Qinghai: Canola Flower Season!

I had been hyping up this reunion for the longest time- between Ana and Monique (from Taipei) – and Monica and Fox (based in Lanzhou). We talked about this for months and months, as the girls met years ago in Thailand and hadn’t seen each other again since.

Our plan was to hangout for a weekend in Lanzhou before I took the girls from Taiwan on a trip to Qinghai

As luck would have it, the first evening Ana and Monique arrived in the city, I was about to have dinner with my relatives, Fay and Ma Qiang. They were thrilled to invite the girls to eat 涮羊肉 (thin-sliced, rapid-boiled mutton) with us, so the girls hustled into a tuk-tuk(ish) car-thing to get to the restaurant ASAP.

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Ana, awkwardly sequestering herself away from the rest of us. im holding a bowl of San Pai Tai tea, a Lanzhou specialty

It was all very, very delicious, and I’m always amused at the ways in which various social circles can collide and expand in the most unexpected circumstances!

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lamb on the left, pickled sweet garlic below (next to the cilantro), tofu and veggies to the right

The next day, we meet with Fox and Monica and do the foodie tour of Lanzhou – the beef noodle soup, the fermented barley milk tea, the kebabs and baked bing bread.

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hugs all around

We talked about Monica and Fox’s impending wedding, my very important and unorthodox role as best man, and the generally crazy-but-hilarious lives we have all been living and enjoying in Taipei and Lanzhou.

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enjoying fermented barley milk tea
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kebab 羊肉串, baked bread 烤饼, and potato slices 土豆片. everything in lanzhou is so salty/ spicy/ sour, and im kind of over it. but the girls from taipei love this stuff, since the food in taipei is much lighter in flavor

The next day, Ana, Monique and I set off to BianDuKou via express train to see the canola flowers there. Mid July is the perfect time to see these flowers in full blossom, and if you are lucky you will see an unbelievable site- miles and miles of flowers that blanket the earth in a sea of yellow and gold petals.

Fullscreen capture 7272017 123536 AM.bmpIt turns out, this year MenYuan (not Biandukou, where we were headed) had the highest concentration of canola flowers, so the view from the train was the best of all! I’ll be back next year…

At Bian Du Kou, stopped to take some gorgeous photos of wildlife and nature at its finest– with mountains in the background, some Chinese tourists in the front (dressed for the occasion), and a field of flowers throughout!

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some girls came ready for a photoshoot!

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Here are some yurts we could have rented for a night, if we had more time
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Happy visitors in BianDuKou

The field mice in the grasslands were so cute! But, they have a devastating impact on the soil here and lead to soil erosion throughout the region.

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sheep crossing

The next day, we headed to Qinghai lake from Xining. Our driver Stone was a French and English speaking tour guide who gave us ample time to stop at the best sites- including a Tibetan temple midway between the provincial capital and the lake. I was able to take some incredible photos there…

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prayer flags set up behind the temple. Tibetan prayers are written on each flag, and as the wind blows, the prayers are carried away into the wind
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“give me serious”

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We stopped to have lunch at another grassland, and ate outside yogurt and nang bread outside the yurt of a nomadic family.

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lunch break!! picnic in the middle of nowhere

We also fed their baby goats – poor thing is tied to a post – that quickly sucked down a bottle of milk.

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Finally, after a long day of driving we reached the lake in the mid afternoon. Qinghai Lake is impressive for being the largest body of water in China, and in July it is even more impressive with much of its circumference colored by a ring of gold canola flowers several kilometers wide.

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Vogue Qinghai

This of course, makes for another great photo session!

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squatting in a field of canola flowers (not pooping- i promise!)

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Interesting fact: Tibetans do not have a culture of eating fish, so the massive fish population in Qinghai Lake had never been harvested by humans for centuries, or maybe millennia. During the great leap forward, when the rest of China suffered from great famine and disaster, large-scale fishing in Qinghai Lake sustained the entire population of Xining and spared hundreds of thousands of people from starvation.

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Disclaimer: All opinions shared in this blog are the author’s own, and do not represent the views of any outside organization, including but not limited to the United States Government and the Peace Corps.

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