Asia | China | North West | Xiahe – Xiahe
According to my guidebook, Xiahe is a little heaven of Buddhist monastery and gorgeous mountain scenery without much taint from tourism. The severely deforested hills surrounding the town were studded with scar-like shrubs. The only road in town was under construction, and blinding dirt storms filled the air whenever a car passed by. Yup, that’s some sort of heaven.
We found a hotel bordering the Tibetan part of town with a European style café that served Nepalese food among other Chinese and western fares. The music of Abba, U2, and Bob Marley alternated in the CD player. It turned out to be my favorite place in town, mainly because I could breath without blocking my lungs with dust.
After a much-missed dessert of candied apple, we went to Labrang Monastery, one of the six largest Tibetan monasteries in China. The golden brass roofs shimmered under the early evening sun, but bleak hills and the flat layout of the enormous complex detracted from the grandeur, and I regretted leaving Langmusi too early. Arranged in perfectly straight lines, rows of small mud walled houses with locked doors in the monks’ living quarter reminded me of the rows of small brick dwellings at Auschwitz. Fortunately, the red robes and the occasional laughter of some young monks playing marbles added a touch of liveliness and charm to the quiet solemnity.