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Xiahe (夏河) is a very nice Tibetan town in southern Gansu. The town is mainly on the northern side of the beautiful Daxia River valley. The main attraction of the town is Labrang Monastery, which is one of the main academic monasteries outside of Lhasa. Although a small city, countless numbers of pilgrims come every year to do the kora, which is 3 kilometres long and has over 1,174 prayer wheels, around Labrang Monastery. This is a great town to visit if you do not have the time or money to make it deeper into Tibet.
Labrang Monastery was a scholastic monastery built in 1709 and at its height had over 4,000 monks. Due to the events of the 20th century the numbers have dwindled to about 1,200 monks. The monastery is home to several lamas and to 6 colleges, which ranges from the college of Esoteric Buddhism to Medicine and astrology. There is even a college on Law. Labrang Monastery is one of the few monasteries in the world where a monk can gain a Geshe Degree, which is the highest degree a Buddhist monk can earn. There is also a small nunnery attached to the monastery.
The only way to visit the interior of the schools is on a tour lead by a monk in English every day at 10:00am and 3:00pm. Other than that, the monastery is completely open and free to wonder around. Many monks would be glad to sit and chat with you, so go and make a new friend. The monastery dominates the center portion of the town and is impossible to miss.
Tarzang Lake is a nice lake located about 25 kilometres from town. This lake makes for a nice day trip and there are some nice hikes up the valley. Remember that when you go hiking away from the lake there might be nomads herding yaks or other animals. The easiest way to get there is to hire a taxi for the day and have the driver wait for you. Another option is to cycle but there is a very step incline on the access road to the lake.
Hiking is another option in the area. Just follow one of the canyons up around the town and they will get empty quite fast. Just remember to bring enough water with you and rocks to throw at feral dogs. People and herders do live up in the canyons so you might get invited into some ones home for a glass of yak butter tea and tsampa.
On the third day of the Tibetan new year (Losar) the Monlam Festival starts and on the 13th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar the great thangka is shown. This thangka is 30 metres by 20 metres and is displayed on a hill over looking the monastery. Celebrations continue with Cham dancers and many other activities for three more days.
The second month of the Tibetan calendar also brings many festivals celebrating the coming of spring, which can be quite interesting.
Gannan Xiahe Airport is an airport being constructed in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province, China. It is located in Xiahe County, 72 kilometers from the county seat and 56 kilometers from Hezuo, the capital of Gannan Prefecture. Construction started in September 2010.
Xiahe Bus Station is about 1.5 kilometres away from the entrance to the monastery and the main concentration of guesthouses. Turn right when you walk out bus stations front door.
From Lanzhou there are two morning buses and two afternoon buses (6:30am, 7:30am and 2:00pm, 3:00pm) leave from Lanzhou Nanzhan (Lanzhou South Bus Terminal). The trip takes 3 and a half hours. From Linxia there are half hourly buses during the day, arriving in Xiahe about 2 hours later. From Langmusi there is one bus a day leaving at 2:00pm, taking 4 hours. There is sometimes one in the morning too. From Tongren, there is one bus per day leaving at 8:00am taking 3 hours along a scenic road.
There are also half hourly buses to Hezuo and one bus a day to Xining.
The bus station is a little far on the east side of town and is worth the 3 RMB taxi ride.
The town runs along the river and is pretty easy to walk to everywhere near the Labrang Monastery.
Being a pretty small town the best option for drinking is in the restaurants.
|Overseas Tibetan Hotel||Renmin Xi Jie, 77 Hao||Hotel||87|
There are several internet bars located on the main street between Labrang Monastery and the bus station. There is also a small internet bar located just south of the Tara Guesthouse.
See also International Telephone Calls
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. 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. The post office is located on the south side of the main road half between Labrang Monastery and the bus station.
There are a few small banks on the main street that will exchange US dollars but none of them will cash travelers checks. International ATM service may be limited.
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