Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day 2: Tian Chi- Close to Heaven

Tian Chi, also called Heavenly Lake, was our first stop. My other friends had recommended it as a good place to start any sightseeing trip/adventure across Xinjiang. And a good place it was.

We booked a trip through our hostel and left early in the morning. The ride was a bit long, 3 hours, but we also stopped at a few tourist traps along the way. Not that they were trying to sell us anything at these stops, but I felt trapped because I just wanted to see the lake.

The lake's water were blueish-green. And clean. So clean, actually, that I didn't think I'd ever seen anything quite like it before. Water in Beijing and my hometown of Tamaqua aren't the most spectacular things to look at, or drink, but the waters of Tian Chi looked magical; as if drinking them could cure any ailment or grant you special powers or something like that. But I resisted the urge to take a gulp since I have a strict "No Drinking the Water, except from a bottle, in China" policy.

On the lake, a cool breeze swept down from the snow covered peaks in the background. It was nice since temperatures were around +90 degrees that day. On a hill was a Taoist temple. Incense burned, filled the air with its distinct smell.

The walk down from the lake, located about two miles on top of a mountain, was just as fun. A canyon filled with streams and waterfalls had me stopping for a photo every three feet. Again, nothing but clean water and a cool breeze.

MAP: Tian Chi is about a three hour drive from Urumqi. But on the way home, it only took us an hour and a half getting to Urumqi. A prime example of Chinese "skilled" driving.

GOOOOOONG: Layla rings the gong at the Taoist temple

MOUNTAIN ANIMALS: It's kind of hard to see, but the white specks in the photos are sheep

TAOIST TAYLOR: They gave us ribbons at the temple and told us to make a wish and tie the ribbon to a special post near the gong

LITTLE FRIEND: Chinese kids love posing for the camera, especially with foreigners. I still haven't figured what's up with the peace sign thing though

LOVELY LAKE: Tian Chi was impressive, if not a bit touristy. But that's what you get for going with a travel group

TOURIST TRAP: I wanted to see the lake, but like tours the world over we had to stop at a few places first. The first stop was a mock-Uyghr village with yurts (small tent like houses) and a few people dressed in traditional Uyghr clothes

TEA TIME: Even Uyghrs have tea time. Our tour group got to eat and drink in one of the yurts

FALLING WATER: The walk down from Tian Chi was just as impressive as the lake itself. Through a gorge, waterfalls and a stream made their way down to the parking area

SHEEPING AROUND: Goats and sheep call the Tian Chi area home, and are allowed to roam freely on the same paths used by tourists. On a few occasions we had to stop because there were a few goats or sheep in the path

CELEBRITY STATUS: This never gets old: At every sightseeing spot random people ask to have their photo taken with me. I love this country

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