Straight up towards the Tibetan Plateau we quickly left any warm rays of autumn behind. The roads were long, windy, and treacherous at times. The lively frontier town market was full of a mixture of Tibetans and Muslim Tus (distant cousins of the Mongols) This place, completely out of the tourist loop, held a secret jewel at the Wutun Si Monastery. The monastery was an authentic working monastery with happy artists busily painting or carving and the rest of the monks engrossed in a Puja ceremony. We spent a pleasant sunny afternoon in this beehive of activity and we felt really welcome, especially after being invited to eat with them. The massive vats full of noodles and chunks of yak and the urns of butter tea were emptied into the awaiting bowls.
Xining is the capital of the Qinghai province and lies in the Tibetan plateau. The city's population is a mixture of Han Chinese, Tibetans and Uyghurs. Nowhere is this amalgamation of cultures better represented than in the food with many food streets that serve authentic Uyghur and Tibetan food. Xining was our last stop before heading further out west to Dunhuang and Xinjiang towards the China-Kazakhstan border. The city is also a launching pad for trips into Tibet via Golmud on the famous Beijing-Lhasa train. For tourist information and ticket bookings head over to Tibetan Connections. Their office is a floor above Lete Youth Hostel. The guys here are superb and are the go-to guys for information about travel in Tibet. They gave me fantastic tips for my journey on the South Silk Road.