Lanzhou, squeezed 1600m up into a narrow valley along the Yangtze River, stretching over nearly 30 km east to west, has long been a stop for travellers since the days of the Silk Road, from the days of caravans to shallow-draft boats, up to today’s massive bus terminals and rail links. Today, located at the head of the Hexi Corridor for those wishing to travel westwards into Qinghai Province where we previously were, it remains an important city in China. Despite this, Lanzhou is notorious for being China’s (and thus the world’s) most polluted city, coming from the massive factory complexes and petroleum processing plants scattered on the outskirts of the city, accompanied by atrocious traffic.
We walked through the city, trying to get a sense of this incredibly long city, through which the Yangtze River runs, as well as visiting the recently reconstructed Waterwheel Park, which were first constructed in the Ming dynasty to irrigate the city’s fields but today sits as more of a tourist attraction. At night, the neon lights along the river banks painting the river in dozens of different colours – the banks remain an important place of public gathering, with everything ranging from dates to larger events happening here or on the several bridges that span the river. Ending our day, we visited the soon to be ‘officially’ opened main railway station at the end of the city, examining the construction sites of this seemingly never-ending city.