Travel Journal

Leaving China

(Thursday 27 March 2008) by Lynda
After a lot of waiting at the train station in Urumqi we got our tickets to Almaty
Emin minaret Turpan
Emin minaret Turpan
(Kazakhstan). We had 2 days left in China and hopped on the bus to Turpan, an oasis town 2,5 hours outside of Urumqi for the last sightseeing in China.

We arrived a bit late in Turpan and the gates of the Emin Minaret, the most important landmark of Turpan, were already closed. After some walking in the vineyard (yes, the grape is very famous in Turpan) we found a nice spot where we could just peep over the wall and see the minaret and shoot some nice pictures of the sunset.

Turpan itself is a nice, laid back town and they grow grapes really everywhere, even in the towncentre. I tried the raisins and indeed, they are great! Couldn't find wine and that was a bit of a surprise, but in the end we settled for beers for our bye-bye dinner and that was a good choice after the hot busride and the dry desert. Amazing to be in the desert in winter and feeling very sorry for the people that visit these places in summer, must be blazing hot then!

Next day we made a tour outside of Turpan and visited the Bezklik caves with many boeddha paintings. Unfortunately most of the paintings were destroyed by the early explorers from Europe or taken with them to museums in Germany and England and the chinese cultural revolutation finished the job. So now you really have to look hard to find some of the old splendour. It's a shame because the pieces that are still there are very beautifull. Next stop was the Flaming mountain, but to be honest, it looked like a normal mountain in the desert to me. Last stop was Jiaohe, and old desert city that was abandoned ages ago. Great to walk around in the little streets and still see the outlines of the city and
Train Urumqi - Almaty
Train Urumqi - Almaty
the remainings walls of houses.

Yes, it was a day well spend in China and in the evening we got back on the bus to Urumqi, just in time to catch our train to Almaty. The train was full with Kazak so in a way we already entered Kazakhstan at the moment we boarded the train. Always thought that Chinese people carry a lot of stuff with them when they travel but our train looked like a smugglers train, boxes and bags everywhere.

The border crossing was ok, 3 hours on both sides (and of course they locked the toilets during the!!!). But the 3 hours on the Kazak side also included the changing of the bolts and that was quite interesting because we were still inside the train. They just lift the whole wagon and change the bolts underneath you. The whole process takes maybe half an hour, so quite efficient, but maybe it would be easier if the passengers would just change trains instead of completely re-assemble a train. But that could be a too efficient way of thinking.

So I'm in Almaty at the moment and spring has arrived here. I was really prepared for some cold weather and subzero circumstances, but no, spring is in the air and it's great here! Spneding a lot of time on regulations and visas but that is supposed to be normal for Central Asia. When we get our Russian Transitvisa we will leave Almaty to explore the rest of this amazing country. So far I really like it, it's "East meets West" and it's done in a great way.


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