Xining, known as Siling (ཟི་ལིང་) in Tibetan, is the largest city on the Tibetan Plateau and sits at an elevation of 2275m / 7465 feet. Xining lies in a valley along the Huang Shui River, a tributary of the Yellow River, and is surrounded by mountains which rise to over 3500m. Lying in the traditional Tibetan province of Amdo (ཨ༌མདོ), Xining (pictured above) has a diverse population of over 1.2 million. Along the streets of Xining, Chinese, Hui, Tibetans, Salar and Mongolians can be found each speaking their own language and wearing their own unique style of clothing (the Hui of Xining speak 青海话, the Qinghai dialect of Chinese). Xining is easily one of the most visibly diverse cities in China.
The east area of downtown is home to most of Xining's 350,000 Muslims. Mosques in the city number well over 50, many of which look like they are from Central Asia rather than China. Halal restaurants, butchers and stores are found everywhere. The Muslims in Xining are famous for their excellent bread, noodles and mutton kebab's. Most people who arrive in Xining are pleasantly surprised by the large and growing Muslim population. The largest Mosque in Xining is the Dong Guan Mosque (pictured above) which regularly holds 35,000 to 50,000 people during Friday afternoon prayer time.
Though Tibetans make up less than 10% of Xining's population, they are distinct and not hard to find. Many Tibetans from Yushu (ཡུས་ཧྲུའུ་བོད་རིགས་རང་སྐྱོང་ཁུལ།) and Golog (མགོ་ལོག་བོད་རིགས་རང་སྐྱོང་ཁུལ།) have been relocated to the city to live in modern apartment complexes. The area across from the main bus station on Jian Guo Lu has the largest Tibetan market in town that sells everything from exotic animal skins to tsamba. This area also has numerous Tibetan style restaurants and tea houses. Xining boasts many night clubs that feature some of the most famous singers from across Tibet.
Xining often is overlooked by tourists due to the poor reviews it receives in guidebooks. Though it doesn't compare to places like Beijing, Chengdu or Shanghai, most people who go to Xining have a great time. The city is full of colorful markets, Buddhist temples and is surrounded by mountains that can be hiked. Xining makes a great base for exploring the Tibetan regions of Amdo (ཨ༌མདོ) (including Kumbum Monastery) and Kham (ཁམས་). The Tibetan areas around Xining have some of the best preserved Tibetan cultural areas remaining. Xining is also the starting point of the Tibetan Railway to Lhasa. From Xining, Lhasa (ལྷ་ས་) is a 25 hour train ride.
Xining can be quite cold in the winter, but during the summer it is one of the most pleasant cities in all of China with an average high of 22C / 72F. Xining can be reached by air and train from all major cities in China including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi'an and Chengdu. There are several good hotels and youth hostels to stay at, such as the Lete Youth Hostel.
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