Lanzhou today spreads many miles along a thin valley, sandwiched in by hills and the Yellow River. With a population of 2.83 million people, it is one of the largest cities in the northeast, and this concentration has done little to improve the pollution that thickens the air and that flows downriver. The city, thankfully, has some good sights, both within its environs and nearby, and it is these, along with the good transportation links and friendly populace, that draw travelers here.

Lying in the central section of Gansu Province, this provincial capital received its name from the "lan" of the Gaolan Mountain Range to its south. Lanzhou was also in the past called the "Gold City", due to the precious metal that was found here. It was this discovery, along with the fact that the city was a significant fortress (for around 1,400 years) of the Hexi Corridor, an eastern and crucial stretch of the Silk Road, that led to a long period of great prosperity in the city.

In recent years the city has grown enormously, so that it now claims a length of around 30km, snaking along the southern bank of the river. After the Communist succession to power a population explosion increased residency numbers tenfold in just one generation. Of the now more than three million people in the city, the majority are Han, although many other peoples make this city their home, including the Hui (Muslims), Tibetan, Uigur, Dongxiang, Mongolian, Bonan, Kazak, Tu, Salar and Manchurian minorities.

Of all of the sights that are in and around the city, it is the Bingling Temple Caves that are the gem of Lanzhou. These are not the most easily accessible of China's caves, but it is this that is probably the most contributing factor to the caves little spoilt charm. Although the temptations of heading north towards Xinjiang or west towards Xiahe and then Sichuan are pulling, a day trip to the caves, and the Lujiaxia Reservoir that surrounds them, is rewarding.The staple food of Gansu, as with most of western China outside of Tibet, is often Muslim influenced, so that meat dishes are generally of mutton and beef, rather than pork and chicken, varieties. This situation is none better seen than in Lanzhou, where

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Muslim restaurants and food stalls are to be found on nearly every street. The most common of these dishes would have to be the cheap and easy to make Beef Noodle, and restaurants (Lanzhou lamian guan) serving this soupy delight are plentiful. Also popular, especially for breakfast is the slightly sweet Beef-Stuffed Cake that is a favoured breakfast dish. A slightly more interesting, and hearty, Muslim delight is the Roast Whole Lamb.

Lanzhou has many different restaurants and areas to sample food and the most pleasant are listed below:


RESTAURANTS
Fengshan Restaurant (Fengshan fandian) on Nongmin xiang behind the Lanzhou Hotel (Lanzhou fandian on Donggang xilu). Serves local Gansu dishes.
Chaoshan Restaurant (Chaoshan fandian) at 361 Tianshui lu.
Xizhan Restaurant (Xizhan canting) on Xijin xilu opposite the Huangjin Shopping Center (Huangjin dasha). Serves cheap and tasty Baozi and local food.
Lidu Restaurant (Lidu fandian) on Tianshui lu, opposite the Legend Hotel.
King of Beef Noodles (Niurou mian dawang) on Donggang xilu, adjacent to the Lanzhou Hotel (Lanzhou fandian).
Feicui Muslim Restaurant (Feicui musilin canting) at 410 Pingliang beilu. Serves good beef noodles and a variety of other Muslim specialties.

AREAS
Night Market, on a lane just east of the Friendship Hotel. Has Muslim food including kebabs and beef noodles.
Dingxi beilu, around the University. Many small restaurants and street stalls serve a variety of local delicacies.
Qingyang lu. Many restaurants line this road and serve local food. Best of the lot is the Hotpot (Huoguo).
Zhongshan lu, east of Jiuquan lu. Restaurants here serve cheap and fast food at affordable prices.
Nongmin xiang, behind the Lanzhou Hotel (Lanzhou fandian on Donggang xilu). There are many stalls and small restaurants here that serve a variety of local food. Some areas have English restaurants, but mostly you can just point to what you want.

