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Journey out west - Xinjiang

Popularity 10Viewed 9798 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.

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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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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