Sunday, August 5, 2007

Scratch My Yak*

One administrative matter to clear up right away. In China, it is difficult to view comments posted to the blog. So in order for us to appreciate your pithy and witty responses, we have to moderate comments, which means we approve them before they go up. Sorry for the delay, but it is the only way we can see what you write.

Back to reporting. So Friday night, following our great wall triumphs, we rewarded ourselves with China-style massages and a delicious dinner (highlights of which included pork with tofu skin and scallions, duck rolls, pork buns like sloppy joes and this amazingly smelly and yummy fermented mung bean paste spread thing). The next morning, up bright and early, we were off to the Beijing airport for our flight to Langzhou.

Points of hilarity from the flight included an incomprehensible live auction and constant updates of "time at origin" and "time at destination." We flew on an airline that operates exclusively within China, and China is all one time zone. Naturally. Upon arrival in Langzhou we met our guide, Michael, and our smiley gentle giant of a driver, Mr. Zhou. We did not, thankfully, stop in Langzhou, which from what we read in our books and saw from the windows, offered little in the way of tourism or color or really anything. Except a population of 3 million, of course.

The next stop was our trip to the Buddhist groto in a tin can on buoys across the Yellow River that we blogged about yesterday. Built during the Tang Dynasty, the groto was constructed around 1 600 years ago. Buddhas ranging in size from a few inches to over 70 feet were carved in the massive cliffs that rose above the river. Like many things in China, a huge number of the Buddhas were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and many buried forever when the government flooded the river to make way for a hydroelectric dam (or something like that).

After fording the Yellow River we hopped back into our van for the ride to our next stopover city Xiahe, a small (i.e., a zillion people) city of Tibetan monks in Gansu. The scenery and road on the way there were breathtaking and dramatic. Our arrival in Xiahe did not go as smoothly; our hotel had given away our rooms. Fortunately, they had one last "dormitory style" room with four beds available. Josh didn't know what fun was until he got to share a room with EB, Amy and Jon. After settling in, we ventured out for dinner and our first -- but not last -- taste of yak. As Mao once said, "They're real, and the're yaktacular."

This morning we were up and out early as usual, crusing the streets (ok, street) of Xiaha. We had some tasteless fried something or other (yak?), spent some time sniffing around a tea shop, and generally people watched. A quick breakfast at our luxury dormitory and we were off to the Labrang Monastery. Built in 1710, the monastery is the biggest Tibetan Buddhist monastery outside of Tibet. We learned a bit about buddhism at breakfast, and a bit more on the tour guided by an english-speaking monk, but it seems we all could use a refresher. Or fresher. Anyway, despite a slightly larger crop of tourists than we've found elsewhere (sunday outing to the monastery in the middle of nowhere is all the rage), the visit was a hit. We saw some beautiful temples, accented by the already striking mountain scene, and even had a chance to visit the main prayer hall where hundreds of monks were chanting their sutras. The monks range from age 5 (um, adorable) to old, and all wear deep crimson robes. Apparently the extra-super-special monks wear yellow but we didn't spot any of those. As a consolation of sorts, we did see some monks exchanging cell phone numbers.

Next, our guide arranged for us to eat lunch with a Tibetan family in their home (slash tent). It would be redundant to say it was yaklicious, but really it was. We started with yak milk, then learned to make (and ate) yak butter balls (called sampa). Then we had yak baozi, yak with eggplant, yak with noodles, yak with green beans, and yak with cabbage. We finished off the meal with a soup of yak stock and cucumber. Needless to say, we've only seen one live yak and can only assume it's in a state of permanent lactation and terror.

After an afternoon of street-wandering and tea-drinking, we're off to see the nightlife. More soon - next stop, further from civilization in Langmu Si.

*Note: "Scratch My Yak" is the name by which the Herczeg family has historically known Yatzee.


Kathleen said...

...mmmmmmmmmm... yaaaaaaaaaaaak ....

Kim said...

This is perhaps my most favorite post to date. Thank you, Yaksters.

aries_mom said...

Your description of your "yaklicious" meal--oy vey!And your vision of the last yak left standing had me in tears.
Obviously China has its moments and you are experiencing them all.

alice said...

Lactation? I think you meant yaktation. Amateurs.

Katie Marie said...

I feel like I'm playing the Oregon Trail: Asian Edition! Miss and kiss!