TurpanMarch 22, 2015 in China ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C
Turpan - death valley of China. At night it is freezing cold but by day the weather rivals that of a hot British August afternoon. I arrived at the train station after another overnight train to a mob of men shouting aggressively 'Tulufana, Tulafana!', which in is the local word for Turpan. The province of xinjiang (where the rest of my time in China will be spent) is home to a minority called Uyghur, part of the Turkic ethnic group. They speak Turkic based language and they write in Arabic script. They are very conservative muslims so the women wear headscarfs and the men muslim hats. They don't look Chinese; more Turkish or middle eastern. It is a strange sight.
I picked a taxi driver from the crowd and waited 45 minutes for the car to fill with other passengers... This involved doing some mainies of the station road shouting 'Tulufana!' out of the window. The landscape is grey and desolate. It is nearly 9am and the sun is only just rising; the whole of China works officially to Beijing time but over here they have 'local time', two hours behind to account for the discrepancy with the sun's movements. It makes organising events a tad confusing.
I hired a bike from the hostel (where I was the only guest) and set off to explore the old parts of town. Due to the arrid climate of Turpan, houses are made of mud and ancient ruins can be found all over. The streets are lined with people baking naan bread, frying samsas (meat dumplings) and carving up animal meat which hangs off racks. Mosques are everywhere. The best part of cycling round the town, however, was admiring the ornate gates of peoples' houses, hiding a secret world of courtyards. They were fascinating; bright colours, intricate patterns and floral carvings.
Late afternoon I went to the Emin Minaret. I was a little peeved at the $9 entry fee but when I went in there was a festival taking place. Turpan is known for growing lots of grapes and during winter they bury them underground. Today was the day they dug them up and it was heralded with traditional music and dance. I was in my element as I absorbed the thunderous drumming and shrill cry of the shawm-like instrument. One of the dancers dragged me up to join in. I guess that's what happens when you're the only white person in town...Read more