And now we’re on the last segment of our (pre-covid) trip…welcome to Urumqi, Xinjiang! Now, Xinjiang is the largest province in China, almost 1/6 of the entire country. Additionally, it’s also the most ethnically and culturally diverse area in China. Out of all our stops along the Silk Road, we spent the most time here, yet could only explore a tiny, tiny portion of the province. Hopefully, I’ll be able to visit again later!
When you first arrive in Urumqi, it may look like just another city, but once you step into the areas where minority groups reside in, you’ll find yourself almost in a different world. Make sure to check out the bazaars, where they sell a lot of sheep and fruit products, as well as items characteristic of their respective culture.
A couple hours out of Urumqi is Turpan, another oasis in the middle of the desert. Inside the city, you’ll begin to feel a little hot… but soon you’ll find a 5A attraction site called Grape Valley, where you can taste grapes (and raisins and wine) and watch as they dry above head. More than fifty different types of grapes are grown here. Stay for a while here and savor the cool breeze and water, because once you step into the sun, you’ll just about melt.
Close by are the ruins of Gaochang city, perhaps the best-preserved ruin of an ancient city in China. Today, you’ll only be able to see stone bases and structures, but you can still see where the gates and courtyards and houses of worships were. Perhaps a warning though: it is HOT. And when I say hot, I mean hot, as in the rubber soles of my shoes literally melted and my feet turned scorching red hot. I mean hot, as in this city is located at the base of the FLAMING MOUNTAINS. Yes, the same Flaming Mountain in the book Journey to the West (and later the T.V. series Monkey King). A thermometer revealed the temperature to be 66 degrees Celsius, which is over 120 Fahrenheit. Stay hydrated!!!
After figuratively and almost literally dying, we decided to head to Tian Chi (Heavenly Lake) the next day. The water comes from the melted snow from the mountains, so the temperature there is actually quite chilly. You can take a ride in a boat to explore the lake, or a gondola to ride up to the snow peaks. It’s said that this lake is the the palace of the Queen Mother of the West, and it’s indeed a very beautiful place.