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Journey out west - Xinjiang

Popularity 10Viewed 6580 times 2015-10-1 21:35 |Personal category:Travel|System category:News| Xinjiang

I read with interest Chevalerie's blog on "The dream come true in Urumqi". It brought back past memories of a visit to Xinjiang.
http://blog.chinadaily.com.cn/blog-2067059-31728.html

It was on a break during my study tour to Fudan University in Shanghai in 2010 that I decided to call a classmate who has gone back to her hometown in Urumqi, Xinjiang. After a long chat, I decided to make the trip out west, 4000 km away and so totally unlike Shanghai. However what I was not prepared for was the cold when I landed in Urumqi in December right smack into winter. This is the photo story of the land that Wenxin grows up in.


Waking up to the snow in the morning. Wondering what it is like outside. Eagerly wanting to go out and wander.

Bright early in the morning saw an opening welcome at a new KFC. Most of the performers were older woman showing their vigor in spite of the old age and in spite of the cold. As you get older, physical activity gets more important. To be able to go out and enjoy the wonder of the snow and the warmth of the morning sun.

Starting to smell the morning breakfast floating my way while the locals are starting to go to work or to do their marketing. Everyone is dressed up for the winter cold. Luckily the wind was not strong. Nonetheless I'm starting to feel the cold in my bones after staying out for so long.

Getting the food ready for the workers in the morning. The early bird catches the early customers. This is also when I started to love the Xinjiang's lamb on a stick with their chilli powder. Something similar to the Malay satay stick but much larger.

My classmate pick me up and we went to Hongshan where I saw this temple in the snow. The park was quiet as it was snowing. I'm sure if it's not for having to bring me out, my classmate would have be home curl up in her warm blanket. But to me, everything here is new and interesting. And different.
An octopus in the snow, lonely, without the children. With few people in sight, people who sees us must be wondering what is this two lunatic doing in an empty park in the wintry cold. I'm sure there must be alot more children playing in the summer. But the snow, though cold, is equally fun. I can still remember the park as if it was yesterday.
Saw this intricate design outside the International Bazaar. Feels like I'm in Turkey. Makes me want to visit the bazaar in Turkey. Being so far west, Xinjiang does get alot of cultural influence from it's Middle Eastern and Russian neighbours. The facial features does look very different in many of the people I've encountered here. That's what makes Xinjiang so unique in China.
Traditional Muslim influenced Minaret outside the International Bazaar. Surprising I have not heard any of the Muslim prayers that I typically hear over loud speakers like in Malaysia or Indonesia. Maybe they do it differently here. However what is the same here is that I'm certainly not having any pork for dinner here. Having had Malay friends, I'm used to it already. After a while, you can get accustomed to the culture of the place you live in.
Watch and join in the traditional Xinjiang folk dance. It looks familiar like a typical Turkish dance with the strong colours and strong beat of the music. Even without the drink, I'm intoxicated.
Felt like being taken back in time to the days of Aladdin. Even the dinners joined in the dance. It was a memorable evening. I also remember the drink with just the number 57 for a label. Didn't know that it meant 57%. Luckily my classmate intervene and save me from having to drink that. As you can tell I'm not a drinker.
The next day we took the long ride to Tianshan 天山。It was a long ride. We were just chatting when before long I saw the snowy mountain. I wish I was driving. Then I can just stopped by the road and just admire the panoramic view from afar. But we continue driving up.
Half way through the cars are not allowed any further. We had to walk up the rest of the way. It must have been snowing recently as we can see layers upon layers of fresh snow on leaves and branches. It was fun kicking the trees and have the snow fall on my classmate. It was quite a sight. I think I was so mesmerised by beauty of the heavy snow on trees that I no longer feel the cold. 
Finally we reach our destination - Tianchi (天池)or heavenly lake. I feel like top of the world and no longer noticed the freezing -26 degree centigrade. Looking at a remote temple in the distance, standing on the icy lake, I feel like I just got dropped into Shangrila like in Lost Horizon. Most local comes here during the summer. We were the only ones there during that day. People at the half way point must think we are crazy. Well, not my classmate. But this crazy foreigner certainly is.
I have to thank Wenxin for her grandfather's thick coat else I'll never survive it up there. It was also a good thing the sun came up. But the sun gets to be too glaring for the camera as the sunlight gets reflected off the snow and the ice.
Everything is frozen up there as if it is frozen in time awaiting spring to come. All too soon we have to make our trip down. Being inexperienced with snow, I decides to make a snow ball with my bare hands. Very soon I realised I shouldn't have done that. My body was freezing all the way down the mountain.

