Western China: Lanzhou & Xining

The Chinese celebrate many holidays over here in the east, and one of the biggest is National Holiday during the first week of every October, where Chinese patriotism abounds. You may have heard that the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival 春节, each January (or February, depending on the lunar calender) is the world’s largest annual migration of people, with over 200 million people returning home to see their families each year. Now the amount of people traveling during the National Holiday isn’t as much as New Years, but it’s probably a close 2nd! Anyways, I decided to brave it and try to find a train ticket to western China to visit some friends, and see some new places. Some of my dearest friends are out there teaching English in some more isolated areas, much more isolated than Shanghai that is. In fact, the city they live in, Baoji, has the furthest west McDonald’s in China. Once you go west of that, it’s all over! Bye bye Mickey D’s. So that’s where I wanted to go, mainly to see a part of China I’ve never been, one that still remains one of the ultimate mysteries to me and most of the western world.

As per usual, even though I went well in advance to buy a train ticket, nearly all of them were sold out, except one…..my very last choice, but I got it. So off I went to Baoji 1st……2nd stop Lanzhou, and 3rd stop Xining. Lanzhou and Xining, coincidentally, are the two most polluted cities in China, respectively, according to the World Health Organization. Though, from my perspective after being there, I’d have to say Shanghai, Beijing, and a few other cities I’ve seen are considerably more hazy. But what do I know? Although to my surprise, these two cities weren’t even close to the real chart toppers of this planet, whose air I can’t even imagine breathing. No Chinese city even came close to the top 10! Check here to see which countries scored the worst!

Aside from the pollution, it was amazing to see a completely different side to China. Minorities were abundant, and people didn’t seem to care about getting dark skin from the sun like they do in most of China. Then again, maybe all that smog is blocking the UV rays. It almost felt like I left China a bit, seeing Muslim people everywhere in traditional clothes, and Tibetan people who have very distinct features and food. Speaking of food, we ate like kings, and paid prices like paupers. It is so cheap to live there, and I really miss my days of living out in the less developed areas of China. And that is the 2nd reason I visited these lovely gems in the west, to check them out as a possible place to relocate should I desire to get out of Shanghai in the future. We met some great people, ate some amazing food, checked out a few universities for jobs, and I really got a good sense of the need they have there. They are definitely behind in development compared to their eastern counterparts, and there are tons of teaching opportunities available due to the lack of people willing to go live there. Sure it’s cold and polluted, but I’m sure it would be a grand adventure. So we’ll see, maybe someday I’ll be writing this blog from Lanzhou or Xining. Until then, here are some pics for you to enjoy.

PS If you want any info about teaching there, drop me a line, there’s literally dozens of vacancies!


  1. wow you really have some great shots here!

  2. I LOVE THE GROUP OF GUYS WATCHING THE GAME! Reminds me of going downtown QHD and seeing old dudes play their winning tiles/cards/checkers with authority haha!

  3. Note: Come on, don’t scare the crowd, Urumqi has MickeyD’s. That’s west.

    Glad you enjoyed your trip.

    Quick question. Do you have plan for the spring fest? The K fufu will visit my home(TianJin) after the Festical, we haven’t figured out the schedule yet, i’ll be home at least for 2 weeks. DK has been to my home before, that’s like 4 years ago. would be cool to have you. Thoughts?

  4. The picture of the Muslim man is really good shoot!

  5. Your photographs are amazing! It is so interesting to hear of your travels. Stay safe.

  6. If anyone wants to go see what Mike sees (Baoji included), eat what Mike eats and have your mind expanded, consider joining us as part of our two week 2012 Love China team (See http://www.Waypointchina.org). Most of us live in MA, but go to western China with anyone from any state, who is willing to go for two weeks. We know where to eat and sleep in Baoji, we met Mike G. in Qinhuangdoa and we know DK! Musicians and jugglers welcome.

    John Rexford
    a/k/a Candice’s dad

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