Xiahe is a tiny Buddhist town in Gansu province and home to the Labrang Monastery, the biggest monastery in China outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region. There is nothing much to do in this town apart from visiting the monastery, but I stayed for 4 days nevertheless. It is that kind of place. The stories of the people living there, many of whom used to live in India and spoke Hindi, were an eye-opener for me. The things we take for granted or privileges for them. You can trek the mountains surrounding the town for spectacular views of the monastery. Biking to the Sangke grasslands and camping out there for a night is also possible if the weather holds up fine. It is doable on a bicycle plus the views more than make up for the effort. For information about renting tents, sleeping bags and bicycles, head over to the Snowy Mountain Cafe or look for a certain bloke called Gombo in Tara Guesthouse. He's a dude with an amazing smile. He must have a coffee shop by now. Accommodation options- Labrang Red Rock Youth Hostel and Tara Guesthouse, both have private rooms and dorms. We stayed at the Red Rock.
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.