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)
Our hotel in Turpan; the Silk Lodge
Chilling on the grounds of the Silk Road Lodge, Turpan
Our hotel grounds in Turpan; a nice caravanserai style B&B within vineyards (those are grape vines in the back)
Locals who live/work in the vineyards; this man was 82, and worked manual labor daily
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
Flaming mountains outside Turpan. Not impressive
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.
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
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.
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.
Tuyuk village and valley. Note the only green areas in this bleak landscape, due to the natural stream running through the village
Local Tuyuk housing
Lunch 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.
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.
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.
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
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.