Saturday, October 31, 2009

September 9, 2009 - Urumqi

We had an early morning flight from Beijing to Urumqi in the west of China.  It was a 4 our flight, with a slightly northern flight path.  All we could see below were mountains and brown terrain, no fields of any sort until we got closer to Urumqi.  The city itself is incredibly smoggy - this photo was taken just at the right moment!  It is a big, bustling city where the Han Chinese now outnumber the ethnic Uighur population.  

We went to the National Museum in the afternoon which had a wonderful collection of textiles and clothing from the vari
ous ethnic groups in the Western province.  There were many
 forms of appliqué with lots of intricate design and brilliant colour.  And I couldn't take photos!   The highlight of the museum were the mummies.  They showed 4 that are from 2000BC  in an incredible state of preservation.  They were found around the Taklamakan desert.  The museum tour ended in a shop that included everything from books to silk scarves to carpets.  And lots of sales staff to follow you around.....

Dinner was at Jum - a Muslim Uighur restaurant.  Superb meal - lamb "tortière", stir fry with noodles.  There were noodles at every meal in the Xianxan province - all fresh and locally made and delicious.  We watched them being made at breakfast one morning. The chef took a tube of pasta dough about 2 inches thick, held both ends and flipped it up and down a few times.  Caught it in the middle and repeated the process until he had a quantity of long noodles.  Not easy  - I tried!

The next day we took a 1 1/2 hour bus ride over a bumpy 2 lane paved road into the mountains to the Nanshan pasture.  The scenery was very brown and dry (it's the end of summer there too!) but quite dramatic.  We passed  fields of sunflowers and sorghum with lots of cosmos lining the road sides.  As we got closer to the pasture, and the
road continued at the top of a  gorge we saw many army type tents set up (complete with TV satellite dish powered by a solar cell) perched on the edge and around each were bee hives.  This area has a winter not unlike Montreal with -20C and lots of snow so these are itinerant apiaries that spring up and get dismantled with the cold.  

Along the way we encountered flocks of sheep or goats being
 herded by local cowboys on horseback.  

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