Visiting the most western point of the Chinese Wall was somewhat interesting. Located five to nine kilometers outside the city of Jiayuguan, the historic sites of interest are easily accessible by bicycle. Although the ride was very refreshing and the overall temperatures were nice, we soon discovered that this region suffers from heavy sand storms. One part of the problem cycling through a sand storm is the fact that your eyes are constantly crying out the dirt, the other problem is the sheer force of the wind which – Murphy’s law at its best – is blowing all the time against the general direction of the journey.
Aside from the touristic spots around the the city of Jiayuguan, I also liked the downtown area. It’s manageable to visit by foot – and people are very friendly and helpful. Thomas and I tried our best to order food in one Uyghur restaurant. Usually, we would order the same dish that someone else already had ordered and which would nice enough to us. But this time, we were the first guests.
Therefore, we used a dictionary throughout the entire ordering process. The waitress was patiently waiting and writing down the various parts of the meals. Although we weren’t quite sure whether she understood everything, we got essentially the food we ordered. Eat this!
Also, the city has the usual park where locals meet during sunrise to dance or play music. It is always very peaceful to watch these crowds and the sports park downtown Jiayuguan was a perfect location for this.
Near the obvious and recommended visit of the Fort lie the extreme western points of the Chinese wall, called “The Hanging Great Wall”. It’s a bit over-restored and looks shiny and brand new. Also, there is no resemblance from a size aspect to what we’ve seen so far north of Beijing in terms of the Great Wall. This “Hanging Great Wall” is very small (or: not so Great). Most probably any enemy would have died laughing about this ridiculous mud structure.
Moreover, the length of this “restored” wall was about 700 meters each side – just perfect for a photo shoot. Upon leaving the site, Thomas and I were unsure whether we just fell into a tourist trap and whether we just had visited a bogus structure some local tourist bureau made up. But it didn’t really matter, since we had a good laugh thinking of how difficult it would have been to spot this fence-sized structure from space.
The number of sand storms in China is very surprising to me. Heading further west, Jiayuguan is actually just a staging post for things to come along my journey as I will cover more desert lands. However, already here the sand, dust and plastic shopping bags are whirling through the storms.
Therefore, eating dust is literally unavoidable – being on a bike or on foot. Being hit by some flying plastic bags provides memorable moments of loosing sight in dense rush hour traffic. It is a funny and amazing experience as a visiting tourist: We found ourselves standing for a long time just watching how the locals would cope with the nature of shopping bags and aerodynamics. But China is eager to improve the situation. There is talk about a government law mandating to charge for plastic bags in stores in an effort to reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste. Therefore, the spectacle of flying shopping bags in the roads of Jiayuguan might be soon a thing of the past.