Not wanting to hang around the city for to long, I decided to head to Turpan. I caught the public bus which after leaving the city made its way through huge wind farms which then gave way to salt plains until the road began to knife is way amid the cliffs. It then began to descend into the Turpan Basin, the legendary oasis which was a well known stop over on the Northern Silk Road. At 154 meters below sea level, its even better known as the second lowest place on earth after the Dead Sea in Israel.
Its also by far the hottest spot in China and the temperature here has been recorded at
49.6 degrees Celsius. Turpan is known in the region for its masses of grapes which grow everywhere due to its oven like temperatures. In the summer apparently some of the pedestrian streets are covered with grapevine trellis, unfortunately I was unlucky enough to visit out of season when the grapes were only just starting to grow, which was a shame but the hundreds of different types of raisins made up for this,they were delicious.
While down there I visited the Jiaohe Ruins which during the Han Dynasty were established by the Chinese as a garrison town. They are also the worlds oldest, largest and best
preserved ancient city. They were really impressive and made even better by the fact that we stayed to watch the sunset over them. The park officially closed at 8pm but due to how far West I now am in China (& the fact that China is stupidly all on the same time zone when really for the size of the country it covers almost 4 zones) the sun does not set until about half 9, we luckily managed to avoid the security guardsand even when they did find us pleaded ignorance, pretending we didn't understand when they asked us to leave, it was worth it and the sunset was beautiful over the ruins.
I also visited the Flaming Mountains which get there name from the multicolored rocks
which look like hundreds of tongues of fire. The midday heat also complements this affect as the mirage created by the intense heat rising from the earths surface gives them an even more convincing fire like appearance. Set amid these mountains was also an ancient city, still inhabited and doing nothing but producing grapes.
When I arrived at Urumqui I found out that, even though it was quite a small town, there was a Kazak embassy.... this got me thinking and even though it was even further west it would be a shame to come this close without exploring some of Central Asia. I headed down there and found out that I could get a visa without an invitation in about 2days and also a Kyrgyzstan visa in Kazakhstan so....I applied!