We are in Xining because that’s where we will catch the train to Lhasa, Tibet. It’s certainly not the most attractive city that I’ve been in. It’s surrounded by barren rock like hills, with a population of 2 million living in the multitude of ever increasing high rise apartment blocks which stand like sentinels across the skyline. The air is heavy with smog and dust. I have read that Xining has been dubbed the “summer resort capital of China” due to its cool summer, but somehow can’t see the attraction.
So, after picking up our train tickets to Lhasa from the station, and feeling uninspired to visit tombs or temples I pointed to the largest green space on the Chinese language map and said “let’s go there”. We flagged down the taxi, pointed to the map and were delivered to the Peoples Park.
Somehow the air was clearer there and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours wandering through this community park. As we ate our ice creams we watched children fish for goldfish out of a tank but nobody seemed to be catching anything. The path was decked with “Two Dollar Shops” in their natural habitat and fishermen lined the man-made lake with their rods.
We were enchanted by the unexpected tulip display in a dazzling array of colours. The park seemed to be maintained by an army of older workers and I wondered whether they were employed or volunteers, they seemed to be enjoying their work.
Steven joined the exercisers in the park gym. I understand these outside gyms, which we have seen throughout China, have been made so that older residents can maintain their strength and agility.
We were mesmerised by two older men and a woman who danced with what looked like a top suspended on a string between two sticks. They gracefully swung it behind their backs, over their heads and around their bodies, clearly they had been practising this skill for many years.
To complete our time in the park we boarded the Ghost Train Boat Ride, this rickety side show attraction had seen better years. The park was established in 1958 and I suspect the ride opened then too. Nonetheless we laughed as monsters jumped out at us and as we floated past a torture chamber.
As we left the park we walked through a pet market where puppies, kittens, rabbits, snakes, goldfish, and cicadas in specially woven boxes were for sale. Let’s hope they all go to loving homes soon.
Restored by our day in the park, we retreated to our hotel room and dined richly on cornflakes, yoghurt and fruit for tea. Sometimes the unexpected is the most delightful.