Wild west adventureUpdated: 2012-09-06
By Gan Tian ( China Daily )
Colored stripes on the surface of rocks and sandstone look like huge waves in Zhangye Danxia Geology Park. He Jinghua / For China Daily
Jiayuguan is at the western end of the Great Wall. Dong Naide / Asia News Photo
Gansu province has plenty to interest visitors, from the Dunhuang Grottoes and Yellow River, to the unique sights and sounds of its cities, Gan Tian discovers.
Gansu province has something for everyone, from breathtaking snow-capped mountains, vast deserts and grasslands, to cityscapes and historic sites. My "wild west" adventure was a six-day bus trip that began in the provincial capital of Lanzhou, headed further northwest and ended up in Dunhuang, a major hub on the ancient Silk Road.
Day 1: The Yellow River
I arrive in Gansu's provincial capital at noon after a two-and-a-half hour drive from the airport, which gives me a first impression of this western province: rolling brown hills and herds of cattle grazing on the grasslands.
Lanzhou is one of the few Chinese cities where visitors can experience the Yellow River. It is the country's second-longest river and often referred to as "the cradle of Chinese civilization".
The river runs through the heart of the city and the best way to enjoy it is take a walk along the riverbank when night falls.
It has an almost coastal feel with the neon lights, skyscrapers, a fresh and pleasant breeze, and mouth-watering barbecues.
Day 2: Lanzhou noodles
Dunhuang Grottoes is a treasure trove in the desert of Gansu province. Cao Zhizheng / Asia News Photo
No visit to Lanzhou would be complete without tasting the popular handmade noodles.
Locals recommend Jinding (0931-8466-178) and Mazilu (0931-8450-505) restaurants, while many of the vendors on street corners serve up a surprisingly good dish.
Wandering around Tianshui Nanlu, I finally choose a vendor for breakfast and receive my first lesson on the city's noodles.
A friendly waiter tells me there are five basic elements that make a perfect bowl: beef soup, radish, red pepper, coriander and, of course, noodles.
After a brief stay in Lanzhou, I continue my journey to Zhangye, a six-hour bus ride.
It is about 8 pm when I arrive but there is still bright daylight.
I was told Zhangye is a typical kind of western city, with narrow roads, traditional buildings and temples.
A 30-meter-tall wooden tower in the plaza in the south of the city is a good spot to get a bird's-eye view of the environs.