, or along the shore at various pagodas, but across the river
there was a gleaming modern city that looked brand new, as if it had
been set up there only minutes ago. The higher we climbed the more
magnificent it got.
There were occasional pergolas and follies beneath which tourists took
their rest in the shade. There were many tourists there, young
couples, older men and women, families on a day out. Here and there,
there were also western tourists, drawing the stares of the curious.
Half way up the hill, under one such ornate structure an old man was
playing an er-hu - the Chinese one stringed fiddle - and singing in
tones that I am sure were more to local tastes than mine.
We went onward and upward, past the pagoda which had looked like the
highest point when we were down on the road. Sadly it also looked
better from the road as at closer quarters it was covered in
scaffolding and undergoing renovation. The path wound round behind it
and we went on. Finally we reached a small tea garden where we decided
to sit for a while before starting down. Although we asked for beer,
and the waiter - who spoke good English - understood us, he chose not
to bring what we had ordered. Instead he brought two large plastic
cups and a very large flask of hot water. Into each cup he emptied the
contents of two plastic pouches. One contained a mixture of dried
leaves, fruits and twigs while the other contained several varieties
of rock sugar. He poured water on and informed us that this was a
Lanzhou specialty tea.
I sipped cautiously. It was cloyingly sweet. The addition of more and
more hot water failed to dilute the taste at all. The main effect of
the water was to further dissolve the sugar, making it sweeter still
and to soak into the dried vegetation causing it to expand and fill
the whole cup. I drank a couple of cups of it, adding more water
constantly but didn't really enjoy it. I don't have a very sweet
palate at the best of times.
When we had finished we retraced our steps to the road and hailed a
taxi to take us back to the bus station.
Our adventures were not quite ended yet though. Halfway along a very
busy dual carriageway the cab took a puncture. Refusing our offer to
pay the fare to that point the cabbie set about changing the wheel and
we set about finding another ride.
It was easier conceived than done. At the part of town all the passing
cabs already had fares. We still had the map but had no idea where we
were in relation to it. At a main junction we tried to relate the map
to the street signs but with little success. Fortunately at that
moment a cab stopped to let out a fare and we jumped in. In just a few
minutes we were at the bus station and after another short walk around
bought our tickets to return to Baiyin. Ten minutes later we were on
our way and five minutes after that the bus broke down. At least I
surmise that it broke down. All I can say with certainty is that the
driver came along saying something in Chinese and everyone got off. We
simply followed. Another bus pulled in behind and everyone got on. We
An hour later we were back in the now familiar streets of Baiyin which
felt like coming home. We payed a visit to KFC, mainly to use their
toilets, and then looked in at a tiny music shop where we bought a few
DVDs and then rounded off a very satisfying day with a visit to the
I shall certainly be visiting Lanzhou again but, after a busy session
today comparing my map to one I found in English on the internet and
marking in a few places of interest, I shall hope to be better
prepared. It seems to be a city with much to offer.