The next morning, we left Dulan and made a detour to a nearby village, Reshui 熱水, where there is a large Tang Dynasty (7th – 10th centuries) cemetery. The main tombs are situated on top of a mound of roughly 80 m high. Because of the altitude (3300 m), it was difficult to make it all the way to the top without pausing to catch my breath. At the southern base of the mound, there is what appears to be a stone terrace. Several of the tombs had been severely looted, the stones from the original walls were scattered in disarray.
The road to Ge’ermu 格爾木, a major transportation hub connecting Tibet, Xinjiang, Gansu to the rest of the country, runs through the shrubs and sands of Chaidamu 柴達木 Basin. Like Xining, Ge’ermu is also a fast expanding city in Qinghai province. There are colossal construction works underway everywhere you look. We arrived in the early afternoon and found our way to a charming Hui restaurant offering various kinds of handmade noodles. Through a window to the kitchen, customers could watch their food being prepared and the noodles made from scratch by the chefs’ skilled hands. I ordered their signature beef noodle dish (12 yuan, about US $2), which consists of noodles, seasoned beef, sliced carrots, parsley, and spices, and they were the best noodles I have ever had (I usually struggled to finish the food because the servings were often very large, but this time I had appetite for a second serving). To top it off, I tried their homemade yoghurt at 2 yuan per bowl. It was a perfect meal.
Here in western China, the sun stays up until at least nine o’clock at night (because the entire country observes Beijing time), but we decided to retire early for the day to prepare for an early rise the next day for our 800 km-drive to Ruoqiang in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. To get there, we would travel across arid terrains with eroded sandstone hills, sands, salt lakes, and finally cross Altyn-Tagh, the mountain range that separates the Tibetan Plateau from the Tarim Basin, before descending into the southeastern edge of the Taklamakhan desert.