Xinjiang has opened up my eyes to the beauty that's west of China in the mountain ranges with culture that's so remotely different from the coastal cities of Shanghai. I know there have been troubles and stuff here but I believe the bridge of understanding can be built through more interactions and closer communication. There is so much we can learn from each other. It is ok to be different for it is in the differences that life is so much more interesting.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Comment Comment (20 comments)

Reply Report snowipine 2015-10-4 00:01
Great photos.
Reply Report Newtown 2015-10-4 05:31
"Bright and early in the morning" ? All that I can "see" is a heavily polluted city.
Reply Report Dracarys 2015-10-4 11:28
a beautiful and marvelous place
Reply Report juzunme 2015-10-5 21:23
snowipine: Great photos.
Thanks. As Newtown mentioned, sometimes the winter air is hazy and so it was difficult to shoot at times.
Reply Report juzunme 2015-10-5 21:26
Newtown: "Bright and early in the morning" ? All that I can "see" is a heavily polluted city.
Yes, Newtown. There are many polluted cities in China but see beyond haze I believe you can also find beauty in some of the things you see. A sudden smile from a local can make all the difference. Cheers!
Reply Report juzunme 2015-10-5 21:29
Dracarys: a beautiful and marvelous place
I am sorry to say this to those in the coastal cities in the east, I am starting to find many places of beauty out in the far west    But then there are still many places in China I've never been so it was nice to see other readers posting pictures of their own town and villages.
Reply Report juzunme 2015-10-5 21:31
Jim9: Nice pictures Juzunme!
Do you know if a foreigner requires a permit or a non Chinese visa to visit Urumqi? Whe I visited Tibet Autonomous Region, I ha ...
Yes. I know you need to go through travel agent to visit some places out in the west. I was with a local friend and so it was fine. I'm an independent traveller who likes to roam around and not be stuck with a travel group who may not have the same interest as me  
Reply Report CVHuan 2015-10-6 10:48
Wow. Such interesting photos.
Reply Report Newtown 2015-10-6 18:28
"A sudden smile from a local" - then it's back to the polluted haze. Welcome to "beauty" in the things that you see - with Chinese charactistics i.e. it's very hard to see it.
Reply Report SharkMinnow 2015-10-6 19:33
Great piece and pictures! Thx!
Reply Report seneca 2015-10-7 10:38
Fantastic photographs but lousy captions.

Here is a big blooper:
"A traditional Muslim-influenced minaret…"



You clearly do not know what a minaret is.
Reply Report seneca 2015-10-7 10:40
Some readers might not know that the temperature an drop to minus 20 C in winter - hence the omnipresence of snow that keeps staying long under such frigid conditions. But it turns black over time from the ever-present soot. Summer is the best time for a visit. If it is not hot enough, go to Turpan ca. 200 kms south. There you can experience up to 45 C in July.
Reply Report juzunme 2015-10-7 18:10
seneca: Fantastic photographs but lousy captions.

Here is a big blooper:
"A traditional Muslim-influenced minaret…"



You clearly do not know w ...
   You're right. Should have just left it as Minaret since it's part of a mosque. Thought I try to explain it better for those not familiar with it.
Reply Report juzunme 2015-10-7 18:13
seneca: Some readers might not know that the temperature an drop to minus 20 C in winter - hence the omnipresence of snow that keeps staying long under such f ...
Yes, fresh snow is pretty but not when it melts. Well, a thing of beauty don't last forever.
Unfortunately time was short but I would love to travel further south. Seemed that you've travelled there a bit?
Reply Report juzunme 2015-10-7 18:16
SharkMinnow: Great piece and pictures! Thx!
Thanks   It's good to be appreciated. Have seen pretty aggressive language used on this site  
Reply Report juzunme 2015-10-7 18:20
CVHuan: Wow. Such interesting photos.
Yeah. Feels like you are back in time. I would have love to live there for a while for photography but I think that would be difficult. Maybe one day ...
Reply Report seneca 2015-10-7 20:46
juzunme: Yes, fresh snow is pretty but not when it melts. Well, a thing of beauty don't last forever.
Unfortunately time was short but I would love to travel f ...
I have been to so-called "Xinjiang" around a dozen times. It is fascinating because it is NOT like China proper; it has less uniformity and a lot more open spaces. The less Chinese it looks, the more authentic it is. Unfortunately, Urumqi is mostly a Chinese city that looks like a replica lifted straight out of the eastern sea board.
Reply Report seneca 2015-10-7 20:51
So-called "Xinjiang"'s landscapes are extremely varied, ranging from alpine mountains (Mt. Bogoda, Tianshan etc.) clad in a mantle of firs and beeches, to grassland (Jungaria) to the deserts (GObi, Taklimakan) and oasis towns (Turpan, Kumul, Kashgar). You can get the feel of Swiss mountains, Saharan desert and Mongolian steppe.

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  • Journey out west - Xinjiang 2015-10-7 20:51

    So-called "Xinjiang"'s landscapes are extremely varied, ranging from alpine mountains (Mt. Bogoda, Tianshan etc.) clad in a mantle of firs and beeches, to grassland (Jungaria) to the deserts (GObi, Taklimakan) and oasis towns (Turpan, Kumul, Kashgar). You can get the feel of Swiss mountains, Saharan desert and Mongolian steppe.

  • Journey out west - Xinjiang 2015-10-7 20:46

    juzunme: Yes, fresh snow is pretty but not when it melts. Well, a thing of beauty don't last forever.
    Unfortunately time was short but I would love to travel f ...
    I have been to so-called "Xinjiang" around a dozen times. It is fascinating because it is NOT like China proper; it has less uniformity and a lot more open spaces. The less Chinese it looks, the more authentic it is. Unfortunately, Urumqi is mostly a Chinese city that looks like a replica lifted straight out of the eastern sea board.

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