The Gansu Province in China is known for its dramatic and diverse landscape to nature lovers across the world. Located in a country which is currently the highest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, the region has suffered due to rampant pollution in the recent past. Gansu province is one of the driest region in the country and though the government is trying to treat the desertification issue with various water transfer projects, but this historically significant region of China is still recognised as one the worst impacted regions by climate change.
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Our bus ride to Xiahe was a lively affair, packed with Tibetans, oversize bags and an occasional chicken. Passing through the high grasslands past herds of yaks and lonely villages we arrived at the bus station in the Chinese part of town. Walking past new hotels and buildings made of white tiles and blue-tinted windows, we strolled up the street towards Labrang Monastery and the Tibetan part of town. "Oh Mani Padmi Hum". "Oh Mani Padmi Hum". (Mantra - the jewel of the lotus). This chant of the Tibetan pilgrims echoed through the narrow alleyways as they circumambulated the monastery (always clockwise) spinning ornate hand prayer wheels, clutching prayer beads, or turning the hundreds of 3ft to 10 ft high wooden prayer wheels along the 4 km route. Some were completely focused, some prostrated themselves along the ground for hundreds of miles, others chatted merrily as they gave each wheel a good spin, and we even saw one man talking on his cell phone while 'praying'. Who knows, maybe he had God on the other end?
We followed the legendary Silk Road, starting in Xi'an, westward to Dunhuang. Carving its way through deserts and mountains this famous and well-trodden route once carried camel caravans bringing goods and ideas in and out of China. Connecting Europe via the Middle East, with the Middle Kingdom, travelers and merchants used oases as stepping- stones through this treacherous route.
The early morning bus ride from Xiahe to Langmusi will probably be one of the most picturesque you have ever been on. The road cuts through vast grasslands peppered with grazing horses and tents adorned with prayer flags swaying in the gentle breeze. The stark green of the grasslands blends with the crisp blue sky somewhere in the distance. If we are lucky we might be able to convince the driver to stop and let us enjoy the landscape for a bit. Langmusi (Takstang Lhamo) lies on the border of Gansu and Sichuan provinces and is famous for its architecture and horse treks. We spend our two days here exploring the Sertri and Kirti Gompas, the Hui Mosque and horse trekking in the grasslands and interacting with the local population.