Xinjiang rocks… and sand

And just like that, another month passes, and with it a new batch of adventures in the ever enchanting and often perplexing Middle Kingdom. How can it be that in less than two months my adventures will be over? Alas, time is something we cannot control, yet we can control what we do with it. I wrote a little poem a few months ago while in Shanghai. I was on my way to Pudong Intl. Airport to begin my winter travels:
Make your plans,
take a chance,
go somewhere you’ve never been before.
Take the time
to expand your mind,
get your ass up off the floor.

Although my adventures in China will soon be coming to a close, I hope to travel to new places, meet new people, and continue to expand my mind for as long as I live.

I write to you now from the ancient city of Xi’an, best known for the entombed army of Terra Cotta Soldiers. I’m enjoying a few days here in Xi’an on my week-long break from classes. In fact, we haven’t had classes since the 21st. For a week I traveled with my study abroad group in Xinjiang, China’s largest and westernmost province that sits to the north of Tibet and borders on Mongolia to the east, Russia to the north, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the west.

Xinjiang was a key region that linked China to the Middle East and Western Europe via the Silk Road. As such, Xinjiang has been -and still is- a mixing pot of peoples, religions, cultures, and goods from all over the world. We arrived in the capital of Xinjiang, Urumuqi, stayed for one quick night, and set off early in the morning for Kuche.

At the night market near our hotel.

The massive bow makes it kind of hard to tell but this is an entire lamb…

A local bazaar in Urumuqi.

Our tourguide informed us that Kuche was once a prosperous kingdom hundreds of years ago. What was once a flourishing kingdom is nothing but rock and dust today.

The actual city of Kuche didn’t seem too far off. In our free time, a few of us ventured off down a few sidestreets to get a feel for the local life.

The main street outside of the hotel. This was about all the city has to offer.

The view outside of the hotel room.

It soon became hard to believe that we were still in China. All of the signs above store fronts and the messages scrawled along walls were in both Chinese and Uyghur. Also, most of the people living in Kuche are of the Uyghur minority who look very little like the Han Chinese and speak their own language, Uyghur, which is closer to Turkish. The old men grow long beards and wear small white caps while the women dress in long skirts and wrap exotic scarves around the heads.

It felt strange communicating with the Uyghur people in Mandarin as their own native language is not Chinese. Even stranger still was that when I saw some of the few Han Chinese living in Kuche I actually felt a sense of comfort. I thought: “oh finally, someone I can relate to!”

After a couple days of visiting extrememly touristy and irrelevant sites in and around Kuche, all 20 of us borded a bus to Kashgar that took- get ready for this- nine hours. Okay some of you might not think it’s that bad. But keep in mind that the reason it took this long is because just about all of the roads in Xinjiang are either in disrepair or are being repaired. After a day of non-stop rumbling and bumbling on a bus it was a relief to finally arrive to the beautiful city of Kashgar.

Kashgar was the first kingdom/government to adopt an Islamic theocracy. This is a major reason why the above mosque, located in downtown Kashgar, is known in the Arab world as the second Mecca.

We visited a local rug factory where all of the rugs are hand-made.

We ate lunch at an Indian/Uyghur restaurant where this man and his friend filled the room with wailing vocal melodies and twangy string plucks.

Inside Kashgar’s Old City we got to enter the houses and shops of the local people. This man here is fashioning a brass hook that he afterward installed on one of his homemade bird cages.

That’s right, we’re in China too!

A little panaroma of the hotel room in Kashgar. Two words: glitter puke.

On a tour of some nearby geological sites. We all piled into the back of this truck which took us on a precarious ride through the mountain valley.

Sick rocks bro. Xinjiang was a great place to travel. It really made me realize just how massive and diverse China actually is. There is so much more to this country than just the Great Wall and Shanghai!

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3 Responses to Xinjiang rocks… and sand

  1. Carol says:

    Thank you for the wonderful update of this journey !!
    Love you, Maxi XOXOXOXOOX

  2. Janet says:

    Hi Max! Great post, thanks for the update. Who knew there was a second mecca???
    Stay safe! xxxoooo
    aunt janet

  3. Jim Foley says:

    Thanks for the latest Blog Max!! I bet there are no Islamic radicals in Kashgar!! I really liked the phrase”glitter puke”. Looking forward to your return home. Uncle Jim

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