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china Travel

ANCIENT SILK ROUTE TOWNS

From Turpan I took a tour of the hotel agency, the manager’s name was also Abdul, as in Kashgar. I visited the following sights:

•             Emin Minaret – a beautiful mosque from 1777A.D., made of brown bricks, with a 40m tower. It was built in honor of Turpan’s hero and general, Emin Khoja. Just like yesterday, I decided not to enter today.

•             Tomb of Astana – Astana means capital in Uighur, it was an old cemetery and dull, where there were some mummies, also thought it was not worth entering.

•             Gaochang Old Town – they are ruins of an ancient city in the middle of the desert 30 km from Turpan, left only mounds of sand and clay bricks that were confused with the color of the desert. The city arose around the 1st century BC, being an important warehouse of the Silk Road and it was destroyed in the 14th century. While the tourists took pulled carts pulled by mule to go from the entrance to the palace, I decided to walk through the ruins until there.

•             Caves of Bezeklik – or Mural of Buddhist Art, I entered to see the caves, I repented cause it was so boring. The murals with buddha drawings were removed by the Germans or destroyed by the Chinese Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution. On the outside it was much more beautiful due to the landscape of a canyon. There were also dunes to walk, I was in a sandal and almost burned my feet in the torrid sand.

•             Valley of Grapes – it was just a region where grapes were planted.

•             Jiaohe Old Town – another ruin of town 9km from Turpan, it was also the former capital of some ancient kingdom. It was destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th century A.D. I found it more interesting than Gaochang, it was a little less ruined.

•             Karez Aqueduct – or “qanat”, is a water distribution system, used until this days since ancient times. The water is brought from far away, from the melting of the mountains. Boring site.

•             Flaming Mountains – They are mountain chain along the way that are part of the local landscape, it has this name because they are red, as if they were on fire.

During the tour I talked sometimes to a Japanese or sometimes to an elderly American couple and already retired. The lady as Chinese but she has lived her whole life in the U.S., married to an American gentleman who taught Chinese in the U.S., sometimes we talked in Chinese or in English.

Back in Turpan, I saw a beggar and obese lady bathing naked with PET bottles filled with water and sat on the sidewalk! I was triple shocked: first simply because it was a shocking scene; second because it is a Muslim city; and third for being in China. I discreetly registered a photo.

Categories
china Travel

TURPAN, ANOTHER CITY OASIS

I separated from Flavio because he had commitments in Xian. He took a flight, since there weren’t any available train tickets at the moment.

I went to Toksun by sleeper bus. The trip lasted !8 hours, it was near Turpan my final destination, there was no direct bus, both cities were near Ürümqi. Due to it being the busy season there were no more train tickets back from Ürümqi to Xian, only by plane. I decided to adjust my itinerary and include a few more cities before returning to Xian – later I would regret not having included even more cities.

As it was hot and the bus had not air conditioning, I spent most of the trip with my shirt off.

I thought the bus had a final destination in Toksun but it turned out I was mistaken! I had to get off earlier in Toksun, at one of the stops, but as I did not know this I ended up in Ürümqi. I wondered why it was taking so long to get there! I boarded another bus to Turpan, which required another 2.5 hours and 187 km of travel, I must have lost 6 to 8 more hours… patience.

Around here one of the most fearful things is the gas station restrooms. There is no door and you can see people crouching doing their deeds, since there is a hole in the floor, rather than toilet. Most people here don’t know the western style toilet. In many stops people just go to the bushes to do their business because the smell of the restroom is unbearable.

The scary toilets

In China my concern was less about “what to eat”, although I find strange or unhygienic some things, but rather more in “where to use the bathroom”, so I often adopted the strategy of not eating on long trips just to avoid this need. I was glad to have resistance to hunger. In a way, feeling hungry and cold, made me feel closer to the needy, with the difference that I deprived myself by choice, but the poor people for lack of option.

Turpan, or Turfan, the Chinese pronounce “tulufán”, is the hottest city in China, surrounded by desert, its heat is dry, which makes it more bearable compared to my first day in Tokyo, the worst heat of my life! It is located at a depression 80m below sea level, one of the lowest in China. The population is 600,000 people. Turpan is famous for its grapes and Xinjiang Province for its fruits (melons, watermelons, peaches, apples, etc.). It is also an oasis city, part of the North Silk Road, is located in Xinjiang Province. Here more than 70% of the population are Uighurs, and almost all have business with grape or wine.

I stayed at the hotel whose parking was also the city bus station, for USD 3 per night, it was reasonable. In the afternoon I wandered around the small town, strolling through a small market. It was so hot that I wet my t-shirt to stay cool when leaving my room and, in ten to fifteen minutes it was already dry. I walked to the Emin Minaret 1.2 miles from downtown. That night I had dinner on the street, in a tent, some cold and spicy noodle.