On July 31, 2011, we started at 2:00pm from Lanzhou to Xiahe County. We travel on a charted coach with over 20 people on board for the fam road trip to Gannan Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which is in the south of Gansu Province. Gannan literally means “the south of Gansu Province”. The main reason for visiting Xiahe is to see Labrang Monastery.
The whole drive distance from Lanzhou to Xiahe County is 258 km. In between, we pass by Hezheng County and the city of Lingxia ( the capital city of Lingxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture). The road condition is much better than we expect.
The Lanzhou Xiahe 258 km road trip gives us deep impression in terms of both different landforms and cultures unfolded to us on the road. We first drive along the Lanzhou Lingxia expressway via Hezheng County at the distance of 140km. Then we drive along the National Highway 223 from Lingxia to Xiahe for about 118km.
We go through the loess plateau and slowly come close to the fringe of Tibet-Qinghai Plateau. At the same time, we pass by the muslim culture in Lingxia and run close to the Tibetan culture in Xiahe of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
We are driving from the loess plateau to the fringe of Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau and passing from Muslim culture to Tibetan culture.
We arrived at Xiahe around 6:00pm and all our group members stayed at Labuleng Civil Aviation Hotel. It is centrally located in the eastern section of Xiahe County. The famous Labrang Monastery is only one km west of the hotel. If you take a taxi from the hotel to Labrang Monastery, it only costs you one Yuan.
Labuleng Civil Aviation Hotel is the best hotel in Xiahe County. This hotel is built according to a 4 star hotel standard with over 260 rooms including standard rooms, business rooms and luxury rooms. It is elegantly furnished and equipped with air-conditioning, TV and broad band internet. It has 2 small meeting rooms, one large conference room holding over 150 people as well Chinese and Western resturants and shopping center.
In Xiahe, beside Labuleng Civil Aviation Hotel, there are more good choices of hotels like Wangfu Hotel and Labrang Hotel. Wangfu Hotel is another 3 star Tibetan style hotel in Xiahe, just next to Labuleng Civil Aviation Hotel. Labrang Hotel is located in the western section of Xianhe County, a Tibetan living area. It is serene and some rooms are said to be part of the former summer palace of the Jamyang.
Our lodging hotel – Labuleng Civil Aviation Hotel in Xiahe
After dinner, we were arranged to visit Sangke Grasslands in the evening! Sangke Grassland was locates 14km southwest of the downtown area of Xiahe.
Sangke Grasslands are a great expanse of pastures where Tibetans graze their yak herds. it was a pity that we didn’t have time coming here in the daytime to enjoy the lush green grassland and ride on horses. it was said that in summer Sangke Grasslands are at their best, green and abound with wildflowers.
The sponsor did something to compensate us by organizing a small bonfire party. Almost all the members danced following the locals.
A small bonfire party at Sangke Grasslands
Xiahe county is located in the southwest of Gansu Province and part of the Gannan Tibetan Automous Prefecture. It has 18 ethnic groups incluuding Tibetan, Han, Hui, Salar, Dongxiang, and Mongolian. It has a population of over 85,000 with Tibetans making up 81.17%.
The dowtown area of Xiahe County is sandwiched by the mountains in the north and south with Daxia River running through the town from west to east. Daxia River meets Tao River and empties into the Yellow River. The name of “Xiahe” is taken from the Daxia River passing by the county.
Next morning I got up early for a field inspection around the town. Actually Xiahe town is sectioned into three parts: east part mostly inhabited by Han people; the middle part is Labrang Monastery; and the west part is the living area of Tibetans. The east part is the most commercial area with lots of hotels, stores and restaurants as well as the local government office buildings. The Xiahe County Government is next to our lodging hotel in Xiahe – Labuleng Civil Aviation Hotel.
The so called down town area of Xiahe County is composed of only two streets running from east to west – People ‘s Road and Sangqu Nublam Road with the Daxia River running in between. Of the two streets, People’s Road is the major avenue north of Daxia River.
Daxia River winds between the only two roads cutting through the downtown of Xianhe River. A bridge called Rigzha Ram ( Rigzha Bridge) spans Daxia River connecting People’s Road and Sangqu Nublam Road.
People’s Road is teemed with stores, resturants and office buildings. But it was still early in the morning with few people on the street (People’s Road).
This is Rigzha Square (Rigzha Dutang), south of the Daxia River by the Rigzha Ram ( Rigzha Bridge) . I saw some local residents dancing as kinda of morning exercises.
Sangqu Nublam Road is one of the two main roads in the downtown of Xiahe County paralleling Daxia River and People’s Road in the north.
Labrang Monastery is located on the north of Daxia River in the west of Xiahe County. This most important Tibetan monastery outside Tibet was first founded by Ngagong Tsunde, the first generation of Jamyang from nearby Ganjia in 1709. it is an important monastery of the Gelukpa or the Yellow Hat Sect. At its peak there were over 4000 monks. Currently there are over 3000 monks from Qinghai, Gansu, Inner Mongolia and Tibet as well.
The main hall ( Grand Prayer hall ) in Labrang Monastery
If you travel individually, after buying your entrance ticket, you’d better to wait at the ticket office around 10:15am or 3:15pm if you come here in the afternoon. Starting from the two fixed time, monk-turned English speaking tour guides will show you around on the prearranged travel route in the monastery. Visitors should be sensitive to the religious nature of the site.
Get Around in Xiahe
As you know the dowtown of Xiahe only has two streets – People’s Road and Sangqu Nublam Road, it is a walkable city. I did find many taxis running on the street. Only pay RMB 1 per person, you may go anywhere inlcuding Labrang Monastery within the town.
There are no public buses. It seems that the taxis in Xiahe serve a kind of public buses. People share one taxi by paying 1 yuan going anywhere within the town of Xiahe.