Silk Road 3; Touring around Turpan, Xinjiang, China

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Silk Road China May 2016
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Next day, woke up, had breakfast at the hotel, and Tariq, our Uyghur guide showed up in time. Tariq spoke good English, so we agreed on the itinerary and drove off in his car. We went to see the multiple sites around Turpan.

Breakfast at the hotel in Turpan; which is in a vineyard (grapes for raisins, not grapes for wine)

silk-road-3-image01Our hotel in Turpan; the Silk Lodge

silk-road-3-image02Chilling on the grounds of the Silk Road Lodge, Turpan

silk-road-3-image03Our hotel grounds in Turpan; a nice caravanserai style B&B within vineyards (those are grape vines in the back)

silk-road-3-image04Locals who went to work the vineyards daily

silk-road-3-image05Locals who live/work in the vineyards; this man was 82, and worked manual labor daily

silk-road-3-image06Grape vines off to the market in the morning, complete with toddler; in 3 wheeler

The area outside Turpan was a complete desert, with caked up mud everywhere and not a single blade of grass or any scrub/brush vegetation anywhere except where the land was irrigated, and there we saw lot and lots of grapes (for raisins and some for wine), water melon and other melons, squash etc growing). So it was brown everywhere and suddenly green where the land was irrigated. Some sights below

Sightseen Information
Turpan is mostly desert but some areas have vineyards for Wine and Rasin Cultivation

silk-road-3-image07Flaming mountains outside Turpan. Not impressive

silk-road-3-image08Desert landscape as this area is about 100ft below sea level


silk-road-3-image10Desert landscape outside Turpan

Of particular interest were the Thousand Buddha Caves, where paintings of Buddha’s were in multiple caves from before the Uyghur’s converted to Islam. Sadly, using Islam as an excuse, which they said did not allow human figures to be displayed, many of the paintings had their eyes and faces damages, and statues destroyed, so not much remains here to be seen. There were multiple other Buddha cave dwellings in this area that are being restored.

Many Buddha Caves in the region are under restoration processn

silk-road-3-image11Buddhist Caves. Note the lush green vegetation in the desert


silk-road-3-image12Not much left inside the Buddhist caves

Turpan is a well-known area for raisins and melons. Tariq took us to various places to show the grape growing and raisin-drying huts. Everything was built with straw and mud adobe; which kept the houses cool in the hot summers. Below were some sights and the grape drying

silk-road-3-image13Roadside melon and raisins stands, The melons and raisins were deliciously sweet

Versatile 3 wheeler

More desolate landscape

silk-road-3-image14Hundreds of Grape drying huts in this barren landscape


Another interesting stop was at Tuyuk village, which was an actual 2600-year-old working village where people still live and worked.  The whole village is a UNESCO site, and one can walk around and look at the mud adobe house constructions everywhere built hundreds of years ago.

Place to visit
Tuyuk Village is a Must visit in this Locality

The local mosque is also very old, and was closed (not prayer time) . Nearby was a Mazar (durga or burial place) of one of the first Islamic missionary to convert locals to Islam in Uyghur country. It was in Tuyuk that we ran into a German family who recognized us as Ismaili’s; they had actually worked for the AKF in Hunza multiple times over the years, and Mathieu was a photographer for the AKRSP and other AKF cultural Cultural and Heritage programs. What a small world.

silk-road-3-image16Tuyuk village and valley. Note the only green areas in this bleak landscape, due to the natural stream running through the village


silk-road-3-image18With Mathieu (AKF photographer) and his family in Tuyuk

silk-road-3-image19Handmade noodles, and friendly baby giving us Noodles

silk-road-3-image20Tuyuk house

silk-road-3-image21Local Tuyuk housing

silk-road-3-image22Tuyuk mosque

silk-road-3-image23Toddler strapped in his cradle

silk-road-3-image24Lunch was at the Karakhoja (“Black king”) town at a roadside restaurant, which served up a delicious Uyghur dish of noodles & vegetables.  Also had some bbq lamb kebabs but the Uighers like very fatty meat, which I don’t; so not good for me.


silk-road-3-image25Kitchen of the roadside restaurant in Karakhoja

silk-road-3-image26Noodles and veggie soup, and lamb kebabs

The best site for me was the Karez in Turpan. This is actually a man-made wonder which has not had any press. It is a man-made water channel system of over 5000 km of underground channels for getting water from Mountain snows to the flat lands where people lived for water supply and irrigation, all over Xinjiang.

info Karez, a Man Made Marvel , of 5000km of underground Tunnels is worth visiting. 

