We chose to travel on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway as we made our way to Tibet. This special railway extends 1,956 km’s across the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and connects, Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. What an experience this 21 hour train journey provided us!
The railway itself is an engineering marvel. For starters, the line holds the title of the world’s highest railway, peaking at 5,072m above sea level as it Continue reading →
I don’t think that I can spend a month in China and not say something about the smog. From the first day we arrived in Yangshou I have felt disoriented, as if my senses have shut down and I am unable to “tell” what the weather will do. The sky is unlike anything I have seen before and the air feels different. While there have been some gloriously clear days, in general, a grey haze hangs in the air and it feels oppressive. Steven and I have both been coughing since we arrived and I am convinced that it is smog irritation. Steven is a well managed asthmatic and I have feared that the smog would set off an attack but thankfully this has not happened. Before we left for China, friends who visit here often for work warned us about the smog and they check the air quality before they travel.
I am writing this in Xining, at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau on the 23 floor of the hotel. I look across at the other skyscrapers and the dirty haze just hangs in the sky. It horrifies me that I am breathing that air. Do children who grow up with this think it’s ordinary weather? How long would you have to be here before you started to accept this as normal, that a really smoggy day was just a bad day?
Today in Xining the Air Quality Index is 134 which means it falls in the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” category. Apparently the general public, like me, wont be affected, but Steve with his asthma may be affected. To give you a comparison, Brisbane, where we live, was 45 on the same day, in the “Good” category.
In Beijing I read an article in a magazine for expatriates living there. A man discussed his dilemma about staying and working in a country he loved now that he had a young child. He had been ok about putting himself in the unhealthy environment but felt completely different when he made that unhealthy choice for his child. Lucky him, he had the choice of whether to leave or not, the Chinese don’t.
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 Continue reading →