If you were to lay a bulls eye over the country of China, Lanzhou would sit right in the center. It sits at the central point of China, yet the population density of the country puts it in the far west. Almost 80% of Chinese people live to the east of this city of 4 million. However it sat as a very important point on the ancient silk road and is still a very vital city connecting the east and west of this huge country.
It is a very elongated city spreading east to west, nestled and directed by the surrounding mountains. The mountains not only shape the city, but give it a beautiful backdrop and incredible hiking opportunities to get great views of this industrious town. Right at the base of the valley flows the Yellow River. Though it resembles more the color of chocolate milk, it still brings about lots of people to enjoy the only water front they have for miles! Most people live here will never see the ocean, let alone a nice beach on a lake. So in the evening people gather around, as the day turns to night, throwing rocks into the river, do synchronized dances, gather on the walking bridge, or grab a drink on the floating restaurants.
Over the bridge and up the mountain is the famous White Cloud Pagoda. Climbing the hundreds of steps to the top is no easy feat, but it is rewarded with a breathtaking view of the city constantly being built and improved below. You will see the skyline dotted with cranes as skyscrapers continually rise, and on the roads you will see many lanes closed because of the subway construction going on beneath. You will see the Yellow River edge the city, and the unique mix of Buddhist and Islamic temples popping up throughout the town. Peace is supreme at the summit, but you know just down the slope mass chaos is going on as taxis are honking their horns and jackhammers are breaking new ground on construction projects. As with most cities in China, I know that a visit in a few years may take me to a completely new place with so much advancement in their infrastructure and urbanization, but until then I can enjoy the center of this cultural country.