"Turpan" Top 5 Page for this destination Urumqi by bokononist
Urumqi Travel Guide: 150 reviews and 345 photos
Well, I should clarify that this really isn't a page about Urumqi, but about Xinjiang province, particularly Turpan. But as capital of Xinjiang I think Urumqi qualifies to host this information.
Most of my time in Xinjiang was spent in the oasis town of Turpan. This is one of the old oases of the silk road, with a really interesting ancient irrigation system from the nearby Tianshan (heavenly mountains) which keeps the city green even today. The city is populated mostly by Uigher Muslims, so there are beautiful old mosques to visit and see. The bazaar is really interesting there - about 40 different kinds of raisins as the city is the lowest point in China and the center of its grape and wine production. In the bazaar you can also find silk prayer rugs, the famous and beautifully crafted Uigher knives (be careful bringing these back if you fly...) and many other interesting regional treasures. You can take a tour of the irrigation system at a museum. You can also visit the ruins of two ancient cities, your hotel should be able to arrange a visit. Be careful though, it's HOT out there; take one of the abundant donkey carts if you have to. A word about the ruins - there will be lots of children begging and trying to peddle things.
Another thing I loved about Turpan is the grape-vine lined streets. The pedestrian streets are covered in trellises with grape vines hanging down, blocking the hot sun. It's really quite a sight.
You can go to the "grape valley", a kind of touristy, glitzy display, but I recommend you go to the REAL grape valley for a stroll - the scenery is amazing and the grape farmers are really friendly, I was invited in to a see a home (they sleep outside under a vine-filled trellis during the summer) and dine with the family. If you can say hello in Uigher you'd be amazing the kind of response you get.
Another thing worth seeing while there is a display of traditional Uigher dancing and singing. Some of the hotels put on dances but you might visit one of the pricier restaurants and ask. It's really worth the money.
I am sure all the oasis towns in Xinjiang are great to visit. Kashgar is reputably the best; as the cultural center of Xinjiang it purportedly has a bazaar to end all bazaars. I was supposed to go there but September 11 occured while we were in Xinjiang and the powers that be (at least for my group) decided it best for a group of American students to not be a stone's throw from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border and we had to fly back to Beijing. Sigh, I hope to get there one day.
From what I saw of Urumqi, it lacked a lot of the character of the oasis towns. From what I hear it's more a Chinese city than a Uigher city, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing but this one in particular has a very industrial feel to it and lacks a lot of the cultural draws of other Chinese cities. I can't say either way as I didn't spend a lot of time there.
For more information on the history of Xinjiang visit http://www.uygur.org/.
Make time for a visit to the big mosque and minaret just outside the city - it's not still in use but is really, really... more travel advice
In Turpan, wander around the bazaar and talk to as many people as you can. They don't get a lot of foreigners in those... more travel advice
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