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The Amnye Machen Entries, Part 5

Here’s yet another entry from my journal on our Amnye Machen trek. If you’re not a fan of diving head-first into the middle of a story with zero context, read Part IPart IIPart III and...sigh...Part IV first. If you’re into that kind of thing, however, by all means please dive away. Judgement-free zone here.

Date: 7/16/14

Location: Golog to Xining

Elevation: 2,275 m (7,464 ft)

How to: Get Your Way in China

After delicious nirou mian (beef noodles) at a Muslim restaurant, we headed to the bus station. Our bus to Xining (provincial capital of Qinghai) was only a 16-seater. There were some shenanigans at the beginning with our driver, who was trying to collect an extra 50 yuan off of us. He claimed it was because of our bags, but it became more and more apparent that it was because of our Tibetan friends. It's such a shame how little shame the majority of people in this country have when it comes to blatant discrimination toward the minorities in China.

At one point in the drive, we passed through a small town where the guide had studied Tibetan philosophy and grammar. He also pointed out a flat spot between two small mountains where sky burials are often held, and in fact, we saw a monk preparing the area with a rather large, person-shaped bundle beside him. That's intense.

This is going to be a bus journey for the books. It's supposed to be from 10:30 to 6:30, but I think we'll be early because the driver is a fucking lunatic. Taking cliffside turns at ridiculous speeds, overtaking around blind corners and general Chinese driving behavior, turned up to 11. The guy behind me is constantly being sick due to the tight turns and the woman across the aisle is clutching a plastic bag full of her kid's vile concoction of piss and liquid shit.

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We're also a bit worried about what will happen once we get to Xining. We've worked it out, and if we end the tour now, we are actually owed money. I'm almost positive and at peace with the fact that we won't see that money again, and quite confident Jamyang will ask us to pay the full amount even though we've already overpaid with our deposit and money for the first half of the trip. Which isn't happening. We will be raising the several issues with the trip that conflicted with the description on the website, and even with the itinerary that we were initially given. I'm almost positive heated words will be exchanged.

And...they were. We arrived at Lete Youth Hostel and Jamyang didn't say as much as a "hello" and was instead heatedly talking to our guide and another employee. Everyone looked uncomfortable, even the monk. We told him that today would be the last day of the tour. Then he had the nerve to say that we still owed 2400 kuai for miscellaneous things, which we knew wasn't true.

I handed him my sheet of calculations and told him that he actually owed us money. He looked at it with a furrowed brow before finally saying, "This is okay..." He had nothing else to say. He knew we weren't stupid at this point. We demanded that he pay the guide what was owed to him, but instead he got really pissed and began shouting at him. We vowed to pay the guide out of our own pockets later.

He made up some bullshit about hotels nearby not accepting foreigners - against Chinese law if that's true - and had another employee take us to some place way out southwest in the city. We were a 20 minute taxi from anything interesting. The caveat - although we were pretty infuriated at this point - was that it was really nice.

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After simmering down, we took a 16 kuai taxi back to Lete for pizza and met an English woman and her daughter. We had some laughs and told them that we would help them work out bus tickets to Xiahe (Labrang) tomorrow. We devoured the pizza like people who had had nothing but noodles for a while, and hit the town.

We had a couple of drinks at Lete, then went to this place across the street. We tried to order gin and tonics but got straight gin over ice instead. I just wanted alcohol that wasn't baijiu, so I didn't care too much. Then we found the XOXO bar, which actually had Delirium and Chimay beers (although in a whiskey glass with ice) and chatted the night away about our adventure before heading back.

We stayed in Xining for about week, visiting neighboring monastery towns and stuffing our faces with Western food. We did meet up with the guide and monk again before leaving and had a lovely time outside of the confines of our tour. I think my exercise in narcissism is complete and will not bore you with 8 more days of journal entries.

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