the original title of this blog was going to be:
amy's first trip to the p.s.b.
and would have continued something like this:
on the second day of a three day trip, amy and her friend heidi arrived at the town of xiahe (also known as labrang), a small town in gansu province. they took a hired car there, driven by a funny tibetan man. while in labrang, the girls hoped to check out the monastery, the prayer path, and maybe eat a yak burger before getting a night's rest at one of the many hostels in town. the next day they planned to catch an early bus to lanzhou, the capital of gansu province.
none of this was to occur though. five minutes after driving through a military blockade, the girls found themselves surrounded by people, all (kindly) telling them that they could not stay in town. used to crowds and false (or changeable) information, they paid their driver and made their way into a nearby hostel, where the reception woman regretfully told them that she could not house them for the night because xiahe was currently closed to weiguorens (foreigners). still feeling like there was some way they could work around this inconvenience, amy and heidi found their way back onto the street, eyes open for another hostel in which to plead their case. really- they just wanted to stay for one night.
back on the street, a mere 10 minutes after arriving in town, the police were rolling up- two cars waiting for them. an english speaking officer addressed them: "my dear gentle ladies, please get into the car, we would like to ask you some questions at our office". so they hopped in. really though, who closes a county to foreigners? china. that's who.
the p.s.b. was very nice- they just asked a few questions that the girls answered vaguely, took some information from their passports, explained that xiahe was currently closed to foreigners and that there really was no way that they could stay (even for the night) and then drove them out of town. on the way out, their english speaking officer pointed out the heavy military presence in the town (columns of soldiers marching in unison, in riot gear), but clarified that they were there just for precaution. really, everything else looked very peaceful and orderly and holiday-ish: the stores were closed for chinese new year, the children were out playing together, and monks were walking around in droves. the girls were dropped off outside of the military-manned checkpoint and were told to wait for the next bus- it would take them to linxia. "please, come back in the summer", their officer said, "we would be glad for you to visit us". and, if they can make it, they will.
and that was all. it was a little nerve-wracking, but there was really no way we could have known. they just closed the town at the start of chinese new year- a precaution taken because of the rioting that occurred in march in this region of china. and linxia had amazing meat sticks, so it was fine. i am looking forward to making a trip to labrang in the summer. even though i was thrown out of town, i was totally invited back.
our three day trip went something like this:
xining to tongren- bus
tongren to our friend's village- car
back to tongren- car
tongren to xiahe- car
xiahe to linxia- bus
linxia to lanzhou- bus
lanzhou to xining- train
there will be photos later.