Our hotel has granted us a late check-out time of 2:00pm, so we can go directly from the hotel to the airport, as we fly to Urumqi, the Capitol of Xinjiang Province, today at 4pm. Our driver made excellent progress yesterday in driving from Dunhuang, so he will easily be able to meet us at the airport this evening in Urumqi. We are spending the morning and early afternoon in the hotel after breakfast, preparing to leave and researching hotels and sightseeing in Turpan, our next stop after Urumqi.
Our journey shifts today to Xinjiang Province, where it will remain until we fly to Lhasa, Tibet in about three weeks. This northwest region of China occupies more than 600,000 square miles, making it about the size of Alaska, three times the size of France, and about one sixth the land area of all of China. The Province’s Taklamakan Desert, China’s largest (the name means “Go in and you will not come out,” in the Uygur language), forced the ancient Silk Road Caravans to take either the Northerly or the Southerly route around it, as it could not be crossed. This entire area was considered to be the most perilous for the Silk Road travelers. We will be traveling on the Southerly route in our adventure.
We will be staying at the Hongfu Hotel for the two days we expect to spend in Urumqi. It is across he street from the vibrant night markets and outdoor bar-b-que restaurants, in the CBD.
As we walk in the area of our hotel after a delicious buffet dinner, it’s clear from the mix of people we see that Urumqi, even though it is the least Uygur city in Xinjiang, is quite different from Gansu Province, where we have been up to now. There are so many different facial features and skin tones that we have already seen! People with Turkic features, Kazakhs, Pakistanis, Uygurs and Han Chinese, of course, and apparently many blends of different ethnic groups, too. And we hear Russian being spoken in the streets, as well…
I’m excited to have started our adventure here in Xinjiang Province!