Thursday, October 18, 2012

The old Silk Road -- Day 2 - Turpan

We left Urumqi by bus and drove through what looked very much like northern Arizona or parts of Israel.  It was definitely desert, and although I've always heard of the "Gobi Desert", they are actually two different things.  The Gobi has shrubs and plants, but the Desert is all sand and rock and is called "the land of no return".  It is the lowest point in Asia, and they have a salt sea like the Dead Sea and the Great Salt Lake.  It's 1500 meters below sea level.  They have created a "wind farm" here, though and it's the largest in Asia.  The wind was very cold today!
Our hotel was very Middle Eastern looking, but the rooms were nothing to write home about! 

Turpan is all about grapes, and there was a huge arbor that we drove under to get to the hotel and walked under the go strolling about town, clusters of grapes hanging down close enough to taste!

Bountiful harvest!
 We went to visit the ancient city of Jiaohe (Say Gee-ah-o-huh).  It was inhabited as early as 200 BC!  It wasn't until 1383 that it was abandoned after the Imperial Court moved eastward.  The buildings were all adobe--fancy that!  There was a Great Monastery that they said was Buddhist, but it looks surprisingly like Solomon's temple to me, including an outer court, inner court, holy of holies, and even a font in the outer courtyard! 

The inner court of the Monastery.

Jiaohe was built on a natural island cliff, so a perfect fortified city.
It looks like ruins at Casa Grande or Mesa Verde!
 Our next stop was a tacky tourist destination of a "Real Uighur's Home".  The family had a grape-vined arbor and patio where we were treated to delicious fresh watermelon and local raisins and dates.
Then their 'daughters' came out and danced for us.  But soon, they invited the rest of us to join in.  You don't have to ask me twice!

After that, we had the "opportunity" to buy raisins and produce from them.  Lucky!  We had already bought enough in Urumqi!  As we drove back, I enjoyed looking out the windows at the people and places.
On the left, a Muslim-capped driver with his kids in the back, then two women in scarves and dresses, one with a child, and sadly, a beggar with no arm and half a leg.
Local farmer

Grandpa and his little cutie grandson.

A family excited to meet the foreigners among them.

The local shopping plaza.
That night, we went to a dinner show.  The dinner was served on a tray with 8 different delicacies to try, most of which I couldn't identify!
The show was with music and dancing, and the dancing was very unique.  The women slide their heads across their neck in the "belly dancer" way, and the men kick their legs out from a squat like Russian cossacks.  It was a lovely show highlighting the traditions and lives of the people.

And to keep the tourists happy, they invited us up on stage to dance with them at the end of the show.  What a great way to spend an evening in Turpan!

It's been a while since I've been on stage!  Love it!

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