Wednesday, January 26, 2011

LANZHOU - Crouching Temple, Hidden Whiskey Bar

January 15, 2011
Eng: Lanzhou, Gansu, China
Chn: 兰州,甘肃省,中国
Written by Dan

   Surprisingly, we felt fine the morning after our Korean meat fest. It was sunny outside and we had another day to kill before our long haul bus ride to Chengdu.

   Before going out we decided to do a little reading about Lanzhou. From the filth and pollution, one would not guess that Lanzhou used to be known as the Golden City as it was the first lush city traders would read after crossing the desert of Xinjiang where we had just been. The famous Yellow River runs right through the city from Northwest to Southeast. The Yellow River is one of China’s longest and most important rivers. It gets its name from the nutritious yellow silt it carries from the Loess Plateau in the west and deposits in the soils of the agricultural regions in the East.

   On either side of the river are two Large Mountains known as Lanshan and White Pagoda Hill. The city is nestled in the valley in between the two mountains and around the river. In the old days, they used boats lined up side by side to create a bridge for traders and travelers so that they could cross the river. Today there is a bridge where the boats used to be. The mountain to the northeast of the bridge is called White Pagoda Hill. The pagoda was built in honor of a famous Tibetan Lama (monk) who died here hundreds of years ago from sever illness on his way to meet Genghis Khan.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

  Despite the beautiful waterwheels one can see along the banks of the Yellow River – a sign of former reliance on renewable energy – Lanzhou is not among the top 10 most polluted cities in China and top 30 in the world! Most scientists attribute this to the fact that the city is sandwiched in between two steep mountains and is curved in a way that little air flows through the valley naturally. When wind does blow through, it bring in dust and sand from the nearby Gobi Desert which adds to the exhaust from cars and downtown factories to create a smoggy blanket. Hoping for the best, we decided to explore the mountain, catch some views, and sightsee around the Yellow River.

   We climbed up to the top of the Hill and after two hours of taking wrong turns and refusing to pay 3rmb (50 cents) to see some monkeys we finally find the White Pagoda. It is beautiful and peaceful. Definitely the quintessential daytime-date location, as everyone else we saw was a boy-girl couple holding hands.

   We attempted to take some nice photos. Unfortunately, the smog was so bad that we couldn’t even see the huge Lanshan Mountain just 2km across the valley. I think the highlight for Em was getting to play with a dust-covered puppy.

   We finally got down the mountain at about 4pm and decided we were ready to eat again so we went for some hotpot which was really good.

   After hotpot, I dragged Emily to this little shop I had seen on the street selling all kinds of western alcohol. I only wanted to get a small bottle of whiskey for some drinks later that night or on the bus to Chengdu, but we got much more!

   Stepping inside this shop was like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. The walls were stocked floor to ceiling with wines, liquors and beers from around the world! In the corner was not a cash register but a full whiskey bar! In the back were sofas, tables with green library reading lights, wood paneling, tasteful black and white photos, and speakers churning out good music at a reasonable volume! Was I dreaming?

   The owner, a white-haired Chinese man with a perma-smile offered us to sit down and sample some whiskeys before we bought anything. In awe that we had found anything like this in China, much less in this part of China, we dutifully obliged and took a seat. The menu was strictly whiskey and other liquors by the glass, each glass ranging between 6 to 10rmb (80 cents to $1.40 USD). These prices are unheard of in China!!

   Now I thought maybe it is too god to be true – at those prices this guy must be watering down his drinks or selling fake whiskey (common in China, the fake will give you an instant headache and a nasty hangover). We decided to go for it and were proved wrong – his stuff was good!  We stayed until 9pm and stumbled home with a bit of KFC on the way…

   There is no name of the bar but if you ever find yourself in Lanzhou, look for the liquor shop on the West side of Zhongshan Road, near the intersection with Wudu Road (Just south of the Zhongshan Bridge and the Great Mosque).  approximate location on Google Maps

No comments:

Post a Comment