My third stop on the Silk Road was Jiayuguan. This is the most narrow section of the Hexi Corridor, so China built a large fort there. Anyone trying to enter the country from the west would need to pass through here, so this was a critically strategic spot to protect China from invaders back in the day. Also, this is officially the very end of the Great Wall (unofficially though, everything is a bit murky as there were various iterations of sections of the wall build by various dynasties, lots of which have been lost to time and decay 🤷♂️… Let’s just call this the end 🙂).
This place seemed pretty cool from the guidebook, but the more I read about it, the more disenchanted I felt about it. A lot of the fort has been reconstructed, and so has much of the Great Wall here. Everyone on the Lonely Planet forums likens this place to Disneyland and scoffs at how fake it is. At the last minute I actually tried to skip this entire town, but due to train schedules etc, I couldn’t easily avoid it.
When I went to the fort, let’s just say that everyone was right. Yes, the fort (as you can see from the photos) actually looks pretty impressive, but that’s if you are not looking at it up close. As you get closer, things definitely look a bit fake. Everything is a bit too new looking. To make matters even worse, they have teenage boys dressed up in armor pacing around and “guarding” the fort. They also have archery competitions and other cheesy crap. It really does feel like more of an amusement park than a historical site.
Eventually, I headed back to town, feeling a bit bummed that I kind of wasted a day out of my brief vacation. When I went to get dinner, I wandered into a restaurant, and as usual started peering at the photos on the wall to try to figure out what to get. The server was way ahead of me, and punched some stuff into her translation app to show me: “You want lamb Kebabs?”. I responded with “Fuck yeah!! Gimme 20 of those things!”. Just kidding… I actually just smiled enthusiastically, sat down, and then was a bit shocked when she brought out *20* skewers.
Luckily, the amount of lamb on each skewer wasn’t too crazy, so it actually ended up not being as much of an overwhelming amount of food as I initially thought. The lamb was super good! Very nicely seasoned, a little spicy, and tender. When I was almost done with my million skewers, I decide to ask if they had any vegetables. I’ve been eating pretty much only meat and carbs since I started this trip, and it seemed like the right thing to do. The lady smiled happily and came back with some slices of potato on skewers and what looked like a fistful of chives. Hmmm.. Not exactly what I had in mind, but the lady seemed so happy about it that I just agreed.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, people here not being entirely friendly and seeming indifferent isn’t 100% the case. Some people were really nice and friendly and genuinely seemed happy to help you out. These interactions were always really fun to have and helped brighten things up. Anyways, the potato skewers were good and the greens were quite tasty too. One interesting thing here is that the beer bottles had a weird cap on them. It was somehow halfway between a bottle cap and a pop tab. Pretty cool actually as you didn’t need a bottle opener.