A day in Urumqi (China)

by Marieke May. 21, 2017 735 views

A few weeks ago I made a short trip to China, to visit the autonomous region of Xinjiang in the northwest of the country. The ancient Silk Road passed through Xinjiang and the region is still home to many different ethnic groups including the Uyghur people, who are of Turkic descent. I noticed that most street signs are therefore written in both the Chinese and the Arabic alphabet. 

I flew from Almaty to Urumqi, the region's capital, and arrived in the middle of the night. Luckily I found a Russian/English speaking taxi driver (very rare, most speak only Chinese!) who helped me get to my hotel and with the check-in. My hotel was on the top floor of the building in the picture below, right above a night club... 

The next day I walked around Urumqi, and noticed that the frequent earthquakes in the region have taken their toll on the city (photo below). Also, because of the regular violent conflicts between ethnic groups, there is a large police and military presence in Urumqi. On every street corner I saw military trucks or police officers, but I did not dare to photograph them with my camera.

In the morning, I first visisted the Grand Bazar, which is supposedly the largest bazar in the world by scale. The bazar is at its busiest at night, and when I visited it was rather empty and not that impressive, apart from the large tower outside. On the square in the centre of the bazar, there were traditional yurts and live eagles that you could take photos with.

After the bazar, I wanted to visit the Sik Road Museum which should have been close. However, I could not find it and no one I asked (showing the name in Chinese) had ever heard of the museum. So instead I took a taxi to the Xinjiang Regional Museum, which was very comprehensive with good information in English, showing the history and culture of the region. 

The most famous exhibit at the museum consists of ten 4,000 year old mummies that have been preserved well because of the arid climate. Very impressive to see them! And it turned out that I came just in time before the museum closed, because I had been using local time (as most of the Uyghurs do) and did not know that museums and other official places use Beijing time, which is two hours later!

Afterwards, I tried taking a taxi to the Red Hill. However, none of the taxi drivers knew what I meant, even when I showed the name written in Chinese or the location on a city map. I ended up just walking there, and walking up the hill (there should be a cable car, but it looked like it hadn't been running for years). 

The Red Hill is a collection of parks, Chinese temples, and entertainment including a small man-made lake where people can rent boats. Some of the signs in the park are written in rather cryptic English, for instance "affectionate flowers and grass are!", to say that you shouldn't walk on the grass. 

Final view of the city before I left for Turpan the next day! But a little unnerving that the view was accompanied with signs saying not to jump but to "cherish your life"...


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