adventures in the people's republic of china and beyond

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Jiaohe ruins, Emin minaret, and a night out in Turpan

Apologies to my regular readers(i.e. Rebecca's mom) that I haven't updated lately - been busy with preparing for GRE, grad school apps, etc...

By the end of the day, Rebecca felt well enough to go out and see more of Turpan. We hired a taxi for only one-way and headed off to the Jiaohe ruins, figuring it’s always easier to find public transportation from a given place to the city than the other way around.

The Jiaohe ruins were really spectacular and huge – there was much more left than the ruins at Gaoche. We went around sunset near closing time, so it wasn’t too hot, and we had the place almost all to ourselves. When I was a kid, I loved mazes and buildings with twisty corridors you could get lost in. I still do! I had a grand time walking all around the ruins through its twisting side streets. You could really feel that it used to be a city, although the ruins date to the Tang dynasty and are some 2000 years old.

Up on higher ground, you can look out over the entire city and appreciate its size.

Noticing a temple-like structure in the far distance, we wandered through the streets until we had walked all the way there.

Light shines on an ancient temple.

Further on, we found that the city is actually up on a plateau.

After we’d finished seeing the place, we walked out only to find there were no buses or taxis around, other than a few guys on motor trikes. He only wanted 10 kuai to take us back to town, which seemed like a ridiculously low price given that town was about 10km away, but hey, whatever (the guy spoke Mandarin limited to “10” and “kuai”, so there wasn’t much clarification on the destinaton). After driving for a while, he stopped at a market with many donkey carts around and a few food vendors, and pointed at a public bus. Stepping on the bus, I enquired if they went all the way to Emin Minaret. A bespectacled elder lady wearing a hijab who spoke impeccable Chinese replied that they did and encouraged us to get on.

The drive to Emin Minaret took a while, but we got to get a glimpse of rural life around Turpan around sunset. The bus honked as it passed donkey carts jingling down the road. Driven by wizened old Uyghur men with little whips and filled with colorfully-clothed passengers who sit with their legs dangling over the sides, donkey carts are a common sight on Xinjiang roads. We passed a mazaar, or Muslim burial site; the Muslim men sitting in front of us held up their hands in prayer as we passed. On either side of the road were tall trees and trucks loaded to the top with cartons full of green grapes.

The lady in the burka told us where to get off the bus, and we walked a bit down a path before we reached the minaret. The last group of tourists was leaving, but they let us in anyway, so we had the place entirely to ourselves. It was a peaceful place as the sun set.

Walking back. A typical rural Xinjiang view.

When we were finished seeing the place, we walked out only to find there didn’t seem to be any transportation around. So we simply started walking off down the road back to Turpan under the tall trees. A few donkey carts passed us by. Finally, a souped-up car pumping techno music pulled up and offered us a lift. The young Uyghur fellow driving the car was friendly enough and only charged us 10 kuai to drive us back to town.

We finished off our day with a dinner outdoors. In every Xinjiang city in certain public areas after dark, people set up tables, chairs, grills, and noodle stands. We had some delicious grilled lamb kebabs and nan bread. If you like meat, Xinjiang lamb kebabs are really a special treat – juicy, tender, fatty, and spiced to perfection. I ran into a local Ihlas supermarket to buy a Kawsar cola, one of the many local brands of cola you might come across.

Just looking at this picture makes me hungry.

Ihlas is one of a couple supermarket chains which are quite special to the region – staffed entirely by Uyghurs, they cater to an Uyghur clientele and sell things like Ülker chocolate bars (Turkish products seem quite popular), all kinds of sweets and pastries, and that disgusting cough syrup drink (more about this later). No reason dentist offices seem so popular around Xinjiang! ;)

Master kebab griller at work.

The guy selling watermelon had a way more high-tech cell phone than I did.

After dinner, we had some delicious watermelon for .5kuai a slice - you can always find people selling slices of watermelon and hamigua(similar to canteloupe) around eating places. To top it all off, we paid a visit to the yogurt guy, who even has his own health certificate!

We strolled around a bit more, enjoying the Turpan nightlife and taking the pictures below. The city certainly seemed a lot more lively at night than during the hot afternoon when I'd been walking around.

Hand over the grapes! The poster is typical propaganda used in unsold advertisement space and says something like "Together, we'll write a new page, create a harmonious Turpan!"

Have fun at the public arcade and play the AK-47 shooting range game!(not pictured)

In the next post - we head to Urumqi, the most landlocked metropolis in the world.

You can add me as a regular reader. I am CJ from the Philippines. :)


Nice to hear from you, CJ. How did you come across my blog? You wouldn't be related to Mr. Kaime, would you?


Hi! :)

I am not related to Mr. Kaime. I am planning to visit China next year and I was searching for info and that's the time I came across to your Blog. :) I love to read about your adventures, so I added your Blog to my Favorites list. :)

so are you still in China? Don't you have plans to visit Harbin? :)



Wow, great to know I have a few readers who found me through the net :D Where are you going in China? You can e-mail me if you have any questions, the address is (myname)

I'm not in China anymore, alas. How did you know I once had plans to visit Harbin? It was second on my list after Xi'an, I thought I might go to Russia.


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