Qinghai Lake/青海湖


One of the most well-known places to explore in Qinghai would undoubtedly be Qinghai Lake. It’s also one of the most congested places, depending on what time of year you go. If you go in July-August, when college students are on summer vacation, the road along the lake will be very crowded with cyclists, all vying for the same “off the beaten track” adventure…in a giant crowd of people doing the same thing. Any other time of year will be less crowded.

Should you avoid biking it altogether because of this? No! It’s a circuit that will take you around the famed salt lake in 3-4 days (depending on your speed) and will show you scenery ranging from snow-capped mountains, to herds of farm animals grazing, to nomadic Tibetans in the fields. You’ll see temples, prayer flags, and of course, the lake!

I will admit that Qinghai Lake has definitely been touched by the hand of Chinese tourism, meaning that many of the prettiest spots have been given poetic names and have entrance fees. Local Tibetans in this area are also well-tuned to the tourist part of this lake, charging people to take pictures of their sprawling fields of rapeseed flowers. There will be random spots where you can ride horses, yaks, and in the small portion with sand dunes, even sled down sand. If this sounds like too much for you, Qinghai has other areas to enjoy, but if you’re like me, you can enjoy this scenery while avoiding the slap of tourist attractions for the most part.

If you want to bike around Qinghai Lake, most start at a small town called 西海镇 (xi hai zhen) and take 3-4 days. There are also buses that go along one half of the lake, to 黑马河 (hei ma he) which is generally seen as “the sunrise spot.”

Or, you could take a gamble like me, and hitchhike. I made my way around the entire lake in 2 days purely by hitchhiking, and even lucked my way into a kind Tibetan family on my way back who took me for a spin in a roadside temple. All things considered, Qinghai Lake might not be the natural getaway you’d hope for, but it’s certainly beautiful nonetheless.


这么多人说明你要放弃把青海湖绕一圈吗?并不是!这一条路会化3、4 天时间把这个有名的盐湖绕一圈(但是也要看你的速度)。你会经过雪山,大群野物,还有藏族农民。你也会看到经幡,寺庙,等等。




I’m Back! 回来了!

As my previous post suggested, I went a-traveling this summer to Qinghai and Tibet Autonomous Region. It was an incredible trip that left me with deep impressions and a desire to go back. (And if you wish to read more in depth, check out my other blog here!)

I’ve actually been back for several weeks now, but have been slow at updating. I promise, more content will be coming! Until then, enjoy your summer!




My next trip! 我下一站


I’m going to take a break from listing favorite places and write about more pressing matters: my trip to Qinghai and Tibet Autonomous Region next month!

As I’ve mentioned before in other posts, I only have 4 more provinces to travel to in China before I’ve been to them all! In the fall, I’ll be going to China’s northeast, but for the summer, it’s out west. I’ll be experiencing the world’s highest altitude and stunning scenery, and of course, will come back with information and tips to share.

Here’s a breakdown of the trip.

First off, to get to Qinghai, I’ll be taking a 30-hour train from Shanghai to Xining, Qinghai’s capital city. I’ll be in Shanghai for a night because of a literary magazine launch. As the train rolls out west, though, I’ll see the landscape change and enter the Tibetan Plateau.

Since Qinghai is home to Tibetan people, and is historically Tibet, much of what I want to do in this province is related to Tibetan Buddhism. I don’t have many specifics nailed down for the 10 days or so that I’ll be here, but there are three things I want to do: Find the salt lakes, go to a Tibetan village, and go hiking. From what I’ve read online, all of this is extremely doable. There’s the Chaka Salt Lake, which is just to the North/Northwest of Qinghai Lake (the huge one), and there are national parks, and there are several Tibetan villages, including Tongren, to name just one. In addition there is the gorgeous Amnye Machen Mountain, which if I can’t hike around, can at least admire from a distance.
For this part of the trip, my travel will be cheap like the kind I’m used to. I’ll be staying in hostels, taking buses, perhaps even hitch-hiking. But that’s just fine with me!

Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)
To get to Lhasa, I’ll be taking the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which has been dubbed “The World’s Highest Railroad,” because of the altitude. While there are flights going into Lhasa, it’s better to go in slowly because 1) the scenery is amazing, and 2) it helps you adjust better to the high altitude.

As for my time in TAR, I will be on a much clearer schedule, because I’ll be going with a small group tour.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of group tours, but traveling alone in TAR as a foreigner is simply not the most economical idea. This is because all foreign travelers in Tibet must have a guide and a driver, since we are not allowed to take pubic transportation outside of Lhasa. Likewise, there are areas that foreigners are discouraged from visiting. Because having a guide and a driver can get pretty expensive pretty quickly, I’m joining a group to make it more affordable. That being said, the two company I’m going with (Budget Tibet Tours) seem to have a good itinerary in mind. Tibet Highland Tours also has a very good reputation and offers good services, from what I’ve read.

(By the way, if you want to know a lot more about traveling in Tibet, check out this website. The writer is very friendly.)

The trip I want to take will be an 8 or 9-day journey from Lhasa (where we will see the Potala Palace, which in itself is enthralling) all the way to the Mount Everest Base Camp. (“OMG you’re climbing Mt. Everest??” Hell no! I’m not a mountaineer and would need many years of training to even think of that — this is a “poking the base of the mountain” trip). The journey will take us past glaciers, the world’s highest monastery, and more gorgeous scenery.

Oh, and while I’m in Lhasa, I also plan on riding the World’s Highest Ferris Wheel. (Again, because of the altitude.) It has nothing to do with Buddhism, but seems just odd enough to be great.

Anyway, I’m getting pumped for my trip, and will share details as they come/I hit the road. As for now, that’s just a glimpse of where I’ll be in less than a month!