Many visitors to China quickly get exasperated with the use of tiles on every single built surface, with much of China looking like the inside of a public toilet. Except for the public toilets which are bare concrete.
But the use of tiles everywhere does sometimes bring some good municipal artwork, with local themes and icons depicted in huge mosaic murals. In Gansu, the apsara legends, from the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang and Matisi, are frequently the subject of these murals which can be seen in many places, including Dunhuang, at Liuyuan station (the current Dunhuang railway station) and in Lanzhou.
One of my favourites is the mural on the building right next to the Lanzhou Feitian Hotel, adorning the side of a building full of karaoke bars and restaurants. Even despite the profusion of neon lights, the mural remains poised and elegant.
Lanzhou has a large and thriving Muslim population, not just the Hui but also from a number of minorities that live in the province. Although not quite as obvious as at Linxia, further south in Gansu, there are mosques all over Lanzhou, with one of the biggest one block south of the “Journey to the West” statue. From the river bank, there are several mosques visible on the north bank, their domes gleaming in the sunshine.
I have never seen the point of owning a carved gourd, although I admit that I had one (a present?) for much of my youth from living in Cyprus. But just because one can carve on a given surface, doesn't mean that you should actually do it. Anyway, others think differently, and carved gourds are a specialty of the Lanzhou area although you can see them all over Gansu and northern China. I was told that gourd carving has a history of more than 90 years in Gansu, suggesting that it is not truly part of their heritage, more a form of ready souvenir: if there's a demand, make it!
Noodles is a staple food in much of northern China, no more so than in the wheat-growing region of which Gansu is a part. In the Lanzhou area, Lanzhou Hand Pulled Noodles are a specialty, where the noodles are prepared in front of the diner. Lunch at one of the special Lanzhou Noodle restaurants is a lengthy affair, as there is a set routine involving three different types of noodles, including noodles which have a triangular cross section. The noodles are prepared elegantly in front of you, for an extra fee, and a waitress will provide a running commentary
The noodles are then cooked and served in a clear broth which is heavily flavoured with spices and vegetables. For some reason, some of the noodle dishes are considered as a soup and others as a true noodle dish, although there seems to be no difference visually. So my friends and colleagues are happy to focus on the noodles of one dish, leaving the broth behind if necessary, while finishing the last drop of water from another, seemingly identical, bowl.
Many parts of China have their own recipes and their own brews for preparing tea, but it can be difficult for the visitor to discover them unless on a formal tour, and even then much depends on being with a knowledgeable guide.
In Lanzhou, there are several types of tea that are particularly popular.
The first is called Sanpaotai, where the tea is stirred with several loganberries and a chunk of rock sugar. It is available in many of the cities parks, and is reputed - as is often the case with tea in China - to be a health tonic.
The second may be a little harder to find, and is known as Guan Guan tea, which is made by farmers in the Lanzhou Municipality (a huge area by the way) in small earthenware teapots. The tea is simmered for hours on a fire of tree roots, and table salt and the kernels of walnuts are added. It is served in tiny cups, enough only for a couple of sips and is very bitter and extremely strong. It is generally a breakfast drink to really wake people up with a bang.
Not trying to gross anyone up but at every public toilet cubicle, there's a little basket by the side. It's for you to throw i the used tissue after # 1 or #2's. If you accidentally throw the piece of tissue into the toilet bowl, chances are you'll see it floating there after a few flushes. The local only warned me about the toilet thingy on the second day *embarassed* Also another warning, some public toilets, DO NOT have doors. While peeing, just ignore everyone ...
Sheepskin raft was called Hide Boat. It is a kind of simple vehicle for crossing river. There are two kinds of material for mading raft, cowskin and sheepskin.
Skin raft sever as water vehicle are oringinal and antiquated, has a lot of history. Acorrding to historical data, since Tang Dynasty , upon to Qing Hai province, down to Shan Dong province, Sheepskin raft were in generl use in both sides of The Yellow River. To today, it is at least 2000 years. and in Lanzhou, Sheepskin raft were general use before at least 320 years ago.
Today, modern vohicles have instead. But Still can be see it at bank of the Yellow River in Lanzhou.
It is the Huanghe River, which is the mother river for China. Huanghe River divides Lanzhou into two parts. One part is a morden city, the other part, you may see the mountain in the picture, is the place Muselim lives. So pay attention to the local custom when you are enter the Muselim place.
As Lanzhou and the rest of western China are very far away from the sea, there is hardly any seafood in the meals. Usually, the food is very simple compared to other parts of China so it is essential to have a postive atitude to your meals.
A Lanzhou portrait shop, not easy to find but woth a look. This city is big with Han Chinese and Muslims Chinese in majority, they live together without special rules, I mean Chinese restaurants with pork and Muslim restaurant side by side with their customers in and out daily without any special rules to seperate them. Dogs and pigs are not something to worry so much in this area too.
When visit the Dunhuang cave you'd better bring the electronic torch so that you can see the mural clearly.