Saturday, September 4, 2010
Day 3: Turpan- Desert Oasis
SUNDAY, AUGUST 15
Turpan is located on the edge of a desert basin. It is one of the lowest points below sea level in the world. Getting there was interesting -- our bus ride took 4 hours and passed through a pretty desolate region to get to the oasis.
Once in Turpan, we hired a driver to take us to the major sights around the city.
Our first stop was Tuyoq, an old city that is a pilgrimage sight for the Uyghur people. In the side of the one mountain were these old cave dwellings that kind of looked like the same structures American Indians made out west. The village nearby was pretty neat. And the mountains around the city were amazing.
The next stop was the Flaming Mountain -- named because of its red rock and firey-like features.
For lunch we stopped at a Uyghur village and had some nang (bread) and grapes. The village was actually in a huge grape vineyard valley, one of the largest in the region.
Our last stop was an ancient city fortress, called Jiaohe. The ruins sit on an island-like piece of land with high walls. The city is all but gone, lost to the elements, but was fun to explore. There weren't many guard rails, so I was free to roam and check out every little area and side street of the ruins.
MAP: Turpan is on the edge of the Tarim Basin, the northern part of the Taklamakan Desert. It was 4 hours by bus from Urumqi
GRAPE VALLEY: Lunch in the valley consisted of bread, grapes and more grapes
MOUNTAIN FORTRESS: The ruins at Jiaohe were really neat. There used to be a river that flowed around the city, which is why the fortress had no walls
ANCIENT RUINS: Ruins of any kind impress me, partly because we don't have them in the States. The only ruins I've seen in the last 23 years of my life were dilapidated houses from home that were maybe 20 or 30 years old -- unlike Jiaohe which is thousands of years old, and still standing in parts
TEST OF TIME: Unlike America, there weren't too many barriers keeping me from exploring any part of the Jiaohe ruins. A few signs cautioned about deteriorated structures and the possibility of cave ins or collapsing buildings, but there weren't many guards on hand to prevent tourists from being adventurous
TUYOQ MOSQUE: The mosque in Tuyoq wasn't open -- to foreigners
UYGHUR PILGRIMAGE: Visiting Tuyoq seven times is like taking one trip to Mecca. But during my visit I didn't see anyone that looked like a pilgrim
MOUNTAIN ON FIRE: The Flaming Mountain's barren surface was impressive -- even as we drove past at about 100 mph
CAVE DWELLING: The old cave dwellings of Tuyoq looked like the kind American Indians built in the American west. They were being renovated so we couldn't go see them up close
OASIS: Tuyoq, about a 45 minute drive outside Turpan, was also an oasis
RED HILLS: The landscape driving around Turpan was unlike anything I'd ever seen. The whole "surface of the moon" concept really came into my mind here
BARREN LANDSCAPE: Lots of mountains and open plains, but hardly any trees
TURPAN TOWN: Some old buildings in Turpan
POWER OF THE WIND: During the bus ride to and from Turpan we passed huge open areas with wind farms and these wind generators