One of the coolest places ever!
Turpan Travel Blog› entry 327 of 658 › view all entries
People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Hannes (Sweden), Portia (USA), Colin (Canada)
Normally when i board a sleeper train, i find out from the ticket collector what time we are due to arrive, so as i can be ready to get off the train. When we got on our train from Liuyuan at 22.30, all the lights in the cabin were already off, so i wasn't able to write down the necessary Chinese characters, to be able to obtain the answer that i required. To be honest, this normally isn't a problem, as the conductor wakes you up before your stop.
I had a rough idea in my head that the train would get into Daheyan after 07.00, so when i was woken at 05.20, i thought the conductor had woken me way too early, which they occasionally do by mistake, so I drifted back to sleep.
Hannes and Portia had been in different carriages to us and were waiting and wondering what the hell we had been playing at, which i was kind of wondering too! After carrying our bags to the exit, we were confronted by the usual riff raff of drivers that are common at all Chinese train stations. The one thing to never forget when in this situation, is do not believe a word they say.
Rather naively we didn't adhere to the rules and listened to a van driver who told us that he would take us to Turpan straight away for 7.5RMB ($1). I had experience with this before, they never leave until they are full, regardless of what they say, so i really shouldn't have set foot into the van. Over an hour later, we were still sat in a half empty van, watching our lives drift away. There was no sign of any other passengers and the taxi's at the station were telling Portia that the journey would be at least 80RMB.
The journey to Turpan took an hour and we got to watch the sunrise from the car. Portia had already booked a hotel, whilst Colin, who we had met in Dunhuang, had arranged to try and find some cheap accommodation for us by the time that we arrived. A quick phone call to him was enough to discover that he had secured Julia and I a double room for 50RMB ($7), which was good value by Chinese standards.
It had been a short night and a miserable start to the day and added to this, Julia and I were feeling sick, so decided that the sensible option would be to go to bed for a few hours and try to let our bodies recover.
Colin had met a South Korean guy called Jong on the way to Turpan, so he accompanied us to the bazaar, which was located conveniently just across the street from us. 10 minutes after getting there, Julia really wasn't feeling good, so decided that the best thing to do would be to go back home and lie down. I wasn't required to go, so stayed with the guys for lunch.
Quite simply put, the bazaar was incredible! It was like nothing I've ever seen, not so much the stalls, food or merchandise, but the people. Nowhere else in the World are you as likely to see the breathtaking mix of faces, clothing and languages as you do here.
Trying to put into words what we saw is rather hard, but i will try my best. It felt like stepping back in time, ancient languages were been spoken, Uigher, Turkic, Kazakh, whilst traditional costumes could be found on the orators. Looking in a different direction transported you from China to Turkey to Iran or Kazakhstan. A town that had been built by people seeking prosperity on the silk road and who had laid down their roots from all around the World, then chosen not to leave.
We looked at them and they looked at is, and inevitably it ended up with us exchanging smiles.
Some music was drifting from a stall and upon investigation, we found 2 Uigher men playing a drum and something similar to a two string guitar. The four of us stopped to listen, as a friendly old man wearing a skullcap offered us a toothless grin. Another aging man with a character filled face, complete with white wispy beard devoured a bowl of noodles, whilst a donkey sat on the ground not far away.
Moving into a different section of the bazaar, we came across a hat store, which was selling a range of traditional style head wear. Hannes and Colin began in some friendly bargaining and ended up purchasing two hats, which surprisingly i thought rather suited them! Leaving the bazaar with the two guys now donning some authentic gear brought even more friendly attention our way.
It was decided that after all the hospitality and kindness that we had received over the last 3 hours, it would make a nice gesture to print some photos of the people that we had met and hand them out as a small gift. The shop got the images of the required photos from Colin and Hannes' memory cards and told us to come back later to collect them.
I went home to check on Julia, who was still not feeling great, but the promise of a chicken burger and chips was enough to get her out of bed. An energy packed meal really perked her up, but the idea of joining the three guys on a bike ride still seemed to be pushing it a little, so we agreed to meet them later at night and went out for a walk.
Even though it was after 18.00, the sun was still pounding down on China's hottest city, which is also the second lowest depression in the World, 189m???? below sea level. Thankfully we found some pleasant little lanes to walk down, including one with a grape lined trellis. It was fascinating to see the local Uigher population going about their everyday life and peeking into their large courtyards, imagining what had taken place in them over their generations of use.
Donkeys pulled carts down the street and the other main form of transportation was motorcycles. Children smiled and said hello, old men and women eyed us with interest as we strolled by, some geese swam in a small stream, were we really walking down a 21st century road? Beijing all of a sudden seemed like it existed on a different planet.
A very small baby fell in its stroller way to close to the stream for comfort and was lucky not to drown. I wondered how many people died in the country per day in similar accidents, I'm guessing a lot. Meanwhile 5 young girls washed their laundry in the water, delighted to have their photos taken. Had they ever seen themselves on a picture before? Possibly not.
After 40 minutes we reached Emin Minaret, an impressive Mosque built in the 18th Century.
The walk back was equally pleasant and we capped off the journey with a delicious 1RMB ($0.15) chocolate ice cream, which kind of puts the ticket price into perspective! After showering, it was time for Dinner and we were accompanied by a Korean guy to Johns Information Cafe, where Portia also met up with us.
Hannes, Colin and Jong met up with us around 22.45 and after walking Portia home, we went and sat at an outdoor night market, where we enjoyed some beers and kebabs. It was great to watch the people and chat the night away and we didn't make it to bed until 02.00.
Turpan has many surrounding attractions and Colin had organised for a mini bus to shuttle us around them the following day, for a bargain 40RMB ($6) per person. 09.00 at our hotel was the arranged meet up time and our first destination was the ancient city ruins of Jiaohe (admission 40RMB ($5.70), located less than 10km away.
Julia and I were both feeling pretty sick and the scorching heat wasn't doing much to improve our mood.
Still clearly visible were a Temple, Stupa, Well, Grain storage and plenty of houses. It made for an interesting 90 minute walk, but i was pleased when it was finished and we could sit in the shade with a bottle of ice cold water and a slice of watermelon that Portia bought us all.
It was a 50km drive east to our next location, which was the traditional Uigher village of Tuyoq.
Having passed the village Mosque, the path led into a canyon, where there were burial caves to the left and the Grottoes to the right. In a small patch of trees a Uigher man and his Mum picked fruit from the trees. As it happened, the guy spoke passable English and was only there as a tourist from Turpan! Like all Uighers, he was very proud of his roots and made it clear that he was not Chinese!
The Grottoes were reached up a flight of wooden stairs and from the top there were nice views across the valley below.
From Tuyoq we were driven past the Flaming Mountains, which are said to resemble forks of fire and turn red in the midday sun. They were quite pretty, but nothing i would have gone out of my way to see. In fact, i found the scenery at our next destination far more stimulating.
The canyon that ran beside the Bezeklik Caves was so photogenic that all of us except Portia stayed outside and just enjoyed the views from the area around the car park. To fill some time we decided to get on some camels, as we thought it would make for a nice photo opportunity.
Since this happened, i checked up on camels, as i believed that it had spat on me, but from research, i found that it was far worse. As a method of protection (I'd say arrogance too), camels have the ability to projectile vomit over anyone they feel like, a pretty neat trick that I'd also like to possess! It made for a funny experience and gave everyone a good laugh at my expense.
It was getting late, so we were taken back to Turpan, as we were all leaving on evening buses. First stop was to collect some photos that Hannes and Colin had developed from the previous day, to hand out to the people that we had taken the pictures of.