TRIP TO XINING, KUMBUM MONASTERY, QINGHAI, CHINA
The rather tranquil city of Xining is located on the Huangshui River and is the capital of Qinghai Province in north-western China. Gansu Province in the northwest of China is one of the least populated provinces in China. Xining itself is located in a fertile valley at 2300m above sea level and is often referred to as the "Gateway to Tibet". Directly west of Xining rises the rough Tibetan plateau with the seemingly endless grassland and the snow-covered mountain peaks in the distance.
Due to its location, Xining was an important trading town on the Hexi Corridor and thus achieved considerable prosperity during the heydays of the Sild Road. The Hexi Corridor was the only possible passage on the Silk Road to the west between the massive Qilian Mountains to the south and the unforgiving, barren desert landscape to the north.
West of Xining is the Qinghai Lake, also called Koko-Nor. The Qinghai Lake is one of the biggest saltlakes in China and located at 3195m above sea level. The area around the Qinghai Lake is mostly flat and is well suited for extended bike tours.
The main reason for a trip to Xining is the Tibetan Kumbum Monastery, also called Ta'er Monastery. The Kumbum Monastery near Xining is one of the most important monasteries outside Tibet. The place where the Kumbum Monastery stands is considered the birthplace of Tsongkapa, the founder of the yellow cap sect (Gelugpa) in Tibetan Buddhism. The Kumbum Monastery is therefore an important pilgrimage place for believers from Tibet, Qinghai and Mongolia. The Kumbum Monastery is located about 26km southwest of Xining.
The city of Xining has an airport with a rather limited number of flights to most major cities in China. Xining is connected to the Chinese high-speed rail network: Lanzhou can be reached in about 2 hours and Urumqi in about 10 hours by high-speed train. Xining is also a popular starting point for a train journey to Lhasa, capital of Tibet. The journey by train from Xining to Lhasa takes about 20 hours.