[ Aug.1996 ] From Kunming in China, we flew to Lanzhou, the important city in Silk Road along the Yellow River.
When I got on the aeroplane of China Northwest Airlines (later merged with China Eastern Airlines), I was very surprised to see that the aeroplane body was an old Ilyushin.
People usually felt uneasy about Aeroplot flights, but this one was the secondhand of the Aeloflot.
There were still some Russian writings, such as Exit.
Well, that was an interesting sort of surprise, but the second surprise was not very nice.
There were two toilets in the aeroplane and both of them were extremely dirty, too dirty for words.
I could not use them, so I had to hold it during the flight.
When I was feeling sick after seeing the state of the toilets and coming back to my seats, a mother and a child were heading for the toilet, so I told them that it was too dirty by gestures.
She looked at the toilet, but did not get surprised at all and went into it.
The worst toilet I have ever seen (as for now in 2020) was this one in the aeroplane.
On top of that, I heard quite a few times that people were spitting within the aeroplane.
The flight was via Xi’an and it was delayed there, so we arrived at Lanzhou airport at around 10:30 pm.
Because it was late, we were prepared to take the taxi which cost 200 yuan ($1=8.28 yuan in those days) to get to the town, but a child came up to us and said “May I help you?”, and because of his help, we could take a bus (25 yuan).
From the window, I saw a scenery illuminated by the white full moon, which looked like a huge filling at a road work, but after a while I realised that it was a desert.
Since arriving in China, I have realised that my perception about the sight of the earth had been too limited.
In Lanzhou, we stayed at Lanzhou Hotel (380 yuan for the first night, 320 yuan for the second).
I did not have a very good impression about this hotel as it was quite expensive and the staff was not friendly.
Next day, we walked around the Farmers Lane near the hotel.
It was a lively area with small restaurants and food shops.
We went into one of those restaurants.
We were taking time to order as we could not understand the Chinese menu, then the owner picked up my guidebook and found the pages of translations of the menu and said “Look”.
Probably this was a restaurant where many foreign tourists come with the same guidebook.
It was a full lunch: the fried beef and pepper with a hot sauce, stir fried celery, a kind of spicy soup with pork and green leaf vegetables and egg fried rice.
It cost 31 yuan and he discounted to 30.
This man as well as people at the food market were smiling warmly.
But in the city centre, when we stop to look at the map or something, people stop and stared at us.
It had not happened in other towns and it was the first time.
I did not feel scared, though.
In Lanzhou, many minibuses were running and they picked people up and dropped them off anywhere anytime for 1 yuan, so we used them a few times.
One of the places we went with the minibus was Wuquanshan Park, which was a kitschy amusement park.
When we went into the park paying 20 yuan, we found huge dolls of a dragon and a Chinese king which seemed to be illuminated during the night.
Our destination was Lanshan Park which was further up from here, taking a chairlift.
The altitude of Lanzhou itself is already 1600 metres and we went up further 600 metres by this long lift.
The length and the height of the lift was overwhelming, which made me think again how big China was.
Of course the view from the top was wonderful and we could look out over the whole Lanzhou city as well as the Yellow River.
There was a huge slide, which seemed as thrilling as a roller coaster and some monks were having a ride.
By the way, in China many things were double priced: for the locals and for the foreigners.
The prices for the foreigners were almost double of the local prices.
In Lanzhou, I felt annoying to pay the entrance fee for the park, the fare of the lift and so on, knowing that they were much more expensive than they should have been.
The ordinary individuals were very kind, for example, when I left my glasses in a minibus, the conductor brought them to me stopping the minibus, but the system was not kind to foreigners and those who needed to maintain the rule naturally became tough-looking and that gave us an unfavourable impression.