On The List is On the Go – and our first stop was Qinghai in China (said like Ching-hi). It’s a remote province with 5 million people and 5 million yaks (one for everyone, fair) and is found in the North West of China bordering Tibet.
And what a delicious melting pot of cultures, religion, flavours and nature.
On The List together with 14 other travel bloggers from around the world were incredibly lucky to have been invited by Qinghai Tourism and Ctrip to help carve the path for tourism in this region. Currently it’s not very Western (how rare!) in fact in many instances we went places that few Westerners or other tourists have been to before. Our 8 day trip was designed to help them work out the best attractions to share, the best locations to travel to and the best places to embrace the local cuisine.
So this roughly translates to ‘if you want to visit this region – there’s no time for being a preppy tourist, get ready to act like a local’. But bon’t go there ready to chat to the locals in English because it isn’t spoken or written pretty much anywhere. Be prepared to eat a lot of meat because this mostly Muslim area is famous for it. And, you need to prepare yourself for the squatty potty life (except in your hotel room and the odd disabled toilet), so limber up with some practice squats and never ever go anywhere without a pack of tissues (ever!). And girls I’m looking at you when I say just embrace the toilet experience as the locals do, after a few days you really do learn the tricks and it becomes the normal way to use the WC (hint: it has to do with having your bum higher in the air…you’ll see what I mean).
Qinghai is a massive Provence, so at times we had 6 hour bus rides to get to our next destination. That’s China. The up side – the snacks! They are super random, really fun and cheap as chips. Plus, at the petrol stations you find the most random gifts from hip flasks in yak leather holders filled with god awful rice wine to $3 tea flasks filled with local ingredients for the sweetest warm tea.
The Tibetan history in this region is rich and includes the Monastery that the current Dalai Lama was discovered at (which by the way is the most intriguing story!). We visited a range of cultural locations including Qutan Temple, the Guo Ma Ri Stupa and the Wutan Temple all deeply spiritual, humble and calm. And then just when you thought you had been catapulted into another era away from the hustle, a calm and gentle monk would whip out his iPhone from inside his garb and ask for a selfie. We’re not that different after all.
Once we had basked in the man-made beauties we feasted on the natural delights this Provence has to offer starting with the drive to Qinghai Lake. I probably had one of my favourite moments there, with a local who lent me her red scarf to hold up in the wind as I sat on a rock with just the vast lake in front of me. As corny as it sounds, it felt like just me and China having a private moment (which Brian from Ramen Adventures captured bless him). Imagine my surprise when around the lake we came across a small dessert – I will never get over the fact that I sand boarding for the first time in my life, in China! We finished our trip surrounded bythe mountains in Qilian that looked like a perfectly painted canvas – in every photo it actually looked like it was a green screen with the perfect picture of a lush and unique mountainous range (with some snow-capped mountains in the background for effect). Simply perfect.
The only thing left to say is about the food – and honestly people the food was sensational. I miss it so much! The area is best known for its meat (lots of yummy yak), but their veggie dishes are just as scrumptious. Every meal as a banquet feast with each region serving up their own unique delicacies. Including (as per the video) some random, very expensive delicacy that was a worm, but also a tree and a fungus and yes I know that makes no sense, but watch the video and you’ll see what I mean. I was expecting the cuisine to be spicy but honestly it barely tickled me, it was flavoursome but not spicy. The local drink of rice wine is used ceremoniously at most occasions (with 3 shots being customary) and is mad harsh – good luck with it.
Qinghai is one of those places that you feel very connected to instantly and it’s also a place that helps you reconnect with yourself a bit. I do feel like it’s had more of an impact after the dust has settled and I’ve had time to reflect. Thank you Qinghai for reminding me about my passion for travel, creating interesting content and connecting with fabulous people.
My advice to you, if our On The Go video and post has whet your appetite, is to do your squats, pack lightly, hire a local driver and reputable tour guide who understands what Visas and permit you need whilst in the region (or just use our incredible new friend HOMER who was our legendary tour guide, details below) and get ready for a culture, nature and culinary burst with Qinghai China.
Be warned though, the internet situation isn’t a bloggers dream when it comes to speed and reliability, plus the country has flat out banned Google, Facebook, Youtube etc…but like with everything else in travel – embrace and get over it. Download WeChat and do what the locals do!
Til next time China #QinghaiLife xx
ALL PICS AND VID TAKEN ON A CANON POWERSHOT G7X
LOCATIONS ON OUR QINGHAI TRAVEL LIST:
- Kumbum Monastery (Ta’er Temple)
- Tu Minority (Huzhu Country)
- Qutan Temple (Ledu Country)
- Dongguan Grande Mosque
- Gui Ma Ri Stupa (Tongren Country)
- Wutan Temple
- Qinghai Lake
- Gold ans Silver Grassland (Xi Hai Country)
- Menyan County
- Flower Sea (which only blossoms from Mid July)
- Qilian Mountain
TOUR GUIDE HOMER’S CONTACT DETAILS 132 9977 7047 or firstname.lastname@example.org