Day 11: Zhuokeji – Ruo’ergai

September 11, 2019

Distance covered: 360 km

This turned out to be one of the more eventful days of our trip, including a couple of amazing sites.

Roadside graveyard

No need to mention that we got up and left early; you know the drill by now. Crossing a few mountains and passing through a couple of valleys will also strike you as familiar, so I will directly move on to the first site: a Tibetan graveyard. It was when we drove through a pasture that the person who had layed out our itinerary told us to stop at what at first sight looked like a shabby building behind an equally shabby gate. Further away, we could discern a kind of Tibetan construction, but not necessarily worth stopping for. We were proven wrong. Walking closer, the area turned out to be huge, covered with typical Tibetan grave stupas. Yes, they did not look shiny new, but perhaps exactly therefore very mysterious. Apart from our party, no other human being could be seen. We first walked up to the only new building, a Buddhist temple still under construction. It was completely empty inside, except for three statues.

We then haphazardly walked through the stupas and other small buildings, We had meanwhile spotted a few monks tending to the graves. Our attention was attracted to what struck us as a big colourful tent. It was a actually not one piece of cloth, but lines of coloured pieces of cloth that are so typical for many Tibetan Buddhist structures, all attached to a central pole. One photo tells more than a hundred words.

The centre of the graveyard was a construction best described as a large stupa consisting of many smaller ones. It was a perfect place for a few final pictures.

Tibetan lunch

The graveyard had made us hungry and we started discussing whether lunch or dinner would be the main meal of that day. This was the first, and luckily only, time that our group was completely divided. We decided for lunch. A nearby village turned out to be disappointing, While our choice was shifting to dinner, we saw a resort-like place in the shape of a Tibetan village. The proprietor said that he could prepare lunch and we sat down in a kind of waiting room. It took some time before the first dishes were ready, but they were remarkably good. The manager had mentioned that he had hired a real Sichuan cook and the promise came through.

First bend of the Yellow River

Back on track, our next goal was the First Bend of the Yellow River. This sounds less poetic in English than in Chinese. It is a place close to the spring of the Yellow River, where it meets another river, forming a series of bends, rather than a single one. The sight would not be that spectacular, if there hadn’t been that steep hill from which you can have a breath-taking view over the area. The hill was almost 4000 metres high and it was a hot afternoon. We therefore chose the option to use the escalators for an additional fee. In fact, there were 14 escalators in a row.

On top the view was indeed stunning.

The reason that I am not adding photos of people is that at that height, the sun was so fierce, that we were all wearing hats and scarves to cover our faces. You can burn there in a few minutes. There were no escalators down, but we chose to walk down using the stairs next to the escalators, which were covered to protect people from the sun. It was also much quicker. That same sun was setting and we wanted to arrive at our next hotel before it would be completely dark.

A lively town

That town, Ruo’ergai (Zoige in Tibetan), looked like the usual suspect, a town as we had seen almost every day during this trip. The hotel was nice, with a lift and a good restaurant, so we took dinner in the hotel this time. An yes, my wife and I hit the town afterwards to stretch our legs and see if Ruo’ergai would look better at night. It did indeed. Ruo’ergai was very lively, with all the shops open until late. The central square was completely lit up and, another familiar scene during this trip, people were dancing together.

 We passed several coffee shops, but didn’t enter, as it was a little late for coffee. We did enter a bar, that looked very modern, to see if we could have a glass of wine. Unfortunately, they were only selling wine by the bottle, as is very common in China. Chinese culture is communitarian and Chinese rarely go to a bar on their own to have one or two glasses.

We did find an interesting item for our road trip in a local convenience store: Belgian Lotus biscuits. I was the coffee drinker of our group and Lotus biscuits are an ideal companion of a cup of coffee.

Then it was about time to return to the hotel.

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Published by eurasiaconsult

I am passionate about many things, but the top three are: China, food and human organizing processes. I started learning Chinese when I was 14, spontaneously. In the end this resulted into a PhD in Arts (Leiden University; 1986), 10 years of working and living experience in China as a representative of a Dutch firm and a marriage with a Chinese partner (1984). During my work in a company (Gist-brocades, now part of DSM) and as an independent consultant, I became fascinated with organization theory. This has led to a second PhD in Business Administration (Erasmus University Rotterdam; 2001). I am currently combining both interests in a long-term research project studying Chinese entrepreneurship, with a number of Chinese partners. From the day I joined the company, I picked up an interest in food, not just the final product, but also how it is produced, with an emphasis on ingredients and formulation. Once more combining that interest with my China passion, I became an avid student of the cultural and societal function of food. In this blog, I hope to blend all those ingredients into a savoury soup about China, the Chinese food industry and how the organization of that industry differs from the West.

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