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Yushu County (玉树) is a Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province and is very hard to get to and completely worth it. The capital, which everyone just calls Yushu, is Gyêgu in Tibetan and located in a beautiful valley. Although this area has changed hands among many different rulers in the last 500 years it has still remained completely Tibetan in character, especially since 97% of the population is Tibetan. From the humming chants of monks and pilgrims to nomads with large knives hanging from their belts Yushu has plenty to offer.
The town itself are the sights and activities. Although a modern city in most ways, the people are not. In the summer time the city floods with nomads from the country side and the large monastery on the hill dominates the city skyline. In the city centre there is a huge statue to a Tibetan mythic hero (bigger then most statues of Mao). All day long along the main street you can hear the hammering of metal workers as they create new prayer wheels and other instruments of religious worship. East of the city is the largest piles of Mani Stones in the world, with over two billion stones, and is a constantly surrounded by pilgrims. West of the city there is a temple to a Tang Dynasty Princess that was the second wife to a Tibetan King. This princess helped with the early introduction of Buddhism to Tibetan culture. Other then that temple there are several small temples, monasteries and shrines around the area that are very pretty.
If your looking to do some shopping there are several shops around town that sell Tibetan handicrafts although a little more expensive then in Xining. There is one shopping mail next to the post office. Then there is an open air market, with cool Tibetan tailors, located behind the buildings on the main square.
Every July there is an annual horse festival in Yushu.
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.
In the summer expect lots of rain storms in the afternoon. Winters come early and can be very harsh. Spring and fall, although short, can be very nice.
There is no Airport at this time.
The easiest way to get to Yushu is taking a 17-hour sleeper bus to and from Xining. There is also day buses that go to and from Xining that leave at 6:00am. You can also take buses to/from the smaller towns in the area. Including the nearby provinces of Sichuan and depending on the political situation even sometimes the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Remember it can sometimes be difficult to buy tickets ahead of time because the bus station has no computer system. If the ticket vendor does not sell to you just show up early the next morning.
There are little taxi vans that do not have meters. Usually anywhere in town only costs 5 RMB and for a full day around 100 RMB.
There are several public buses that run around town and are very useful. The bus that runs out of town towards Xining goes all the way to the Mani Stones and only costs 2 RMB.
The main source of food in this area of the country is soup noodles. Everywhere you go will be most likely some sort of noodle soup restaurant. Travellers should try the Tibetan hotpot noodles that come in a small black cast iron pot. There are some hotpot and chinese restaurants but they are not very good and are overpriced. There are several restaurants to choose from on the road to Xining.
There is two options for drinking in this town. Either at a tea house with the walls covered in fake bamboo or the Tibetan discos. There are several Tibetan discos around town and they are constantly moving to new locations. These places can be lots of fun. Most of the night is spent watching people perform on stage (dancing, singing or doing tricks) then at the end of the night maybe some traditional Tibetan dancing to some Chinese or Indian pop music. Ask your hotel owner about the location of Tibetan Discos.
There are several hotels around town most of them not good. There is an International Youth hostel located on the main road going toward Xining and has nice standard rooms, private/dorms, with public or private hot showers. Also many families will rent out extra beds to tourists illegally.
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.
We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Yushu county
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