We flew into Xining in Qinghai yesterday. When I was assigned seat B, one seat away from the window, I was resigned to not being able to take any photos this time. I even tried to console myself that the sky was rather hazy, and we probably wouldn't fly over anything interesting anyway. But 20 minutes from Xining, I just couldn't stand it.
This could be my only chance to take some aerial photos of Xining ... and I noticed that the young lady in the window seat was looking bored and never once looked out the window. What a waste! If she was not making use of the window she might as well let me use it. So I asked her to exchange seats with me and she immediately agreed. It turned out she was returning home to Xining from Shenzhen and she has seen the view many times.
I got into the seat just in time for the plane to fly over Xining. It actually flew in a wide arc around the city, as if it wanted to give me a grand tour of Xining. I was, of course, very thankful. It was getting dark, hence the photos did not come out very well. But one could still see how Xining is similar to Lanzhou. It was built along the two sides of a major branch of HuangHe, hemmed in on both sides by tall mountains. If I drop into the water at Xining, I should be able to reach Lanzhou in a matter of hours - theoretically.
Throughout history, it has been an important outpost because the main road into Tibet runs through here. It has large populations of Tibetans and Hui's. I am looking forward to this trip.