Silk Road 1 – Urumqi; Xinjiang, Far west China

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Silk Road China May 2016
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To celebrate Dilshad’s birthday, we decided to do a trip to the ancient Silk Road of Western China.  After a few days in Shanghai for a Beauty and Skincare Show, we took a high-speed traffic-weaving taxi ride to the Pudong airport.

Learnt a lot of things in these last few days in China. For example, I was completely lost without Google as it is my default search engine, and China Govt blocks Google, FB, YouTube and other sites as they see fit. So I could not only not use Google search engine, but I could also not use any related google products like Gmail. Imagine no emails. I did subscribe to a VPN service to tunnel through to servers outside China, but the service was slow, and not always reliable.  I suspect that China internet gateways figure out VPN services and block them also, hence the low reliability. I ended up using Yahoo as my default search engine in China. Emails (Gmail) suffered though.

We had booked a China Southern Airlines flight from Pudong Airport in Shanghai to Urumqi (pronounced Urumuchee) in Xinjiang province. Check-in was a 40 mins lineup; which we later realized we could have avoided by trying their few self serve kiosks. Need to use them for next internal flight in China.

Waited close to the departure gate; about half an hour before the flight, we noticed that the departure gate was empty. Worried, we asked the staff there (very little English) as to when the flight would be boarded. Were informed that the incoming plane had been diverted to Xian (another city) due to fog in Shanghai area.  They had no idea when the incoming plane would arrive, so we were being accommodated in a hotel nearby. There was 1 other passenger who was with us, so 3 of us were taken to another area outside airport, where the rest of the passengers had moved to earlier, waiting for the bus to the airport. We boarded the bus, and after a long announcement in Chinese ( we asked for translation, and fortunately, the airline official spoke some English); we were informed that we would get dinner at the hotel, a room, and the flight would take off at 2AM.

So after a 30 minute drive, the shuttle buses dropped us off at the Xiang Teng Yuan Hotel, our passports and boarding passes were taken in exchange for a room key. Went for dinner which was a typical chinese buffet.

Dilshad’s birthday dinner was with a bunch of other Chinese stranded passengers, none of whom spoke English L. Happy Birthday Dilshad

silk-road-1-image01Dilshad’s Birthday Dinner with complete strangers and no English speakers

silk-road-1-image02Our hotel for DIlshad’s birthday 🙁

Went off to the room, No cockroaches in sight, so not bad. It was like a 2.5 – 3 star hotel; instead of our waiting 5 star Sheraton hotel in Urumqi. Went to sleep as it was now 8:30PM, and we were infirmed we would be woken up for the shuttle. The bed was hard, but slept well.

At 12 midnight, loud knocking on the door; so we figured it was time for our shuttle back to the airport. Went downstairs, and boarded the shuttle bus; which took us back to the airport. After clearing security etc once again, we were bussed to the plane. Boarded the China Southern airline flight finally. Flight took off at 2AM as we had been informed, and we were served dinner again at 3AM (midnight snack / breakfast)

silk-road-1-image03Boarding China Southern Airlines plan to Urumqi at 2AM

The flight was about 5hrs long; you quickly figure out that China is a huge country. Landed at 7AM Beijing time; China has only 1 time zone in the whole country, however, Xinjiang province where the indigenous people are the Uyghur Muslim majority prefer their own local time zone ; which is 2hrs behind Beijing time. Interesting to live in a place that has 2 competing time zones :).

silk-road-1-image04Tian Shan mountains just before arrival at Urumqi early morning

The Uyghur’s are a Turkic people that is a mix of people that traded up and down the Silk Road. They are a mix of Turkic, Persian, Mongols, and central “stans” all mixed up (Tajiks, Kazaks, Khyrgiz, Uzbeks) ; used to be Buddhists after conversion by some Kashmiri royalty had married Uyghur princesses; and then later converted to Islam.

At the airport, the airport shuttle was not open (too early in the morning); a Chinese family who spoke some English asked if we needed help, as we looked lost.  Showed them where we needed to go and they very kindly offered to give us a ride in their car; wow. People here are definitely very nice.

silk-road-1-image05Nice family that gave us a ride from the airport to our hotel

At the Sheraton hotel, explained that our flight was delayed and so we missed spending the previous night in Urumqi, and since we were taking the train to Turpan later that evening, we needed the room for the day. They were very accommodating, and gave us free breakfast.

After breakfast, we went to the Xinjiang Region Museum, which was actually an excellent excellent museum; with a great capture/showcasing of the history of all the people of Xinjiang, their cultures, clothing, customs, religion, population etc (Uighurs, Mongols, Hui, Tajiks; Uzbeks, Kazaks, Tartars, Kirgiz, and of course, Chinese Han). This is a very impressive museum, not to be missed if you are in this area.

silk-road-1-image06Very impressive Xinjiang Regional Museum

silk-road-1-image07Xinjiang Museum; section about Tajik ethnic group that lives in Xinjiang, with semi-clear reference to Ismaili religious affiliation.

Then took off to the old Uyghur town area (bazaar); which was very lively with lots of Uyghur families out and about; food stands, restaurants, shops etc. Spent the afternoon here , sampled all the local Uyghur food dishes, and plenty of fruit (melon’s of all kinds).  Wanted to visit the nice mosques in this area, but they were all closed; open only at prayer times. We later learned that this was a Chinese Govt law that prevented the mosque for being used for nothing other than prayers, and the Imams are appointed by the Govt. Then took off for the train station for the train ride to Turfan.

Below are pictures on ethnic Uyghur old town Urumqi

silk-road-1-image08Lamb Kebabs everywhere in old town Urumqi; everything is halal

silk-road-1-image09Very friendly Uyghurs in old town

silk-road-1-image10Hui mosque; was closed unfortunately. Only open at prayer time

silk-road-1-image11Lots of Nuts and dried fruits in this region

silk-road-1-image12Local Crepe with vegetables and hot sauce

silk-road-1-image13Local stores

silk-road-1-image14Lots of Naan

silk-road-1-image15An Egg based dish

silk-road-1-image16Fruit walla

Nan

More Nan; fresh from the tandoor

silk-road-1-image17Polo (mutton Pilau) is very popular

silk-road-1-image18Watermelons grow like weeds here

silk-road-1-image19Beautiful Uyghur kids

silk-road-1-image20Business, Social, Family, snacking, all at the same time

silk-road-1-image21Uyhgur families out for a Sunday stroll in the old town

silk-road-1-image22Locals enjoying handmade ice cream

silk-road-1-image23High Fashion Uyghur style

silk-road-1-image24Cant resist taking pictures of these beautiful Uyghur people and their babies

Shopping

silk-road-1-image25Waiting for the Baitulla Mosque to open for mid-day prayer

silk-road-1-image26Family time

silk-road-1-image27

silk-road-1-image28Snack time at local café for Laghman (noodles, broth, bread, vegetables), and tea

silk-road-1-image29Locals enjoying Laghman too

silk-road-1-image30Family outing

This entry was posted in Asia, China, Silk Road China May 2016

3 thoughts on “Silk Road 1 – Urumqi; Xinjiang, Far west China

  • lucindapebworth.wordpress.com May 10, 2017 at 8:44 pm Reply

    I’m really impressed with your writing skills and
    also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you
    customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice
    quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one nowadays.

  • Harrison August 8, 2017 at 3:44 pm Reply

    I really appreciate this post. I’ve been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You’ve made my day! Thanks again

    • Ali Karim August 10, 2017 at 10:31 am Reply

      Thanks Harrison; glad you enjoyed by travelog

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