adventures in the people's republic of china and beyond

Friday, February 15, 2008


Yusup Has tomb, Ha Noi/Mor Lam, and the middle of nowhere

We had a quick lunch (liangpi, cold and spicy noodles) then headed out to the Yusup Has tomb. I thought it was really beautiful - it's a large domed building covered in glazed tile, surrounded by a courtyard of white arches. There was almost nobody about, unlike the Abakh Khoja tomb, so we had the place all to ourselves. I really liked it - the LP guide claims that it's in a state of disrepair, but it looked like it was fine condition when I saw it. Here are some more pics:

Having seen almost everything in Kashgar, we decided to head out of town to see the Ha Noi ruins - a huge pyramid-like structure in the middle of the desert. We got a taxi to drive us out there, one-way as usual. The drive took almost an hour, over really rough dirt roads. We kind of dozed off... the taxi driver pointed out to something on the horizon and said, "Those are the ruins. If you hire me to take you back, I'll take you all the way there and wait for you." I couldn't really tell what he was pointing at, but I figured we'd be able to make our own way back, so I turned down his offer and we got out.

I'm in the middle of nowhere and happy as ever!

The taxi drove off with a cloud of dust, and there we were standing around in the middle of nowhere. There was a farm nearby. We walked up the dirt road for a while, and eventually came across some formations of dried mud and a big sign. Was this the ruins?!?

I feel cheated...

We stood around for a while, disappointed. Then all of a sudden, I saw some movement on the horizon!

I could make out a man and a boy coming over a ridge, leading a flock of sheep. They seemed to be coming in our direction, so I waited for them. They waved the sheep off, and the whole flock ran off to graze. The two approached, and I walked over to greet them.

"Yakshim siz!" I called out. The man nodded to me in greeting. He looked slightly perplexed that two foreigners were standing out in the middle of nowhere, but friendly.

I only remembered one other Uyghur phrase, so I tried it out: "Sizning ismingiz neme?"(what's your name?"

He told me his name was Kamil Jan. We both stood there, kicking around at the ground. The boy who came with him grinned. This was getting awkward...

I began the typical direction-asking procedure for tourists who can't speak the native language: repeat the name of the place several times like an idiot while shrugging and looking lost. He initially pointed at the ground where we were standing, then after I made some gestures with my hand indicating it should be a very big place, a look of recognition came over his face. He pointed over to the horizon.

"Thaaaat's Ha Noi", he chuckled. I couldn't see what he was pointing at. "Yirakmu?(is it far)", I asked, my Uyghur vocabulary being completely exhausted.
"Yirak, yirak..." he said. Straining to see what he was pointing at, I could make out a large pyramid-like structure in the distance. It looked to be several miles away. I wouldn't have minded walking, but we had no water and it was soon sunset. And we had no idea how we would get back from here in the first place. Unlike the Jiaohe ruins or the Emin minaret, it really seeme like we were in the middle of nowhere. I hadn't seen a single car around when we drove up here.

Rebecca and I walked back down the dirt road. It was typical of a rural Uyghur farming area, with tall trees lining both sides of the dirt road, and a canal on one side with flowing water.

We walked down the road in the setting sun. A water-mill type thing bubbled away on one side. After walking for a while, I noticed a group of men standing around a dusty old trike. We had gotten lucky!!

We walked up to the men, who seemed amused that two foreigners had walked out of the middle of nowhere. The three men were quite ruddy-faced, with sandy brown hair and blueish eyes. One squatted on the ground, patting the trike with admiration. They grinned at us. After some confusion, a taller, unshaven guy piped up. He could speak some Chinese (I always find it amazing that even in the most remote Uyghur villages, there's at least one guy who can speak decent Chinese). Explaining I wanted to get back to Kashgar, the three men started discussing amongst themselves rapidly. After some discussion, the driver offered me five kuai, but then his two friends were like "No! You idiot! Ten kuai!", so he offered me ten kuai. The Chinese-speaking guy explained that he would drive me up to where a bus for Kashgar stopped. Fair enough!

They even have China Mobile out here! People in the remotest regions of Xinjiang always tend to have way cooler cellphones than I do...

We hopped into the back of the trike, and it puttered up and we sped off down the road, getting a good glimpse of rural Uyghur life. There were families hanging out by the canal, washing clothes and getting water. We passed by donkey carts filled with people, who grinned at us curiously as we went by. Every now and then the driver would cast a glance at us with his big blue eyes, smiling. He asked me the inevitable question: "ni jia zai nali(where is your home?)" Besides the usual communication problems, it was kind of hard to talk over the motor and the wind blowing at us. Finally, we saw a bus by the side of the road and we stopped next to it and got out. After talking to the bus driver, the driver gave me a hearty pat on the back and motioned at the bus, grinning.

Can't I ever take a "local people" picture without everyone turning to look at me?!

For some reason the dentistry business is really good in Xinjiang. I think it's all the candy and Turkish chocolate they eat. And that terrible grape cough syrup drink.

Ah, Kashgar, if only I never had to leave...

The bus took us back to the market, where we walked around a bit before getting another bus back to town. We ate at a typical Uyghur place, eating kebabs and pilaf. In the morning, we'd be leaving for Karakul!

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