SYNOPSIS:  About a Sunday in Lanzhou’s Park.  This is an essay with lots of photos, keep scrolling down.

At home I had jotted down a few things to do in this town.  Everything was centered on an area downtown, near the river:  the White Mountain Pagoda, an ancient bridge over the Yellow River, the Water Wheel park, and some famous sculptures.   I had even photographed a fraction of a downtown map which I discovered on my computer! 

Even though I am still clueless as to where I am, I have a few things to go by.  From booking my AirBnB, I remember that this town is laid out on an east-west stretch with mountains in the North and the Yellow River between most of the city and the mountains.  I also remember that I wanted to live close to the river, as all the action and the few sites worth seeing were there.  I decided that all I had to do today was to turn north.

I took a taxi on a north-bound road and when it hit the river a few minutes later, and yes, it did!; I hopped out.  That was not so difficult.  I still did not know where I was and how far from the center, but it was a Sunday afternoon and Lanzhou sports one of the longest and best developed river promenades anywhere; I had read that back home.  If nothing else, I would just enjoy myself walking along with all the other people who had come out to spend a sunny afternoon at the park in Lanzhou.

There are so many things.  You could…

After one hour of walking I spotted in the distance the bridge over the river where all the sites were located.  What’s another 3 km to walk?  I have to get in shape for Tibet.  Right?  Consider it exercise.  The day was warm, the sky was almost blue — that’s all you can hope for with all the dust and pollution in the air — and there was just nothing in the way of more walking, except being lazy.

And who would have wanted to miss all of this:

When I hit the Water-Wheel Park, I knew I had made it all the way to the center of town.  And all in good time to take the cable car across the river, even if only to come right back. What fun!  The ride was great, the views spectacular. 

Less than another km down the road was the oldest iron bridge ever built to cross the Yellow River. I had read about that. Today, only pedestrians are allowed on it.  I had to press on.  I could not leave here without crossing that bridge.  I was so close and yet so far.  By now, my feet were burning and arguing with me.   I was exhausted, but I was not going to give in to my feet and miss this bridge.


On the other side of the river there was a sprawling 18th-century monastery.  The pagoda perched on top of the mountain had been beckoning me all along.  An hour ago, I was sure that there was no way I would make it up there, not with those burning feet.  But now I was right here.  And what is another mountain to be climbed?  My feet were screaming, but mind won over matter.  It’s just one step at a time.  And so I put one complaining foot before the other.  200 meters (as the bird flies), serpentining up and up and up.  I moved slower and slower.  Just don’t sit down or you will never get up!   That was my mantra for every bench I passed. 

And there it was, the prize of the hike:  the most beautiful little pagoda bathed in the evening sun.  And nobody was there when I arrived.  For a few minutes, I had it all to myself.  From a small TV monitor displaying kitschy Buddhist images, a wonderfully soothing, gentle chant rang through the air.   The smell of recently lit incense mixed with the smell of lavender, or was it the almond tree on the hill, that had just butted?   This was the most beautiful and tranquil moment of the day.  And to think that my feet almost made me miss it! 

Every step down was a reminder that my feet had wanted to quit long ago.  But there was the promise of a taxi at the bottom of the hill, and the three of us, my feet on fire, and I, all made it.

But wait, there was one more thing to do before we could ride back home:  eat the local noodles.  Lanzhou is known the country over for its hand-strung noodles.  I am not quite sure what the fuss is all about, as I had seen these noodles done just the same in Urumqi and Xian.  Still…  Lanzhou noodles had to be had and you don’t have to go far for them.  I ordered them without the chili and I think that was a wise choice.  It is great fun to watch people prepare these noodles.  Within seconds they transform a thick roll of noodle dough into thin spaghetti type strings.  They fold and bang and fold once more and bang once more and then … there they are?  Thin spaghetti-type noodles.  How do they cut them?  Do they have a device in their hands?  I never quite figured it, out no matter how many times I watched them.  And these guys were not about to reveal their secret to a stranger.  The most interesting side dish was an appley-sweet, slightly fermented grainlike dish.  Delicious!  But what was it?

And so ended a beautiful Sunday afternoon at “La Grand Zhou”.

Good night.