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Review: Lanzhou

City/Town/Region/Island

Lanzhou, China

Lanzhou and Bingling Grottoes

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2493 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • May 2008
  • Husband

116 people found this review helpful

Lanzhou is a large industrial town sprawling along the valley of the Yellow River. There is little to attract the tourists apart from the Watermill Park where two large waterwheels used for irrigation have been reconstructed and White Pagoda Hill with cable car up it.



Most people come to Lanzhou to visit the Bingling Grottoes, which are done as a day trip from Lanzhou.



These are reached after an hour's drive through fertile loess fields and a two hour river trip across Luijiaxia reservoir and then through a gorge. The boat was small – seating no more than six. It was lunchtime when we arrived and I think there was a problem finding a boatman. We eventually set off and had to swap ‘boatmen’ with a returning boat. Next thing we knew was the wheel was given to our terrified guide while the boatman disappeared to the back of the boat to fill up the petrol tank from a can tucked away under the seats.



It was a dull hazy day and views across the reservoir were disappointing. It is a short walk to the grottoes. Small caves are carved out of 60m cliff along the side of the Yellow River Gorge. The earliest caves date from the 5thC. More were added during the Song (960-1279) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties. Fortunately they were spared the vandalism of the Cultural Revolution.



There are 183 caves carved out of cliff's porous stone which contain over 700 statues and hundreds of frescoes. A series of winding walkways and stairs lead around site.



On the opposite side of the river is a giant 27m high seated Maitreya, future Buddha.



We stopped at DONGFANG EASTERN HOTEL in Lanzhou. This is well situated in central Lanzhou, opposite the University. It had a huge, splendid reception area with spiral staircase. Like many Chinese hotels this was the most impressive part of the hotel. The bedrooms were satisfactory and clean, although beginning to need an overhaul. The dining room was dark and depressing. We never saw anyone else in the hotel and wondered if we were the only people staying. The reception staff were friendly but with very limited English. If there were problems they sent for the Hall Porter was desperate to practise and improve his English.



We stopped in Lanzhou as it was on our route and at the start of the Silk Road; we wouldn’t bother again.



Our pictures of Lanzhou are here



Our pictures of Bingling Grottoes are here.  

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