Shapotou, Zhong Wei, Ning Xia, China
The adventure started off a bit rocky, with me fainting in the Xi’an airport (I had just barely started recovering from Dengue Fever, but didn’t want to forego the trip). The next day, however, was perfect!
We spent the first night in Xi’an, then began the full-day journey to Zhong Wei by flight, train, bus. Zhong Wei was the coolest small town city in which I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying! The daunting Communism-laden square flooded in red lights with a gigantic statue of Mao, the nearby carnival-like atmosphere of market shoppers, street performers & vendors, and the silent zooming of motorbikes all added to the festive energy of the city. At night, the town lights up in dozens upon dozens of Karaoke bars, more outfitted to look like Vegas clubs, and is filled with smells of BBQ chicken and fried whatnots.
Shapotou Scenic Spot is a desert theme park about 20min. from our hotel in Zhongwei. It turned out to be more expensive than expected, but still fairly cheap. You can buy a one-day entrance or if you stay at the Shapotou Desert Hotel (pictured below), entrance to the East side is free. The place offers dune sliding, Jeep off-roading, camel rides, sheep hide boating, bungee jumping & more. If you venture beyond the activities area, you can hike up to the beginning of the Great Wall or go on a 1-2 day trek through the Tengger desert.
Here are some photos to show you what it’s like:
From Xi’an, fly to Yinchuan Airport in the Ning Xia province. You can then take a taxi to the train station, buy a ticket for Zhongwei, then get ready for the 3-4hour ride. Once in Zhongwei, you can book a hotel on the main square (walkable) or take a taxi/local bus to Shapotou. Major FYI: Make sure to print out any hotel names, directions, places, etc. in Chinese! No one can speak or read English. (We were extremely lucky to run into a college student and English teacher on the train who helped us to navigate a bit, but that is rare.)
Through the Tengger
The Great Wall
The amazing part of visiting this section of the Great Wall was that there were zilch other people (except for the few park employees) the entire journey. Think about having the Great Wall of China all to yourself for an entire day! It is reality!
Zhong Wei and Yin Chuan cities
Zhong Wei was also very unique because I had never been to a city where there were absolutely zero other foreigners. ZERO. The sight of my tall, hairy boyfriend stopped people dead in their tracks, no exaggeration. Even motorists would drive by whipping their heads around to stare (while still driving). Another funny moment: Our taxi driver pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway, turned to me and asked for a picture. I thought he wanted to take a picture of us two foreigners, but he got out of the car, grabbed my boyfriend’s hand and gave the camera to me. I guess my Chinese appearance isn’t so exciting to him, bwah.
Yinchuan is a much larger city than Zhong Wei, yet lacks the excitement of the latter. The city is fun to see by foot, however, and you’ll find tons of great food. It is a largely Muslim population, so give the 8 Treasures tea (Ba Bao Cha) a taste and you’ll be sure to consequently buy 10 bags of it to bring back home. Check it out here: http://www.echinacities.com/Yinchuan/city-guide/Top-5-Must-Try-Local-Delicacies-in-Yinchuan.
To try the raved about delicacies of the region, we went to Yingbin Lou Islamic Restaurant. Really popular, long waiting times, but tons of fun trying to order such unknown-to-us foods. The desert buns were the best! Address to the place: http://www.chinahighlights.com/yinchuan/
I’ll add more about our trip soon!
*Some of these photos are mine and some belong to Vincent Millet.