Trip Start Feb 03, 2008
33Trip End Aug 16, 2009
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Where I stayed
What had happened in this place?
I examined the crumbling wall. Were these striations and grooves in the rock from the wind alone? Could an army have destroyed this, or was the destroyer the oldest kind of enemy--time?
Half-left houses, their dark doors and windows eyes in melting giants' faces, leer at us but the city doesn't seem sad. It's a playground, a carnival of history. Here, Silk Road caravans rested on their way east or west. A dozen empires ruled and fell. Religions waxed and waned. How many people lived here? I wondered as Dan and I walked
We found the largest temple, as impressive in size as some of the ones we saw in Egypt. A few foreigners hurried in and out on whirlwind tours,determined to take in the Jiaohe Ruins' 2,000 years of history in forty minutes before their tour bus stranded them. Dan and I ignored them, entranced by black beetles crawling out of their hidey-holes as the shadows grew longer. I noticed that the smaller bugs came out first, then the bigger ones. Maybe that's how you get to be a big beetle, by being slow.
A map and historical description near the park's gate describe Jiaohe's high-sided rocky island as 'a willow leaf' pointing north. The residents, who were ousted by the Mongols in the 13th century, lived far above the flowing waters, protected by high cliffs on both sides of the river. The main gates led visitors up through the residential districts to the government buildings and then out to the temple district on the very tip of the willow leaf . The monasteries probably housed tens of thousands of Buddhist monks, centuries before Islam made its way along the Silk Road to XinJiang.
Inside, a few scratched Buddha bodies decorate the niches in the main temple, though their heads have been souvenired, perhaps by 19th century Western visitors
Eventually, even the intermittent tour groups disappeared, and we worried about being locked in the park. We had seen some archaeologists or technicians restoring a few walls near the entrance, and so we hurried to see if they were still there. They were packing up so we too took our leave, finding a cab driver in the parking lot who was waiting for a few people, but willing to abandon them (we discovered their purses and snacks in his car!) for a few minutes to take us back to town.
What it cost:
*Entry to Jiaohe: 40 RMB each
*Taxi to/from Jiaohe: 15 RMB there, 20 back.
Tips for other travelers:
*Bargain with the taxi drivers-we asked around and found huge variations in price
*The park stays open at least until sunset
*Getting to Turpan from the train station (which says it's Turpan, but isn't) can be negotiated with a taxi driver. Usually it's 20 RMB per person, and the taxi takes four. There's also a local bus which stops somewhere near the train station parking lot. It costs 7 or 8 RMB.