Big Cities! Skyscrapers! Grapes!
18.06.2007 - 22.06.2007 40 °C
Arriving in Urumqi was like arriving in New York for the first time (except on a smaller scale: Urumqi is definitely no New York). Skyscrapers! KFC! Bright neon lights! Shopping malls! Motorways! Civilisation (kind of)!
That wore off after a while. The city wasn't particularly exciting. For the "Uighur Capital" it didn't have many Uighurs. The Han Chinese have moved in, and are now in the majority, getting all the good jobs and living in high rise appartments that have popped up everywhere. There's even an expat community, and a Curacaoan Restaurant (Curacao is a random island in the Netherlands Antillies, that's even more random than Urumqi..).
Our only reason for going to Urumqi was to meet up with Max, a friend of ours who would be travelling with us down to Shanghai (and provide help with the Chinese).
Anyway, after a little shopping and time wasting, we jumped on a bus to China's hottest place: Turpan (of Tulufan to the Chinese, who can't pronounce most Uighur names).
It was hot. Very very hot: 45C. Ouch.
In Turpan we signed up for a tour to see the sights, which was a huge mistake. The Chinese 'style' of tourism seems to be this: Hop into a minivan, get driven to a crappy and expensive attraction (places that are "symbolic" to the Chinese people, as all the real attractions were trashed in the cultural revolution, so basically there's nothing there except for a modern building), and then pay a fortune for this "privelidge".
We saw a hill, a empty cave, a grape farm, some modern buildings, and some mud. Great. Actually the mopsque wasn't too bad.
The next day we did our own thing. We rented bikes from John's cafe (legendary along the Chinese silk road), and cycled around. I got pretty sweaty in the heat, but we saw a lot more of Turpan. We met a Uighur grape farmer who showed us around, and even gave us some of his grapes (sour, wrong season).
Even Turpan is very "Chinesefied": the Uighur old town is reduced to the southern part of the city, and horrible dirty modern Chinese buildings are everywhere (they are white tiled, badly constructed and are never washed).
We moved on.