Along the way, there are vertical shafts built every 10m or so to allow people to manually dig the underground channels.  A huge underground water channel system manually built by the Uighers thousands of years ago. Quite an engineering feat.


silk-road-3-image28Karez in Turpan and Xinjiang

Went to see the Emin mosque, built of adobe. An impressive mosque, but most areas inside were off limits, and there was little explanation of this site anywhere. Not worth the entrance fee.

silk-road-3-image29Emin Mosque

On the way back, Tariq took us to his mother-in-law’s house where his wife and daughter were (see pic). We met the family (no-one spoke English) and he showed us inside their house, rooms etc, and how their heating works. Since it gets cold here in winter, they have a wood or coal burning stove in each room, with the hot exhaust being circulated in pipes behind a brick enclosure (to heat the room slowly overnight, and then the hot exhaust pipes run under their beds (beds are raised wood platform, wood on top, with carpets and then a thin mattresses laid on top), and the hot gas is then exhausted outside the room via a chimney over the roof. This keeps the bed warm all night, :). Smart

silk-road-3-image30Tariq’s wife and daughter (Meharaba) at his mother-in-law’s home

Next day, at breakfast at the hotel, we met another couple (Giulliame and Maggie Goudy) who were going on the same train as us to Urumqi, and then to the airport for a flight to Kashgar. Since we had the same itinerary, we decided to car-pool and since Guillame spoke Chinese, that helped us a lot. We kept running into them in Kashgar, Tashkurgan etc. What a coincidence.

Got the same high speed train back to Urumqi, and then took a taxi to the Urumqi airport. Since we arrived early, Dilshad convinced the China Southern airlines staff there to get us onto an earlier flight, even though our tickets were not changeable.

Flight was uneventful, and once in Kashagar, we took a taxi with the Goudy’s and they dropped us off at our hotel. After checking in, we decided to go explore the town a little, with Ablimit, our Uigher guide in Kashgar.

Silk Road 4 next

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

11 thoughts on “Silk Road 3; Touring around Turpan, Xinjiang, China

  • Pingback: Silk Road 2; Turpan, Xinjiang, China - Ali Karim Travelog

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  • Tahir April 5, 2018 at 10:28 am Reply

    Hi Ali, Thanks for prompt reply. Meantime I’ve gone through your other blogs of Middle East and Hunza as well. What a classic beauty you have captured in the eyes of your camera of all the wonderful sites you been to; your in depth description gave me feelings of myself being present there. It was so good to see you visiting the holy land of Jerusalem (Dome of Rock, Alaqsa Masjid and the Church of Christ). Miraaj-e-Mustafa (pbuh) happened there. God willing now this is going to be my priority No.1 in travel and then to your footsteps in China and Northern Area of Pakistan. Thanks for your passions.

    • Ali Karim April 5, 2018 at 7:03 pm Reply

      Hi Tahir, you have given me the best compliment I could expect to receive and I am very thankful to you for reading my travelog and appreciating my blog posts.
      You will have a wonderful time in China and Northern Pakistan; same in the holy lands of Israel and Jordan. There are so many holy sites for all 3 religions in this area that you are constantly stumbling on them. Fascinating.
      Thanks again

  • Tahir March 27, 2018 at 11:26 am Reply

    Ali Karim. Yours is a wonderful and very helpful blog full of info one can think of. Me too planning to take this trip soon.
    What is your take on one travelling in that region of China with a US passport (I’m a dual national of USA/Pakistan). Will appreciate your comments please.

    • Ali Karim March 30, 2018 at 3:45 am Reply

      Hi Tahir, thanks for the kind words on my travelog; appreciate that.
      We travelled with a US passport and had no issues. When getting the China visa, we only stated that we would travel to Beijing, Shanghai and omitted Xinjiang areas.
      Dual Pakistani nationality shoudl not be an issue but an asset; when you travel with a Pakistani passport, you dont get charged some fees which we non-CHinese/non-Pakistani nationals had to pay.
      Good luck; I know you will have fun
      Check out my blog in Hunza too if you are planning to go there

  • JaneR March 4, 2018 at 2:58 am Reply

    Thankyou again, Ali, for your Turpan travel journal, with outside trips included! Verrrry helpful, and inspiring, for our Trip planning…

    • Ali Karim March 4, 2018 at 10:53 am Reply

      So glad my blog was helpful to you; please let me know if I can help anymore. Enjoy

  • Shiraz Dhanji June 11, 2017 at 2:41 am Reply

    Ali Karim they are wonderful photos. Ali Karim by any chance would forward me, contact information for your tour guide Tariq in Turpan

    • Ali Karim June 11, 2017 at 8:57 pm Reply

      Hi Shiraz, thanks for the compliments.
      UNfortunately, I never took Tariq’s contact info; I forgot. The only way I have to contact him is thru Raziya, the owner of the hotel we stayed at in Turpan; and she likes to keep her cut 🙁

  • Carina Bales May 10, 2017 at 1:09 pm Reply

    Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through
    this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this.

    I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good
    read. Thank you for sharing!

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