Thursday, September 23, 2010

XinJiang: Urumqi and Turpan

The purpose of this trip was the Silk road, and the northern path that we took was a reversed path from the destination back to the origin. And so, we left Shanghai on a local flight to Urumqi and Turpan; both these cities are listed as 关外 (outside the gate) in ancient times since they are cities not belonging to 汉朝 (mainstream Chinese) and are listed as barbaric tribes. This has changed throughout the years but you can still distinguish the huge difference of architectures and facial features of the settlers here, making this city one of the ones I really want to visit before my trip.
Urumqi had massive riots last year and resulted in many deaths and arrests, and that was the reason I choose to travel in a tourgroup instead of backpacking here. We were told to stay indoors after 8, do not travel alone, and not showing our camera gear which will inform locals that we are outsiders; however, this did not keep my curious eyes and camera from taking snapshots here and there around the city. In the picture to the left, you see that there are fully armed armies almost everywhere in the city which was somewhat uncomfortable. The settlers here live a very humble and hard life with selling cotton, raisins, and fruits as their main income. They live in shacks without doors and open roofs (there is little rain since it's very dry and close to the desert). It makes me feel ashamed when some of the fellow North American tourists complain that the AC was not strong enough and dust was going into the coach bus, while 5-6 locals here commute around sitting on haystacks pulled by a motorcycle.
The hotel that we stayed in is worth to mention about - it was kept the same after 20yrs, and is listed as the best hotel of the city already. It did smell of urine throughout the room with stains on bed covers and sofas. Regardless of this, you cannot really blame about the bad conditions since you know that it really is one of the better places to live in when you see how rough life is throughout the city. It was a very memorable eye opening experience that kickstarted the trip and reminded us how lucky we are already.


可可 said...

Ooo. Very nice. Are you back to Toronto? Want to go to desset this weekend, and perhaps we can share stories. :D

Edmlee said...

Wei, I am back last nite!
I saw ur FB profile pic of Lhasa, very nice indeed! We should get together one of these days, altho i did catch a minor flu when in Beijing (over-hyped city to be blogged about soon^^).

可可 said...

Eek. Call / email me when you are ready to come out for dessert la.