There are some new interactive features on the Air Quality page, which lets you see the daily Air Pollution Index results of provincial cities and municipalities measured by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Below are some screen shots:
Lonely Planet China 12th edition is now available to download.
As well as the improved look of the electronic version, the new edition has a slightly less negative description of Lanzhou than in previous editions:
"The city sprawls in an inelegant east-west concrete melange" (p.805). Not disagreeing, but remove 'east-west' and this would be a fair description of many Chinese cities.
"Trapped between mountains, Lanzhou has frequent bad-air days when a grey sun sets anaemically over a hazy city." (p.805). By taking out the 'most polluted city in China in the late 1990s' line from the 11th edition, the new description is less hyperbolic than before. Even so, it fails to mention that the pollution is mainly during the winter months. In the summer months, there is every chance of blue skies: In 2010 the best months were May (94% of days were good-excellent air quality), June (97%) and July (100%).
It's good to see that this edition has taken out "there's little reason to linger here any longer than it takes to extend your visa or book your train ticket." (11th ed. p.850), which I'd always thought a little harsh.
In terms of the list of 'sights', there's no great change. Here is a comparison:
11th Edition Sights:
There is no mention of the Steles Forest, high up on the north bank hillside, or the new Golden Pass Cultural Quarter developments, also on the north bank opposite the beach. While they are not necessarily essential places to visit, these are significant additions to the landscape (the latter especially attractive when lit-up in the evenings), which point to a city undergoing change. The new edition of the Lonely Planet doesn't really reflect this, unfortunately.
Most surprisingly, there is still no discussion of Lanzhou's many mosques. In fact, Xiguan Mosque has disappeared completely from the map in this new edition. This is a shame: the mosques are Lanzhou's most obvious feature of Gansu's "cultural diversity" (p.803) , and sets Lanzhou apart from other cities in central and eastern China (as well as being an explanation for the numerous halal beef noodle restaurants, of course).
"Airport buses leave every hour […] three hours before scheduled flight departures." It's usually safe to leave two hours before your departure, or even less for early-morning or late-evening buses (1 hour for the journey; check -in opens 1 hour before departure). Taxis usually do the journey in a bit under an hour.
"Lanzhou badly needs a metro system" (p.809). Funding for a rapid bus transport system has been approved, and is scheduled for completion in 2014.
Some additional recommendations:
Play the slideshow below for a selection of city photos: