As per usual, my preconceived notion of a place has turned out to be utterly wrong.
From what I’d read, I pictured Jiayuguan to be some dusty little settlement town with electricity restrictions and unpaved roads perhaps.
But lemme tell ya somethin’, folks; people travel out here to visit the Fort, and Jiayuguan is a hopping little town that appears to play the tourist schtick quite well.
Take our hotel, for example; the outside is designed to look like the Jiayuguan Fort. Tacky? Sure, but I’ll bet kids love it and can goad their parents into staying with just a few whines (how do you think I got Ig to stay here, eh?).
Scattered about town one can find an amusement park, an outdoor rollerskating rink, and a playland type area equipped with a trampoline.
On the main drag are two large roundabouts (I still don’t quite get these, and I’ve driven on them…gack!) where the foliage is all lit up, and both sides of the street are lined with trees. At night a green spotlight showcases each tree, and stretched across the road every so often is a bridge of white christmas lights.
The footpaths are uncommonly wide and clean, and there are neon signs flickering all over the place.
As I walk down the street then, I can’t help but think this desert town is Gansu province’s Las Vegas.
Forget there aren’t any casinos; with all the snow-capped mountains around, I really like it here.
(Rob and Marsh; both are photos of the roundabout downtown. One picture has a pedal rickshaw in it (I don’t know what they’re called in China, I just realized), and in the backround are the snow-capped peaks. The other photo is the same thing, but it has a communist monument and some neon Chinese characters in it.)
It’s a good thing I like it here, too; we’d already agreed that Jiayuguan was worthy of taking an extra day to poke around, but now we’re taking a second extra day.
We wanted to see both the fort and the first beacon tower yesterday, but we farted around so long at the fort that it was too late by the time we were done.
Walking up and touching the wall of the fort for the first time was like shaking the hand of someone you’d never met but had long admired.
(Rob and Marsh; first photo shows the massive East gate of the fort, and the second photo is a close up of the more than 600 year old wall; in the mud of the wall you can see some of the straw that was used to build it.)
It was quite an experience poking around out there, and it sparked me up even more to get to where we’ll find the first part of the Wall; far from continuous, finding the bits of Wall will prove to be a real challenge.
As for Jiayuguan Fort, it was considered by the ancient Chinese to be the end of civilization. When someone was exiled, they were brought here and out the West gate they went. Not knowing what lay beyond the gate, the exiled must’ve been horrified, as they faced nothing but soaring, snow capped mountains and a whole lotta desert.
(Rob and Marsh; this photo shows a pagoda on top of the fort and snow-capped mountains in the distance)
After returning from the fort we headed out to the Night Market for some grub. It was lively, the food was great, and we were even entertained by a little testosterone-fueled brawl off to the side.
(Rob and Marsh; first photo is of all the stalls lined up at the night market, and the second photo shows our cook at one of the stalls cheffing up our grub)
So with the fort behind us, the beacon tower on our plate today and a slew of odds n ends to get done tommorrow, we’re looking at setting out Thursday morning…:p
On a side note, I think whoever designed the hotel bathrooms definitely had roommates, as there’s always a phone right above the toiletpaper dispenser; “Uh, hi, Jamie here. Yeah, they left me hangin’ again–could you send up another roll?”
Alright, I’m being beckoned by the 7k hike from the last beacon tower, so I’m off for now…
Tags: Asia, China, Great Wall, Jiayuguan, Travel, Trekking, Tag Index