Traveling on a bullet train was very good experience and the way Chinese had handled crowd, ticketing and discipline is awesome. There are no pushes and pulls as we see in India and Japan at railway stations. People are sitting in waiting rooms and as soon as railway employees opens gates – crowd walks to designated platform and stand under supervision of staff , in line as per their compartment numbers.
When train arrives, attendant opens door and people walks in – settles their luggage. We could not buy anything on train – packed meal was 40.0 CYN but I was not interested in experimenting. They do not supply / have sweeteners along with Coffee or tea and this is major setback for those who do not want to consume raw sugar.
Coming out from railway station and my perfect tourist ordeal started. We were misguided from ‘ Inquiry” and it was not shocking for me when I was told mya gorgeous girl that there is no bus for Qinghai Lake. She wanted us to board Taxi and I knew there is catch !
Walking out from station and we were into another domain now – BUS STAND ! Surrounded by agents, taxi drivers – this was a typical Indian scenario. And everyone was trying to convince us that there is no bus for this lake – I wanted to try my way. Lot of attempts to make people understand – wrong pronunciations perhaps and we were escorted to a bus by a booking clerk, only to be told in English by very young girl that we are in wrong bus- she took extra pains to get out from bus and I was of the view that she would be pointing or guiding us to right place- wow ! she was a agent , and was trying to handover us to taxi drivers …I thanked her – made her understand that I am in no mood of using Taxi for this region. Walked back to Bus Terminal, again…with rucksacks !
My shoulder 😛
Again started the same exercise, trying to make myself understood and one driver made a nod that he is going to Heimai. We boarded – again a dramatic experience , this was a wrong bus and he was going exactly opposite to where we should be heading to. I tried to make open, social conversation with whole bus – but no one understood a single word I was speaking !
Noticing my concern, driver indicated that he is not going in that region and this was when we found ourselves, standing on road with our luggage. Trying to grasp and still confident that we can make it – we wanted internet connection, a free open WiFi – I noticed a Bank and we walked in. Guard tried to help – but language was a big barrier and this was when someone from inside the bank came towards us. This guy speaks English and he guided us to take a taxi and go to Pai Lo bus station and from here, we will get bus for the lake ….. HellLooJaaah !!!
We got taxi, reached Pai Lo station and it was 2.0 PM – our bus was at 4.0 PM and a chance talking, trying to make sure that destination printed is exactly the same where we want to go – we become friends with a English speaking young couple – Anna and her husband ..we were travelling together for 3 hrs.
We saw beautiful mountain topography with huge grasslands, shepherds and their hurds…it was coming back home, coming to life !
Getting down at Heimai was again a dramatic experience …WIND and COLD !
High velocity wind and bitter cold – changed my idea of using swiss tent for night stay – we wanted to shoot star trail / galaxy but cloudy weather plus wind and cold forced us to look for hotel room now.
We walked into Anna’s hotel – she had booking made through some online portal – and we were sharing room with them – and paying CYN 180 for a night.
This is same like any Himalayan mountain city – tourists are charged like that- although I was not expecting this in China but so far so good, keeping an eye on clouds, waiting for Sky to be clear..I dozed off. It rained and sky was cloudy in early morning 4.30 AM as this was time for sun rise shoot. Qinghai lake is a salt water lake having radius of approx. 220 kms. This is summer resort and I noticed many youngsters with friends, newly married couple coming here for some lifetime memories. Situated at a height of aprox 3200m – weather changes here very quickly. There are numerous tented colonies alongside the lake but mostly these are supported by taxis and buses who bring tourist directly to these places. My original plan was to stay in these, because these gives freedom to move in and out in night – people who are interested to do night photography like star trails and galaxy shoots- tented accommodation suits them but I have to change my plan right at the moment I landed in Haimai. One,
We decided to try for taxi or bus to go ahead OR to reach back to Xining. Inquiries about TAXI went offbeat – they were asking for almost five time , we wanted to spend thus focus on turning back from here- got a bus within minutes and we reached Xining , got our tickets printed from Ticket clerk [ Reservations made online gives you a booking number, you have to show your passports and booking number to get electronic tickets , you can not board or even enter with a printed paper in hand ]
By 2.30 PM we were in hotel – checked in, dropped luggage and as we usually do, were out in city to eat something.