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Magical Mystery Tour

Turpan Travel Blog

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Turpan Minaret

Turpan is in Xinyiang province and we have some fresh linguistic challenges; the locals speak Ugihur, a Turkish-like language, but Chinese is still the "official" language.  One consequence of this is that places have 2 names, one Chinese and one Ugihur; Turpan is referred to as Tulufan by the Chinese and on all official documents such as railway timetables.  The railway timetable is also a bit misleading in another respect as the railway does not actually pass through the town - the railway station is about 50 km away which is quite important when you are rushing to catch the next train to Kashgar.

Turpan really is an oasis town and lies in a wide depression almost 200m below sea level.

Village near Turpan
  In summer it is desperately hot here and it has the reputation of being the hottest place in China.  There is however intense cultivation all along the valley, due to an ancient system of underground water channels, known as Karez, that bring water from the mountains about 50km away to the north.

The sights around Turpan are very widely spread, many are about 50km from the town so unless you have a car the best practical way of seeing them is to take a day tour and the locals are switched on to this.  Our tour, used to demanding Chinese clients, packs a lot into a very full day.  We leave at 8:30am and arrive back at 7:30pm but only after pleading with the driver to take us back to the hotel and skipping out on the last 2 sights.

Desert near Turpan
  The 43C heat makes for a gruelling day. Throughout the tour (tour may be the wrong word - it is a mini van with a driver who does not speak much English) we are never quite sure where we are or where we are going next, hence the element of mystery, and we seem to include at least 3 places that we weren't expecting to visit at all.  However, despite the heat, the day is great fun and we do see:  the Karez park, the Flaming Desert, the Budda Grottoes (every town around here has one), a ruined city, the Grape village and local holy village.  Most of these do require some entrance fee to be paid even if there is very little actually to see, and we therefore skip a couple that we think are Chinese orientated theme parks (eg the Flaming Desert).
Ruined city
  The Minaret on the edge of town is particularly good but fortunately we hired bikes to see that yesterday, so can skip this part of the tour schedule.  

Turpan, despite the heat, is a pleasant place to stay.  The town is known as the grape capital of China and a few of the streets in the centre are covered by grape trellis which is both scenic and provides good shade from the sun.  Despite this area being Muslim, shops here sell locally produced wine, which is considered good stuff.  Based on our previous experience of Chinese wine we stick to the beer.  The food here is also a noticeable change from other parts of China.  Kebabs, mainly mutton and liver, seem to be the popular dish and very tasty they are too.

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Turpan Minaret
Turpan Minaret
Village near Turpan
Village near Turpan
Desert near Turpan
Desert near Turpan
Ruined city
Ruined city
Turpan desert
Turpan desert
Ruined city
Ruined city
Turpan
photo by: Biedjee