Monday, October 15, 2012

Along the old Silk Road - Day 1 - Urumqi

China has a National Holiday on Oct. 1.  It's been 63 years since the People's Republic of China originated.  The people have a week off for holiday, and the government graciously excused all the fees normally paid on toll roads, so the millions of people who now own private cars took to the highways.  Of course this resulted in horrendous traffic jams, and every national site was crowded with people.  But it also lent a party atmosphere to the site-seers, and we were among them as we took off along the old Silk Road.

We flew with our fellow teachers, Don & Marian Mason, from Chengdu to Urumqi (Say "oo-room-oo-chee"), capital of the Xinjiang (Say "Shin-jong") Autonomous Region in northwest China.  It was like going to another planet.  The people here have ancestors from Persia, and they are Muslim, although not seemingly as orthodox as those in the Middle East.  We started with a lunch of lamb kebabs and a spicy noodle dish called poloof (or something like that).
This is the outdoor Muslim grill where the kebabs are cooked.

The carved woodwork in the building was beautiful--see the doors?
If you are in Urumqi on a rainy day, you will always have good luck, because this is such a rare occasion!  Well, it was raining, so we're going to have great luck!  We went to the Er Dao Qiao Bazaar and Market, the second-largest Muslim market in the world next to Istanbul.  It was large, but after the first five or ten "stalls", they were all selling pretty much the same stuff.  
This cute little shopper was trying on an outfit!
Of course you have to barter here--never pay full price!

Raisins, dried apricots, dates, pistachios, walnuts, almonds......

The dried fruits are famous in this area.  We bought some of each to try. We also bought an amazing collapsible wooden bowl, gifts for our sons and a lavender sachet.  Lavender is another crop here, and I often wish for a sachet to hold under my nose in many of the places I visit in China!

Marian and I wanted to go in the sauna/whirlpool, so we went to the Beauty Saloon (yes, that's how they spelled it), and saw that they offered "balckhead removal" and it was a "friedly environment".  You gotta hand it to the Chinese for trying, but we see that native English speakers are needed to correct some spelling and grammar around here!  The sauna was built for one, and the whirlpool was a jet bathtub, so we opted for the "heated" swimming pool, paying $3 each for a swim cap to wear.  The pool was so cold it took about 15 minutes to inch into it, but we were determined to surround ourselves with water.  The hose showers in our apartments are a far cry from a good soak in the tub.  We swam a bit, then went to our rooms.  I had another bath there, just to soak in the warm water.  And the hotel supplied two yellow rubber duckies with your bathtub.  Ahhhhhh! 

In the morning, I wanted to try Tai Chi with the locals.  I've been doing it at the University, too, but still have lots to learn.  I really enjoy it, and it's quite isometric, like Pilates.  It's also VERY martial arts.  I even did one "routine" with a sword!

 The ethnic group who live in this area are called the Uighurs (Say we-grrs).  The women dress as Muslim women do, with head scarves, but they don't always cover their faces.  They do wear dresses which are often of a velvety fabric and are dark with colorful trims.  The family transportation typically looks like this:
The men wear caps like this, or more often, Muslim caps.  It was really interesting to see this new ethnic group who live much differently than the China we've seen.


  1. Karen, you look like you're having all together way too much fun! - Love it! :O)
    ~Cousin Joyce

  2. Wow, you just taught me some new stuff! What an interesting trip that must have been. Keep the journal entries coming!