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In far south of Ningxia Province is the marvelous town of Guyuan (固原). This decent sized town rests deep in the desert and is surrounded by several small sustainable Hui villages. This is one of the poorest areas in China and foreigners rarely visit it. Which is interesting because one of China’s best hidden treasures, Xumi Shan, is about 50 km northwest of town. The town itself is very nice with sections of the city wall still intact and some parts have been incorporated into a city park. This park also has a small amusement park. The view from the top of the city wall is nice and the county museum is nearby, which has some dinosaurs.
The town is small and everything a traveller needs is within walking distance of the bus station.
Xumi Shan (须弥山) ticket 30 RMB, is located about 50 km northwest of town. This is one of the best sights in China. There are over 300 Buddhist statues and grottoes in 132 caves scattered across a mountainside and up some canyons. These relics are over 1400 years old and very well preserved with some of the original paint and gold gliding still on them. The colossal Maitreya Buddha statue is over 19 meters high! The complex is worth walking around and takes at least half a day to explore. Wear good hiking boots and comfortable clothes for hiking, because the stairs and trails are extremely steep.
There is no regular transport to Xumi Shan so it is best to hire a round trip taxi from Guyuan for about 190 RMB. The drive to Xumi Shan is stunning making it worth avoiding the toll road. Little Hui towns and ruined cities scatter the countryside making for a great glimpse into lives of people in the countryside. There are several abandoned cities on the drive, which only have the city walls visible from the road. If you ask your driver kindly he will stop and let you explore.
Guyuan County Museum (固原博物馆) daily 8am-noon 2pm-6pm, is a great museum according to locals. When visited in December 2007 the museum was not open to the public and was being remodeled. According to some locals there are great dinosaurs inside and the museum is better then the museum in Yinchuan.
Being a Muslim area all major and minor Islamic holidays are celebrated.
China has three "Golden Week" holidays per year. People get a mandatory two or three days off work for each holiday, and workers' companies can grant them the rest of the week off, making each holiday a total of 7 days. As you can imagine, having almost 1.4 billion people with the same days off can make travelling at these times arduous to say the least.
Travelling during the Spring Festival/Chinese New Year is incredibly difficult. Chinese New Year is China's Christmas, so the millions of migrant workers and students flood back to their home towns. Everybody else takes the opportunity to spend their hong bao (gifts of money traditionally given at CNY) and go travelling. Most of the time, since you are only allowed to purchase train tickets 6 days in advance and must be present in the city of origin, sometimes only standing room tickets are available. Be aware! The Spring Festival is undoubtedly the busiest time for the Chinese transportation system. Flying will avoid the crowded trains, but book early and expect to pay higher prices. All the main tourist attractions will be crawling with tourists (worse than usual), so unless you like crowds, it's best to avoid it altogether.
Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, so the date changes each year. The Chinese New Year/Spring Festival holiday is 7 days long and usually starts on New Year's Eve.
The two other national holidays are October 1st, National Day, celebrating the founding of the People's Republic of China and May 1st, which is International Labor Day. Almost all Chinese get the two holidays off and many take the opportunity to travel. If you want to avoid the crowds, fly, but it should get a lot less busy towards the end of the week.
Guyuan is in desert climate. The area is very dry and the winters can get quite cold. Sandstorms can occur in the spring and summer.
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The easiest way to get to Guyuan is from Yinchuan. There are buses every half hour from 8 am to 6 pm for 60 RMB. The bus ride is 4 to 6 hours and there is one bathroom stop. There are also several buses to nearby towns in Ningxia and Gansu including one daily bus to Lanzhou.
Guyuan is on the Zhongwei-Baoji rail line which has trains to Xi'an (eight hours), Zhongwei, Yinchuan (six hours) and Lanzhou (three and half hours). Sleeper tickets are impossible to get and most of the trains leave in the middle of the night. It would just be easier to take the bus.
Taxi is pretty good for getting to nearby sights like Xumi Shan.
There are small minibuses going around town.
Guyuan is pretty small so walking around is the best option for transport.
There is an underground grocery store in the center of town. There are several restaurants near the bus station. There is a night market in the alley behind the bus station that extends for several blocks.
On the restaurant street there are several local watering holes. It is also possible to buy beer at most of the little stores around the bus station.
Wangba (联网) means internet bar in Chinese. Almost every town will have an internet bar or gaming center. The best way to spot an internet bar is to look for the 网(ba) character, which means net, and large digitized images of computer game characters. Often, there will be a sign saying Green Power in English at the entrance. Most gaming centers cost about RMB3 an hour. You prepay at the main desk and are then given a plastic card or a piece of paper. Once you are done you return the card or piece of paper and get reimbursed for the money you didn't spend. Be prepared for a place that might be dingy, basic and messy. Internet bars in China tend to get crowded starting in the late afternoon to the late evenings.
Some hotels provide access from the rooms that may or may not be free; others may provide a wireless service or a few desktops in the lounge area.
Also, quite a few cafes provide free wireless Internet service. Some cafes, even provide a machine for customer use.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to China is 86. To make an international call from China, the code is 00.
When making international phone calls it is best to buy an IP card. They typically have a value of ¥100 but sometimes can be had for as little as ¥25. The cards have printed Chinese instructions, but after dialing the number listed on the card English-spoken instructions are available. As a general indication of price, a call from China to Europe lasts around 22 minutes with a ¥100 card. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are advertised to be another 20% cheaper. There is no warning before the card runs out of minutes.
If you already have a GSM 900/1800 cellphone, you can roam onto Chinese networks, but calls will be very expensive (¥12-35/minute is typical). If you're staying for more than a few days, it will usually be cheaper to buy a prepaid Chinese SIM card; this gives you a Chinese phone number with a certain amount of money preloaded. Chinese tend to avoid phone numbers with the bad-luck digit '4', and vendors will often be happy to offload these "unsellable" SIM-cards to foreigners at a discount. If you need a phone as well, prices start around ¥100/200 used/new. Chinese phones, unlike those sold in many Western countries, are never "locked" and will work with any SIM card you put in them. China's two big operators are China Mobile and China Unicom. Most SIMs sold by the two work nationwide, with Unicom allowing Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan usage as well. There is usually a surcharge of about ¥1/min when roaming outside the province you bought the SIM, and there are some cards that work only in a single province, so check when buying.
China Post (中国邮政) is the official postal service of the People's Republic of China, operated by the State Postal Bureau of the People's Republic of China (website in Chinese only), and has more details about price to send letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally. The Chinese postal service is very good. Remember that in more remote places usually only one post office in a city can handle sending international boxes or letters. Also many times it might be worth having the name of the country you are trying to send to in Chinese characters, because small town people might not know what Estonia is in English. Post offices have a striking green logo and can easily be found everywhere in the cities. They are mostly open every day (including weekends!) from 8:00am to 6:00pm, though small offices might have shorter opening times, while the bigger ones in central and touristic areas are sometimes open during evenings as well.
as well as Hien (3%)
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