SHOPPING - LOCAL SPECIALITY
Jincheng Babao Melon-skin Carving Stone Carvings Tao Inkstone

TRANSPORTATION
Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province, boasts a fairly advanced transport network and is generally thought of as one of the most important railway and air traffic centers in west China. The city is an important transit point for travelers planning on going northwest to Xinjiang, east to Ningxia, south to Sichuan and north to Inner Mongolia.

By plane: It is possible to fly to Lanzhou from within the province (from Dunhuang and Jiayuguan) and from most of the major cities in China such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xi'an and Nanjing.
The airport (Zhongchuan feiji chang) is 70km north of town, about an hour's ride. You may either take a shuttle bus or hire a taxi to get downtown. Airport buses (RMB20-RMB25) leave from the CAAC office (on Donggang xilu), three hours before scheduled flights. You may, in addition, ask the receptionist of the hotel you are staying in to see if they provide such a service. There are also weekly charter flights for Hong Kong.
To get further information and book tickets, go to the booking office in Jincheng Hotel or call (0931-8416737). China Northwest Airlines has a booking office on Dongguang xilu, a five-minute walk northwest of Lanzhou Hotel (open daily, 8am-9pm; Tel: 0931-8821964). The CAAC office is just 50m further west along the road.

By train: Lanzhou is the intersection point of four major railway lines: the Lanzhou-Lianyungang line, the Lanzhou-Urumqi line, the Lanzhou-Xining line and the Lanzhou-Baotou line. There are almost daily trains passing the city either way--to Urumqi (35 hours), to Beijing (28 hours) via Hohhot (18 hours), to Golmud (20 hours) via Xining (4 hours), to Shanghai (24 hours) via Xi'an (17 hours) and Zhengzhou (12 hours).
To facilitate travelers within the province, there are daily special express trains to Zhangye (12 hours) and Jiayuguan (15 hours). The main railway station is at the foot of Gaolan Mountain in the southern part of town. Tickets, one or two days in advance, can be bought either from the station or a railway booking office on Donggang xilu, just next to the CAAC office (open daily from 8:30am to 5pm).

By bus: Although there are seven long-distance bus stations in town and four state-level expressways pass the city, travelers are advised to take a train, for it takes much less time. However, if you are planning on heading south to Xiahe, bus is your only option. For detailed information, check the corresponding section in Xiahe. The Western Bus Station (Qiche xizhan) has buses to Yongjing (near the Bingling Temple Caves), Linxia (4 hours), Xiahe (three direct buses daily at 7:30am, 8:30am and 2:00pm, RMB30), Hezuo (7 hours), Zhangye (about 15 hours) and Dunhuang (about 27 hours, a lengthy time auctually). You may expect to be charged double unless you can produce a student or resident identity card. The Eastern Bus Station on Pingliang lu handles east-bound departures--one nightly sleeper to Xi'an (RMB105, 15 hours) and morning and evening buses for Yinchuan (RMB36 for ordinary and RMB75 for sleeper, 11 hours) and Tianshui (RMB27 for ordinary and double for sleeper, nine hours).

City transport: City transport is relatively convenient, given the several dozen bus routes in town. Bus No.1 and Trolley bus No.31 both run from the railway station to the West Bus Station. Bus No.7 and 10 also run from the railway station and head west. There are also many cabs that run through the night.



Located in west China, Lanzhou has the distinct features of a semi-arid climate, characterized by dryness and abundant sunlight. The annual average temperature is about 9.3 degrees C.

Winter here is long and cold, but not freezing, with relatively little snow and rain. Spring is transient with sharp temperature swings. Summer is short and hot, but not sweltering. Autumn witnesses rapid temperature drops from its peak in July. Travelers, hikers and the like are strongly advised to bring along thick overcoats in the mercurial winter months.


Monthly Average Temperature in Lanzhou

Month Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.

Average Temperature(C)

-6.9 -2.3 5.2 11.8 16.6 20.3 22.2 21.0 15.8 9.4 1.7 -5.5