Unexpected generosity

Unexpected generosity

After several days touring in the highlands of Qinghai-Tibet I arrived in the village Qumarleb. I walked into a restaurant to eat something. Of course the menu on the wall was unreadable. There were some pictures of the local yak (the Highland cows). I tried to explain to the clerk that I wanted to try the local yak meat, when suddenly I was beckoned to a table. Three boys of my age were eating there. They invited me to eat with them. A generous gesture because a little later I got offered a plate of Chinese pasta with the local yak meat. The choosing problem was solved. Not much later I got someone on the phone who spoke perfect English. It was Tseyongtjee, the sister of one of the boys who lived in Yushu. I added her to my WeChat file. WeChat is the Chinese WhatsApp. Yushu was a city I was crossing the next days on my way to the south of China.

Five years ago, in 2010 there was a violent earthquake in Yushu. The whole town was destroyed, including the impressive Tibetan monasteries. With the help of the Chinese government, the town was rebuilt. In five years, everything was literally build from out the ground with mostly Tibetan paintings.

I didn’t believe my eyes when I arrived here.

City of Yushu, rebuild after being destroyed by an earthquake in 2010

In Yushu it took me a long time to find an affordable accommodation. I raced from hotel to guest house but the price of 12 euros for a bed (believe it or not) is just a bit too much in this area. Eventually, I enlisted the help of Tseyongtjee which arranged a room of 7 euros per night for me in a Tibetan homestay.

There was no shower but I didn’t care. I was settled for a day of rest and slept comfortably for two nights in a nice warm bed in the town Yushu.

Young Tibetan monks fascinated by my bicycle in Yushu

Rebuilding of the Ga Kye Gu monastery in Yushu after being destroyed by an earthquake in 2010

Monks running after their yaks in the city of Yushu

The next day I walk to one of the ATMs in the town. I have no more cash and desperately needed to see some money in my wallet. Card denied. “What is this all about?”, I think. This I have not experienced in China so far. I’m broke and I really need some cash. Other ATMs do not seem to work too. I ask for help with my translation app in one of the banks. A young friendly guy tries to help me. He explains through his translation app: “Your card do not work here. I am sorry..” Yes, but why in the most remote villages in the Uyghur’s part of China it works and here in this brand new town the banks doesn’t seem to except it? “You go to Xining, Xining your card work.” Xining, which is 500 kilometers to the north, just not exactly on my route. I explain to him that I could without any money in no way go to Xining. Suddenly he stands up and says: “Follow me.” We walk out of the bank and the young bank employee suddenly shows money from out his jacket. “This is 200 yuan for taking the bus to Xining and 200 for food and sleep.”

I can’t believe it. Can I take this? Yet I have little choice. This is converted 57 euros and for me a budget for a week. I need to just continue my journey with this money and hope in the next town for better luck. So my money problem was equally resolved. The next day I ride out of the city with 400 yuan in my pocket and also a stock of Tibetan food given by Tseyongtjee. Which included tsumpa, the traditional Tibetan breakfast.

Tibetan breakfast called Compa

I’ve heard that generosity in China is minimal. Well, here in the Tibetan part I experience it quite a lot. On the road I often get invited for some tea with yak butter.

People are friendly.

Tibetan woman and kids

When I cycle 50 kilometers from the city I see two European looking and fully loaded bicycles standing at a restaurant. Here? Cycle tourists? I can hardly believe it. I put my bike next to it to the wall. I walk inside the restaurant and see a western couple eating there lunch.

“Waw guys, I didn’t expect to meet fellow western travelers here. Where are you going?”