09/04/07: Errands and Museum Day
We are staying in the Great Wall Hotel, which may have been glorious a few years ago, and may feel lively in the high season. Right now it is very quiet, which is fine by us. Our room has an internet connection, bathtub with a plug, and two bath towels. Oh joy!
We spent the first morning buying an inner tube, new patch kit, and local cell phone time. We mended the leaky Thermarest, and got my glasses repaired after their having been sat upon. We’ve always like the Chinese opticians we’ve met, but wonder how they’d test our eyes if we needed new spectacles. Are the eye charts in characters?
A sight we wanted to see here is the Ming Dynasty fortress at a gate in the Great Wall in Jiayuguan Pass –“Magnificent Pass Under Heaven”– and also the Great Wall Museum. Our first effort to get to the Great Wall Museum got us to the Jiayuguan City Museum, which gives a nice account of the development of this mining city from the 1950s under the glorious new Republic, but not what we were aiming for. The museum did showcase some beautiful local minority costumes, however. The confusion was that the Great Wall Museum had been moved from the city centre to the pass itself since my Guide to Gansu was written. The City museum was well done, though. I wonder what the effect is of sucking water for 2 million people out of an aquifer under the desert? Is there any connection to why the well in the fortress that flowed during the Ming Dynasty is now dry?
A second attempt to get to the Great Wall Museum brought us by taxi to the fortress and museum at the pass. Both were fascinating, and we tagged along with an Indonesian group for part of the museum. They had an English-speaking Chinese guide who knew his history well.
During the Ming Dynasty, the Silk Road diverged into various strands both east and west of here. At the pass, however, there was only one route and all Silk Road traffic passed through this strategic gate. This was also the gate though which undesirables were banished from the Han Empire, just as the Brits later shipped their undesirables to Tasmania.
09/04/08: Resting and Planning Day
Today was spent eating, snoozing, and researching visas and logistics for the Central Asian segment of our trip. Lead time is required for the visas, and the task is complex. A visa company will help with some countries, and other applications we’ll handle ourselves. We plan to leave tomorrow morning and cycle onward to Dunhuang.
P.S. This striking fortification is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it obviously should be. It is doubtful it will soon be one, since it clearly defines a historical boundary to the Han Empire that does not include Tibet and Xinjiang.