Great Wall Wingle 6 in Xiahe
This is the 5th stop in our 2016 Chinese adventures after Beijing, Xining, the Chinese car dealerships of Xining and Tongren. There is only 107 km / 66 miles east to Xiahe across the border in the Gansu province, but it takes over 3 hours because we drive through winding mountain roads across spectacular red rock scenery. Xiahe is located at the northeastern extremity of the Tibetan plateau in a magnificent valley at 2920m / 9580 ft above see level, lying along the Daxia and Zhao rivers. It just started snowing when I arrived.
Xiahe location in ChinaLabrang Monastery in XiaheHaval H6 Sport2 x Wuling Hongguang S1
Home of 70.000 inhabitants, Xiahe is distinctly larger than Tongren, our previous pit stop. As such, following a striking logic valid in the vast majority of China, the population is wealthier and the car parc is both newer and more sophisticated. A battery of brand-new Wuling Hongguang S1 have replaced the battered 7 year-old Wuling Sunshine of Tongren as the shared taxi of choice. More generally, the Wuling Hongguang is by far the most frequent vehicle in Xiahe, almost exclusively as a shared taxi. It is at the town level of Xiahe that the Hongguang has built its national domination of the Chinese sales charts over the past few years. Smaller towns still run on older minivans and will upgrade to the Hongguang soon, while larger towns have upgraded to the Baojun 730 already. Indeed, the Chinese car purchase patterns are demographic as they are chronologic. The bigger the city, the closer it follows the latest sales trends at play nation-wide. The only exception are the largest metropolis of the nation that had their sales charts messed up with licence-plate restrictions as we observed in Beijing this year.
Labrang Monastery in XiaheHonda Greiz
The “private” taxi fleet is composed of FAW Xiali N5 like in Tongren but also FAW Weizhi V5 and Changan Alsvin V3 (see pictures further down in the report). Private cars such as the Chevrolet Sail, Hyundai Verna and Toyota Highlander are the most popular here.
A typical three-wheeler in Labrang Monastery, Xiahe
A selection of three-wheelers operating in Xiahe
One of the most fascinating characteristics of the Xiahe vehicle parc is the omnipresence of very loud three-wheelers criss-crossing the city among joyous monks. Drivers of these picturesque three-wheelers revel in pride manoeuvring these workhorses through town, waving and smiling as I snap a picture. My best selection as well as a video are above.
The Full Photo Report continues below with 20 additional pictures.