Xiahe – an update on access for foreigners.
Following my article about the Tibetan towns of Xiahe and Tongren being closed to the outside world, I got the following update from Oswald, a Dutch traveller who managed to get through:
I read on your website you wanted to know if people were in the region and whether it was possible to enter Xiahe. I just ended my holidays in China with my friend Arne and we have been so lucky to visit Xiahe (we arrived on Sunday the 12th of October).
Instead of taking the more often used route through Lanzhou, we travelled from Beijing to Xining. When we arrived there we heard that we couldn’t get bus-tickets because foreigners were not allowed to travel to Xiahe.
When we insisted we wanted to go to Xiahe, this guy we met in Xining, a translator called ****** *** (name removed – ThatDanny), said he’d try to call some guys with a van and 5 minutes later two guys in a minivan showed up to bring us to Xiahe (6,5 hour drive) for 700 Yuan. It was such an amazingly beautiful road trip! We were not certain if this was a clever idea because we did not know whether we could trust these guys or if we would be stopped at the Gansu border. Everything worked out and we arrived after a breathtaking trip.
When we arrived in the village there was not a foreign soul there! People stared at us as if they hadn’t seen any foreigners for some time….which appeared to be true…
Apparently some German tourists were removed from the village about a week before and the army had been in the village since then.
We spoke to a Dutch woman in a shop who had been living there for 8 years with a Tibetan guy and she told us no foreigners were around for days and that we had been lucky to get through. At the Tibetan overseas hotel there were almost no rooms filled because of a lack of tourists.
The Dutch woman told us that the guy who was concerned with foreign affairs in Xiahe was usually not around on Sundays so we could be lucky and not be kicked out. “Keep a low profile “she suggested…that was a bit impossible both of us being Caucasian and 1,90 and 2,05 m tall!
We bought bus tickets the same day in case we would be stopped so we could tell the police “hey, we already have tickets to leave, so don’t bother throwing us out”. That did not happen.
It was incredible to visit this place although people were a bit hesitant to discuss what had happened (which is of course completely understandable).
The next day we met this guy from Switzerland who was travelling alone and arrived by bus. He hadn’t had to much trouble travelling to Xiahe. Maybe because he spoke Chinese quite well. I think he also got a visa for Tibet so that may have helped, I am not sure.
My impression was that people were not eager to talk (or even be seen) with us but I am not sure if this is true. Everyone we met didn’t want us to take their photo which seemed to me to be strange at first. Only a few older monks did not mind about that.
When we arrived later in Guilin and Yangshuo I tried to find on the internet what had happened in Xiahe but all sites on these kinds of subjects (including your site) were blocked so I did not get to read a lot (only the first lines i could read in Google).
I am very happy we went there although somehow it did not feel really safe.
Footnote: I am pleased to report that the Chinese authorities have blocked accessed to my blog. I must be doing something right…