I would like to start by mentioning that the number 2 attraction in Jianzha County, Kanbula forest park, is exactly the same as this one. Neither of these has a review in English, which confirms my impression that it is a very difficult place to get to as a non-Chinese independent traveler. I am lucky that I have to travel regularly to Qinghai for my work, and that this work includes visits to the county level, including Jianzha. I had already seen pictures of Kanbula, and I had indicated to my Chinese colleague that I really would like to get a chance to go there. So they planned a field trip with Jianzha sheduled on a Friday, which gave us the opportunity to go to Kanbula on Saturday. That was 5 years ago. I was so taken by the place that I went back last year on my own, renting a car for 2 days in Xining. My Chinese colleage had given clear instructions to the driver and it was once again a wonderful experience. I should point out that both times, I went there on a very nice, warm but not hot sunny day in July, under a clear blue cloudless sky.
From Jianzha you drive to Lijia township, from where you drive to to top of the Yellow River dam. The lake is almost turquoise and surrounded by steep red rocks. It made me think of Lake Powell on the Colorado. You then drive on, always higher, in the beginning enjoying beautiful panoramas on the lake. You then enter ino a real mountain area, very green, with forests and valleys. Finally, you arrive at some kind of plateau where the very special rock formations of Kanbula are found. They look like red Chimneys sticking out of the green surroundings. They are made of what looks like compacted pieces of broken bricks. Most of them look quite unsafe to climb, but there are a few where a path is cut in the rock and you can get all the way to the top where you find a pavillion and a nice panorama. There are also a number of paths in between those rocky outcrops. During my first visit, we hiked for respectively 1 1/2 and 2 hours, and during my second visit I made a 5 1/2 hour walk. You pass through forests and meadows, covered with a huge variety of colourful flowers in July, and everywhere you see those bizarre but magnificent rocks. During my first trip, the Chinese staff took me some 30 kms further down on a dirt road, to a nice Tibetan temple, but here the red rocks, also chimney-like, were more like the ones around the lake, and on the top of one there was a monastery of Buddhist nuns. It made me think of Meteora in Greece. Of course we needed to climb to the monastery. It was a very steep and difficult ascent, several of the people with me abandoned halfway, but I got there, and was rewarded with the message that I was the very first foreigner ever to have come to the monastery. I don't know if this was really the case or if it was said to please me, but it was most certainly a very remote place.
In my experience, I rank Kanbula the number 2 attraction in China, after Huangshan, but well before the great wall or Li river or the terracotta army or the tempel of heaven etc.
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