Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 6 –Turpan

After our fitful sleep we arrived in Turpan at 1:00pm. Turpan is situated in a basin, so it gets extremely hot in the summer (they call this the furnace of China, but then they say that about Nanjing as well) and extremely cold in the winter. The city itself is 150 below sea level, second only to the Dead Sea.

This area was has approximately 3 million people who are in the armed forces here in China. They call them the “peaceful army” as they live here during the peaceful times, working on the land, getting benefits from the central government, and in times of war or when needed for security, are reactivated. They don’t report to the regional government in Urumqi only the central government in Beijing. Apparently they get benefits such as fertilizer and equipment from Beijing, which leaves the locals with some resentment.

Mohemmed, our guide from Urumqi, met us and explained the day we left there were more protests, and roads were empty of cars, and most restaurants were closed for business.

On our way to the hotel, we stopped to tour the Karez irrigation system that has been in place for thousands of years. Since the area of China is quite arid, the locals had to come up with an idea to get water and plenty of it, so they came up with this underground irrigation system. It’s still in use today, though many of the channels are closed. Originally there were approximately 1700 of these irrigation systems, but today there are just over 600 left. Some of the channels were 70 meters deep, not an easy task by any means. The irrigation started near a mountain range where the channels were the deepest, and the closer the channels were to the fields, the shallower they became.

Irrigation Tunnel

After seeing the systems and how they were built, we checked into the hotel to freshen up and then it was off to Jiaohe, the ancient city. This was cool. This city dated back over 2000 years ago, and was built down on a cliff. Yea, it was built down. It was carved rather than built. At the height of its glory there were approximately 7,000 people, though the history book that I had read suggested there were about 50,000. There were two rivers and two gates. One was used for ordinary people, the other for the army. The left side of the city was for the privileged and the right which of course was bigger was for the common folk. The city is under the protection of UNESCO.

It was quite hot, as there are no trees, but the beauty of having a private tour is that you can spend as much or as little time as you would like at these sites. We opted to stay longer. The temples were still in decent shape, and in some cases you can still see the tiny Buddha’s that decorated the temples. It’s a definite must for anyone going to Xinjiang.
Later our guide, Mohemmed took us to an outdoor market for dinner. The market in this large plaza, and here everyone sets up their tables and stalls. It’s quite the happening place for Turpan. We let Mohemmed pick out the food, and it was very good. We had this interesting chicken plate that was spicy, but also numbed your mouth. It was like visiting the dentist, except you got to eat. After dinner we then wandered around the city before heading back to our hotel.
It was a long day, but each day we were in Xinjiang, we were impressed at what we saw.

* - This was authored by Tina, I just posted it....

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