Arriving in Ürümqi was like having traveled to another world, even though you were already in another world, not only because of the distance and different landscapes, but also because it had an atmosphere and people so different from most Chinese. I was thrilled to see non-Asian people in China.
In front of the train station, Flavio and I started taking pictures with these people in the background. The Ürümqi railway is more beautiful and organized than Xian’s, and also younger.
Here almost in Central Asia, the atmosphere looks like in the Middle East. There are many Muslims with their heads covered, the people of ethnic minority are Turks, called Uighurs (or Uyghurs), they have no similarities to Chinese, because the majority of Chinese people are Han ethnically. I came to find out that I am also a Han, just like most of Chinese anywhere in this world, in my ignorance I thought all Chinese were equals. The Uighurs are very beautiful, as they are Turkish some have mixed-race face with blue eyes, green or honey and wear colorful and beautiful clothes. Some men wear long beards and dress badly. Some do not speak Mandarin, speaking a Turkish dialect, and those who speak Mandarin have a dragged accent. Here the writing used besides Chinese is Arabic.
Ürümqi (it is pronounced ‘ulumutí’), is the capital and largest city of Sinkiang province or Xinjiang (new spelling), meaning “New Territories”. Located at the very far west of China and close to Kazakhstan. It is also the farthest city from any ocean according to the “Guinness, the Book of Records”. The population is 2.2 million people.
As Flavio and I did not go to the “English Camp”, we separated from the group and went to the parents of the friend of Flávio’s friend, phew! She, who we didn’t know yet, was supposed to pick us up at the station. She also had a cell phone, and to identify her she was with a black cover book holding to her chest, on the staircase of the main entrance.
In the afternoon after lunch the typical local food, a “laghman” (or “lamen”, freshly made pasta with pepper, vegetables and meat), Flávio and I went for a walk in the center, well developed by the way, with shopping malls and avenues. We climbed to the top of Hong Shan Park (“Red Hill”), from where we could have a panoramic view of the city, the desert and the mountains in the background. Then we met the gringos and went to the top of Yamalik Park, another mountain. Since we were all Christians, we prayed for the city, like Jesus, when he went up the hill.
In Beijing I had bought, from another backpacker, a used guide book of the “Rough Guide” – China, but as Flavio had gifted a used “Lonely Planet” guide book, which it was my preference, I left my guide in Xian. What we didn’t know was that Flávio’s guide book was missing pages, just from the region we needed. I was glad the gringos had the same guide, so we went to get copies.
The dinner was at KFC.