We landed in Zhangye and immediately tried to find food. Outside the train station - Zhangye West, the newer one - is a ring of small restaurants with no menus and no English and just a few tables and like a guy you try to talk to. We went in one that had pictures on the walls and people were smoking so we left. We went in another and they had a No Smoking sign. WE WERE STAYING FOREVER.
Of course, this being China and us being in a taxi, something ridiculous had to happen. After about ten minutes of driving, the lady pulled over on the side of the road next to a man in a nice jacket that I assumed at first glance was from Jack Wolfskin but it actually said "Jake Wolfking" and despite how delighted this made us, we were still very concerned about wtf was going on. Lady got out and man got in and we were like HEY LADY, what's happening? She didn't speak English, she just pointed to the man and nodded. We had no idea what was going on! Luckily, we worked out with the man that he was her husband and was just taking over our long job. JFC it is a mess not being able to communicate. So all was okay just a slight scare.
And it got even better. We bought tickets - under 100 yuan each, which is not bad (like $15), and it includes the (pretty required) shuttle bus around the ENORMOUS, ENDLESS grounds - and got on the shuttle bus to the first amazing area, about 10 minutes down the mountain road, and I was SO HAPPY. It was BIG and BEEYOOOTIFUL! Every area has stairs up to the top of that peak (omg so much climbing) and platforms to walk along to see all views, plus signs and stuff for the highlights. Our first highlight was Sleeping Beauty, the sign for which reads, and this is verbatim, "The earth beauty that was formed during the Cretaceous Period and the nature gives birth to and makeunders after long-term weathering, has relieved and soft lines, fruity and lithe and graceful figure, and colorful dress. We don't know it is a fairy or dragon out of the sea, but we want to stay here indeed, because it stands here for one hundred million year." I MEAN. WAS I IN HEAVEN, YES.
And, OF COURSE, there were amazing signs. Crucial (not) commentary in the captions.
While it dampened my spirits (so they could match my clothes!) it did not tarnish the beauty of this amazing place.
We got back to Mr. Wolfking at almost 8pm, bought two tubs of camel-stall melon (I felt like a having pounds of watermelon and cantaloupe for dinner, it's so good here), drove to the station and had about three hours to kill before our midnight train to Dunhuang (leaving on a midnight traaaaain) so we just putzed around the station and stuff. And to top off an amazing day, this train, which was yet another K train, was the nicest of all the K's! It had soap in the sink area! It was clean! We bought out the other two beds again (#ghostchildren) and could use all the extra pillows and blankets and NOT BE ITCHY FROM THEM! The attendants were nice! It was smoky but just ever so slightly less so! It was only 7 hours so it was a shame that we didn't have this one for a longer journey. When I mentioned that, Z asked if that meant I wanted to stay on longer and I immediately turned into Randolph & Mortimer (should start automatically at 0:40 but if it doesn't, well, go to 0:40):
Onto the next!