Today I have Joella from Paper Crane Stories here talking about a very special place that few tourists make it to. Through her blog, I followed Joella on lots of adventures through China while she was based in Beijing (she’s actually lived abroad on and off for over 9 years!) so we’re really getting advice from an expert here today!
Xiàhé is the Chinese name and Labrang is the Tibetan name. It’s in Gansu, western
Why You Need to Visit
If you are interested in learning about Tibetan culture, while technically remaining in Mainland China, then this is the place for you. Although it’s just a small town, Xiàhé is a very important place for Tibetan people as it’s the home of Labrang Monastery. Nestled in a mountain valley in Gansu, the huge monastery is fascinating and attracts thousands of Tibetan pilgrims from all over the Tibetan Plateau.
You can walk the 3km kora (the pilgrimage around the monastery) or head up into the hills to enjoy the view. There are beautiful golden roofs, hundreds of colourful prayer wheels and some rather cute goats running around town. You might even end up getting roped into a football game with some young trainee monks like my husband did. Xiàhé is also a great place to try delicious Tibetan food or you can venture off for a trip into the grasslands.
How to Get There
We took a public bus from Xining, Qinghai (your hostel can advise you on up to date bus times). The bus was all part of the spirit of the journey. It took seven hours, was extremely cramped, falling apart and the bathroom break was in a field- but it certainly felt like an adventure. It was interesting to see local people stop the bus and get off in, what felt like, the middle of nowhere.
You could also venture here from Langmusi (another Tibetan town with access to jaw dropping grasslands and horse treks), which is where we headed to when we left Xiàhé. That bus was, admittedly, slightly more comfortable and only took around four hours.
Where to Stay
You should be fine turning up with no reservations and finding a place to stay. We stayed in two places. The first was Tara Guesthouse, which is extremely basic, but a real bargain for budget travellers at 40 RMB (about $6) for a room! We also stayed in Boama which was much more expensive at 160 RMB (about $25) a night for the room but it had it’s own bathroom and a huge bed.
We found prices much cheaper in person than we had previously seen online. Also, be aware that hot water is not usually available all day. Ask your hotel to let you know the times it will be available.
Getting a visa to China
Have a special place off the beaten path you’d like to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the destination and I’ll send you some questions to answer about it!