Another day in Lanzhou and another chance meeting on the side of the road comes full circle. Today started as a relaxing day with no alarm clocks to wake us up. After a bit of moseying about the apartment (hosted to us by our couch surfing friend Wenyu), we started contacting people we have met, and others that have been introduced to us, from the area of Lanzhou. One of these contacts was a couple of ladies that drove by us a few days ago as we left the town of Dingxi. They said to contact them when we were in Lanzhou, so we did. That same day Conner left us at the Dingxi train station, she met a university student in Lanzhou named Abby. We contacted her too.
Our plans with Abby fell through, but our road friends (the ladies) ended up meeting us at the Gansu Provincial Museum as we walked through a large variety of exhibits. The museum had geographical history and all the dinosaur stuff that blows your mind as a kid and still leaves you with a bit of awe as an adult. They had anthropology exhibits showcasing an extensive collection of pottery, copper, and bronze wares. This exhibition also had beautifully designed remnants of silk cloths that were over 5,000 years old. It was amazing to see the effort put into the collection of information for each exhibit as well as the sheer amount of exhibits in the museum, and all of it free to the public! We slowly made our way through the three floors of regional history ending with Chinese revolutionary history and, of course, history of the Silk Road.
After the museum clerks chased us out (we lingered long after closing time), our friend Xiaomei brought us to a local hotpot restaurant where the other lady from our Dingxi interaction was waiting with their mutual friend. These three seemed to be gear store owners from the area. They showed us a lovely time at one of the most excellent tasting hotpot experiences I’ve had. The meal was lively with conversation that sometimes worked and sometimes needed phone translations to keep it going, usually resulting in laughs at the previous mistranslation. It turns out they are not gear store owners at all, but a few avid hiking enthusiasts. The hotpot was spicy and had the numbing huajiao seeds that are so tasty, and the pot was consistently filled to the brim with skewers of meat, veggies, tofu, and noodles. When the meal was finished and we could no longer stuff any more into our faces we tried to pay for the meal to which our hosts made it very clear that we were not to pay. Some of them blocked our attempts while another went to pay instead. It must have cost at least 400 Yuan.
Being kidnapped by hospitality is something that doesn’t happen much in America and is very difficult to understand when you hear about it. It is even a bit of an emotional ride when it happens to you the first couple times. After dinner, we, along with Xiaomei and her friend, walked to Xiaomei’s car and drove around the city. They showed us the beautiful city lights and the view of the city from both sides of the Yellow River before we went to find parking to enjoy the snack street market. This street of snacks did have snacks. In fact, it was maybe a half kilometer of drinks, BBQ meats, ice creams, mulled fruit juices, fried spicy potatoes, candies, roujiamo (a type of juicy pulled pork or beef and peppers stuffed inside a warm pita-like bread). This street also had this local drink made of furnace-blasted milk and eggs until it is curdled slightly and poured into a cup of raisins, peanuts, sesame seeds, and other bits of fruit and nut; it is eaten with a spoon. This so-called snack street was also several other streets that spilled out of the pedestrian area over the sidewalks and curbs into the streets giving the right of way to people trying on coats and buying puppies. This market wasn’t for any special occasion either. This happens every night! If you want a shopping experience that won’t break the bank, try the street markets of China!
At the end of this excursion, we made our way back to their car and told them that we were able to get ourselves home and that they did not need to drive us an hour across the city to get us home. They laughed and told us to get in. I must say, one of the most rewarding parts of this trip—and my time living abroad—has been the experiences that happen when I don’t plan them and instead let the flow take me to see how the adventure will unfold.
Distance: 0 km
Total Distance: 812 km
End: Lanzhou (兰州)- Wenyu's apartment
Written by Pat