This is probably my favourite spot in all of China – apart from the Lo Wu Shopping Center of course. It’s Jiayuguan Fort far into Gansu province and is said to be the end of the Great Wall; the Ming Dynasty part of it anyway. Beyond this point was only barbarianism.
The above photos were taken four years ago, but since then pollution has come to town aided and abetted by China’s Go West campaign. It consists of building lots and lots of highways to accommodate the four cars that drive down them every hour.
Jiayuguan is a strange town. There’s only a handful of people, mostly workers imported to handle the many cement factories, but the town itself looks built to accommodate millions and millions.
The wilderness was no more; instead there was a water treatment plant and a two new roads had been built. The hills were festooned with electric pylons and the snowcapped mountains, what little we could see through the pollution, had very little snow.
Through the landscape ran a row of gigantic concrete pillars. Was it a new highway, perhaps? If so, why couldn’t it run on the ground? No, a worker told us. It was to be the new high-speed railway to Urumqi. Oh great, good luck. Hope there’s no lightning …
That day we almost became that guy dressed in rags begging for water in front of a mirage. Hot! Water gone! Had no idea where we were! Fortunately a kind foreman drove us back into town, just in time for a gigantic Hami melon. If nothing else, these melons is reason enough to come here. Indescribable! But come in season, August/September.
Yes, fort, Gobi and a thing called “Little Great Wall” , all are in walking distance from Jiayuguan Town. There is also a freezing brook (snowmelt) where you can heal your put-upon feet.
Inside the fort many new means of entertainment have sprung up, for of course it’s not enough just to be inside a structure unchanged since the Ming Dynasty and feel the winds of history and look at the same walls that great generals and warriors have looked upon. One entertainment is archery. See the guy to the right? The red arrow is mine. I got him right in the breastbone made of straw! My first arrow-shooting ever, so fairly pleased with self.
Jiayuguan Fort. Go there, I say. But you should probably go about 5.30AM or something. The hordes are worse than any barbarian horde ever trying to scramble over the Great Wall …