If we had to choose a town to avoid, it would be Xining. Lonely Planet mentions 2.1 million people in 2009 and it is probably over 3 million now. Any buildable m² has been built over the old town with about 25 floors on each plot. And the town is still sprawling like and ink stain over the landscape. It is amazing that the people still manage to find a livable human life in between the skyscrapers, inserting food stalls and markets. People live, smile and laugh.
The people are a strange mix with Tibetans in the dark red robes walking around town, the Chinese Hui (real Hans converted to Islam) and the Hans themselves coexist.
The Kumbum 16th century monastery built a few km away from the city gives a breath of fresh air to the city. Suddenly one sees himself inside another life with monks working at their every day duties. It is a pity that the Chinese tourists inundate the place not only with their overwhelming presence, but even drive their cars inside the monastery walls.
We decided to change our itinerary away from the cities and try to follow an alternate route through some villages to Xi’an.