adventures in the people's republic of china and beyond

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Tian Chi - the heavenly lake

Hey everyone! Apologies for the long delay; I finally took the GRE and got a bunch of grad school admissions stuff taken care of, so I should be less busy now.

You can see the snowy Bogeda peak of the Tian shan mountains all the way down in Urumqi if you look in the right direction - if it's not too cloudy, sometimes you can see it peeking out between two skyscrapers. The next day, we headed up to Tian Chi, a lake high up in the mountains. We hitched on to a tour bus for the ride up.

The ride up wasn't terribly exciting; the tour guide did point out 八楼, a bus stop mentioned in a song by Dao Lang about Urumqi - and contrary to what some Western OMGSAVETEHUYGHURS!!1 types would want you to believe, Uyghurs LOVE listening to Dao Lang, even though he's Han Chinese. How's that for race relations, eh?

As we headed up, the scenery changed from barren deserts to forested mountains. Springs bubbled along past Kazakh yurts. After reaching the parking lot, the tour group headed off to queue up in the amazingly long line for the lifts, reminding us to be back at the bus at 4PM if we wanted a ride back. Rebecca and I climbed up the zigzagging road a ways before realizing it was for cars, and headed back down to find the start of the trail.

The trail up was nice and there weren't too many people about. We hiked up, following a stream, and halfway up there were some Kazkahs with a yurt. I hadn't eaten any breakfast, so we ate some yogurt and dry nan bread. Dry nan bread is pretty typical fare in the higher-altitude regions of Xinjiang; it keeps for ages, but tastes like stale, dry uncooked bagels. At least you get to pretend you're a 19th century sailor when you eat the stuff. I offered the Kazakhs 10 kuai for their generosity, and was surprised when the kid gave me back exact change. Guess they get a lot of tourists up there.

Further up, we passed an impressive waterfall and a smaller, but no less beautiful lake. After a bit more climbing we reached the top, and were greeted by green pastures and a bunch of "take your picture wearing traditional minority dress" places.

Tourists were buzzing all over, but the lake was truly impressive - you could see the snowy peaks towering over the lake in the distance. We walked around a bit, and I took about 5 billion pictures of the same thing. I think my pictures tend to come out way better than they look in the viewfinder; it was very bright, so it seemed like none of my pictures were coming out well.

Музыка волн, музыка ветра...

We had our fill of the lake and went down. Going down was a bit confusing; there were lifts, but the line was long and we didn't have time. Some Uyghur fellows sat in electric buggy carts ferrying tourists back and forth; the communication was difficult, and when I asked him if he was driving to the parking lot, he kept saying "no." Finally, I worked out that he wasn't actually driving all the way down, but he would ferry us to a bus stop where we would get on a separate bus to take us down.

The view down was pretty spectacular; there were a couple people who simply walked all the way down next to the road. I kind of wished we did that to take in the views better.

Next: Our last day in Urumqi and our departure for Kucha

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