Ancient City, Karez Wells, Emin Minaret, Grapes
Trip Start Aug 16, 2013
377Trip End Aug 25, 2013
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Video : Driving thru Turpan
Our first stop was the Jiaohe Ancient City Ruins for 40Y ($6). This is a 1km long complex with many ruined houses and temples. It resembled something more like Star Wars and the planet Tatooine. It was only about 9am but the heat was already rising and expected to get into high 30s
In the distance everywhere were newer one storey brick buidings. I didnt know if people lived there but was told they are grape drying houses. Grapes grow wild everywhere in Turpan. As muslims they dont make wine, and unfortunately for hot weather not grape juice either. What they'll do is dry them out and make raisins instead.
The smaller villages outside Turpan and the city itself resemble Pakistan. You have dry hot dusty roads with men in beards and caps, sometimes in shalwars. The scooters buzz by and the taanga (horse and cart) has been replaced by a motorized version. Fortunately all motorbikes are electric which makes them much quieter, slower, and pollution free. The language dialect also sounds more like pushto or farsi.
Our next stop was the Karez underground water system for 40Y ($6). This is called Xinjiangs Great Wall as its just as large but underground. Tunnels were made by hand hundreds of years ago to bring water from the himilaya mountains to the arid desert. This has allowed Turpan to survive as a bustling town along the dry dusty silk road
Nothing much to see inside as its just a series of dug out tunnels with water running, more like the DMZ tunnels in Korea. At the exit was a long wide walkway covered in grape vines. This is common in turpan as a means of growing the grapes and creating cool shade for people. For 5Y (.75 cents) they were also offering freshly squeezed grape juice, a rare treat and ideal in the hot weather. There are many flavours of grape I discovered, and this juice tasted more like banana than grape.
Our last stop for the morning was the Emin Minaret. This is the most famous landmark of Turpan, like the Eiffel Tower is for Paris. Its maybe 300 years old and build as a thank you to one of the local rulers. The mineret is an entrance to a mosque which has smooth clay walls and reminded me of buildings in Dubai.
The village streets also had many pictures painted on the houses. This seemed like information about services such as schools, hospitals, and farming, and how to live happily together. We also stopped by some of the local mosques with unique architecture. One was a Hui Muslim mosque so was chinese pagoda style interior.
Video : Driving thru Turpan Villages - Wall Art
By now it was very hot so we went to a restaurant to keep in the shade. We ordered a beef and vegetable noodle for 15Y ($2.25). Then it was time to rest in the hotel until 4pm when the heat had subsided. Apparently the temperatures had already peaked earlier in the 40s and this was the decline in temperatures starting from mid august. However, it was still quite extreme in midday, although mornings and evenings are very comfortable.
I also decided to name this place Uygharstan after Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, since it had more in common with those cultures than China. (I also named Pakistan 'Tamashastan' years ago since everything is a big tamasha(drama) over there starting from the airport). You also see more foreign tourists in Turpan, mostly european (french, spanish, german, brits) but no north americans.
I tried the internet in the hotel for 10Y/hr ($1.50) but hotmail, facebook, youtube were blocked, so it wasnt worth paying to try it again
The city was getting ready for the Turpan Festival to celebrate the grape harvest. This will have music dance performances tomorrow night but unfortunately I will miss it as my tour doesnt stay a second night in Turpan. There is also a long covered walkway with grapevines starting from my hotel thru downtown all the way to the main square and night market.
After 4pm we went over to the Turpan Museum a few blocks away which was closing at 5pm. It was free but no photos were allowed. They had a large exhibit of dinosaurs on the ground floor. After that we walked around town, there was a fountain and lotus pond beside the museum with some newer apartments.
We walked back to main city square but it had been closed off for the Festival so instead we went to the local bazaar area. I found a nice local mosque but was getting lots of stares from the elders so didnt take pics. Turns out they thought I was another pakistani visitor as they said many of them come to their mosque.
Video : Turpan Bazaar
The market was quite interesting but a mild dust storm was beginning
I guess the naan was a very rich fibre as it didnt sit well in my stomach. Next thing a crazy woman was banging my door and getting other people to kick it down. I didnt know if the hotel made a mistake and thought my reservation was for one night and wanted me out. Turns out this was a newly arriving guest that had the wrong door, and was trying to get help as she thought it was stuck because I locked it from the inside.
So I survived day 1 of the extreme Turpan heat so we'll see what day 2 has in store.