Awe and Solitude in China’s Vast, Empty West

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The provinces and autonomous regions of Xinjiang, Qinghai, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and Gansu make up most of this area.

Last year, I had the chance to explore the Aksay Kazakh Autonomous County in Gansu, sandwiched between the border of Xinjiang and Qinghai — a high plateau plain area.

You tend to see more Tibetan antelopes and camels than humans in a place like this. 

Despite the subtle marks of civilization — a tag on a camel, a powerline heading off in the distance — for the most part, it was hours of driving alone in wide, rocky valleys under a blue sky.

This is what  half of China looks like: vast, rolling, rocky land, with mountain ranges in the distance and the crunch of sand beneath your boots. From Everest to the Gobi desert to the rolling grasslands of Inner Mongolia.

The region is about the size of Switzerland but is home to only 10,000 people.

It was one of the first times since living in China that I felt genuinely alone — 

no planes overhead, no farms, nor the hum of a distant tractor.

where all of the silk, porcelain, and tea that the West craved was carried just before leaving China.

Today the historical territory is part of the patchwork that makes up China, providing economic value not only from the commodities crossing these lands but also from tourism, energy production, a handful of growing cities.

The Hexi Corridor, an incredibly important bottleneck of the Silk Road,

Master Kong introduced its high-end product, Express Noodle, at the Single’s Day Shopping Festival in 2018 and sold out in two hours. They cost 25RMB per cup, five times the price of its classic beef noodles. The brand will also provide customized Express Noodles for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Chinese millennials and Gen Zers who grew up with instant noodles are demanding healthier, trendier choices of their favorite treat.

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