Saturday, September 17, 2016

First Views of Xiahe.


Original post date: September 17, 2016.

We arrived into Xiahe late yesterday afternoon. Eric got us checked into our hotel before leaving for the day with our driver Hu Hai Jung.  Mal and I got settled into our room, even having time to do a bit of hand laundry.  We would each pack up a few items to have laundered by the hotel.

It was still light outside when all four of us set out to explore a bit of Xiahe.  Our small guesthouse is conveniently located just around the corner from Zhaxiqi Street, pretty much the one and only street that runs through the heart of the small town.

I had hoped for a sunny day but it was not to be.  I'm also adjusting to the cooler temperatures here - am wearing warmer clothing and a few more layers.


This is a Tibetan town so it's now wonder that Xiahe reminds me of the small towns I visited on my 2007 trip to Tibet.  There is nothing pretty about this place and I would say, there is no charm either.  It's dusty and run down on the surface but just underneath, life is interesting.  We'll only be here a short while but I already know I will enjoy my time here.



Sadly, we didn't make it very far down the road.   We had walked barely a block before we happened upon the Norden Cafe.  We stepped inside to a cosy space and a small refrigerated counter filled with a few small cakes.  They looked delicious and after all this time without eating a Western style dessert, I was up for a slice. The girls were up for cups of coffee and dessert as was I.  I picked the apple cake and a cup of hot chocolate.   We walked into the next room which was filled with tables and comfy seats.   The slices of cake turned out to be generous portions so we all shared.  In the end, the apple cake was voted the best.  I don't know who the baker is but they do a decent job here.  There weren't all that many people in the cafe but I would say that given the food it serves, the Norden Cafe is definitely very traveler friendly!


We were so relaxed nibbling on cake and sipping on our hot drinks that time flew by.  We had spent nearly an hour and half here before leaving!  I have a feeling we'll be back :-)

Back at the Nirvana Hotel, we decided we were too lazy to wander back outside, in the now pouring rain, to hunt for a place for dinner so we just settled for a meal here.  The reception desk, sitting area and dining area all occupy one large room.  Knick knacks are displayed everywhere.  It feels rustic and homey all at once.


Since we had just stuffed our faces just a short while ago, no one was really hungry so we ordered a weird set of dishes to share - a bowl of tofu and vermicelli soup and my selection - French fries.


You can't go wrong with French fries and these were pretty tasty!  I don't know that they go well with tofu and vermicelli but hey, they hit the comfort food spot.


I met up for an early morning walk with Yim and Sal at 8:00a. Mal decided to stay in the room and rest. The plan was to take a stroll around town before settling in for breakfast.



We walked down the street towards the Norden Cafe and then turned onto Zhaxiqi Street where the commercial establishments are primarily located.  



A pair of nuns.

Few establishments were open for business except the bakeries and a few shops selling baked goods.  I guess this is the time of day when people buy their daily bread.



It was an incredible variety of kinds.  I never knew Tibetans were such bread lovers - I never had any bread on my trip to Tibet.  Looking at the breads I was sure some were savory and some were sweet but I had no way to tell.  Typically sweet breads will have sugar or chocolate or something to give you a clue but these were all plain on the outside.



Out of sheer curiosity, we bought some local breads to try out.


As we walked, we kept our eyes out for places to eat.  We passed by a few possible places and kept a mental note of them.  We eventually happened upon a small restaurant. The smell of the herbal soup was enticing.  There was no need for second thought.  We headed inside and entered into a very busy place - full of locals and monks eating their first meal of the day.


With Yim and Sal interpreting the words from the waiter, we ordered three bowls of beef noodles. We were used to the process by now. Order and pay up front and then get 3 tickets which we then hand over to the cook.


Sal got us our cups of tea and before we could even take our first sip, our bowls were ready for eating.


As we ate our meal, we glanced around at what other people were having, including the two friendly monks sitting next to me.  Their bowls of noodles looked absolutely delicious.  You kinda have to wonder how bad the food is at the monastery if the monks are eating here.  I didn't notice any meat in their dishes but who knows, maybe they come to town to sneak an occasional bite and perhaps get a heartier meal as well.  I don't know if the monks eat for free or not but the bowls of noodles did not cost much at all.

After spying on our fellow diners, we picked out a few dishes we liked and Yim had the waiter write down the names in Mandarin so we can order the same dishes tomorrow. Yes, we've already decided that we will return here for breakfast tomorrow.


Breakfast was a quick affair.  We have to meet back up with Eric at 9:30a and from the restaurant, it was at least a 20 minute walk back to the hotel.  Hustle!!



It was just past 9a when we arrived back at the hotel. Mal was already in the dining room, waiting for her Western style breakfast of eggs and toast to be brought to her.  I can't blame her for not wanting yet another bowl of noodles for breakfast.  Even I am approaching my limit.

By 9:30a, we were all out the door, following Eric to Labrang Monastery.