Dec 31 2009

Xiahe to Lanzhou, China

There were 2 other Tibetan Chinese workers staying at the same dorm as me. They can speak more fluent mandarin than Uygur Chinese. They were quite friendly so I tried asking their perspectives regarding the 3/14 riot/protest last year. From what I heard before was that the violent protest by Tibetans were organized in overseas.

They mentioned that most Tibetan Chinese wanted something more than the autonomy status. They wanted a gao ji Zhi zi qu like Hong Kong and Macau.From their prespective, Chinese government doesn’t hear their plights and needs. They wanted more representive in the
government so to have more control of their destiny.

During the 3/14 riot, most Han Chinese thought that Tibetans were the one that started the riot and attacked innocent bystanders. However, from Tibetans side, they thought that the protest were peaceful and the army opened fire and send many Tibetans to jail. From the sources that they received, they mentioned that over 2000 Tibetans Chinese were killed. I am not sure who has the right information as the information that they received came from their own Tibetan friends. Rumours can be spread like fire and are very dangerous in developing country with multi ethnic group.

Tibetans are religious and spiritual

Turning the prayer wheels. Inside the prayer wheels were sacred books about Buddhism.

Tibetan writing

Tibetan Kids

HOrse Carts not allowed

There is a big military presence in XiaHe after the 3-14 riot.
Surveillance camera on the street.

There are 3 direct buses a day to Lanzhou from Xiahe. Took the 2.30pm bus (50 Yuan~USD$7).

Got to Lanzhou at around 6.40pm. Surprisingly, JianXiong, a friend I met in DunHuang was also in Lanzhou and he told me that I can share a double bed dorm with him in Lanzhou university

dorm (15 Yuan each~USD$2.20).

A simple New Year eve meal, dumplings for 6 Yuan~USD$.90.

Because of the University curfew at 11.30pm, I wasn’t able to go out and spent New Year’s eve countdown locked under a basement in Lanzhou University.

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Dec 30 2009

LanZhou to Xiahe, China

Decided to sleep in a little and checked out at 9.30am from the hotel. Got to the Southern bus station and tried getting a ticket to LinXia before transferring to XiaHe. XiaHe has the famous Tibetan Labrang Monastery. To get to LinXia or Xiahe, they require photocopies of my passport and my Chinese visa. I guess this is because of the riot in XiZhang province last year.

Got a 11am ticket (30 Yuan) to LinXia. It’s pretty diverse on the bus with Chinese from different ethnicities.

A DongXiang family sitting beside me

GOt to LinXia at 1.40pm and then got on the 2.45pm bus (20 Yuan) to XiaHe.

Arrived at XiaHe at around 5pm and walked to a Hostel 1.6km away. I haven’t really stayed in any hostel recently so I am looking forward to find the hostel.

Got a 8 bed dorm for 25 Yuan

Hosteling International XiaHe

Dinner (8Yuan)

Xiahe is the leading Tibetan monastery town outside of Lhasa. The town is populated mainly by Tibetan Chinese (I guess that’s the politically correct term to mention Tibetan Chinese instead of Tibetan). 60% are Zhang (Tibetan), 20% Hui and 20% Han.

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Dec 29 2009

LanZhou, China

Arrived at LanZhou train station at 9.15am after a 14 hours ride.

LanZhou

Walked around and tried looking for a place to stay. Asked around a few ZhaoDaiShuo, those places are pretty cheap, ranging from 40-60 Yuan but they don’t allow foreigners to stay there.

Finally ended up staying at DunHuang hotel and got the cheapest room with shared bathrooms (68 Yuan~USD$10).

LanZhou is a city of around 3 millions and it’s spread out along the Yellow River from East to West. It is ranked as the most polluted city in China.

First thing on my to do list, Lanzhou LaMian (Noodles)

All kinds of food

Asked around about transportation to XiaHe, a town 4 hours away from Lanzhou. Took bus 111 to the south bus station at the west part of town to get a ticket. The attendant wouldn’t sell me a ticket and asked me to come back tomorrow morning. There were 3 direct buses to XiaHe a day, 7.30am, 8.30am and 2pm.

Across the southern bus station is LanZhou LiGong (Engineering/Technical) University. Walked around the university and had dinner at the canteen.

Had dinner at the university canteen

Walked across the city from XiaoXiWu, located at the west part of town back to the train station located at the east part.

Night View

Got a Lanzhou 10 Yuan haircut (10 Yuan~USD$1.5).

This is my 3rd haircut on this trip so far and the cheapest. I got my first haircut in Luxor, Egypt. Second haircut at Piranshar, Iran and the third one here.

Dropped by GanNanLu at night. GanNanLu is a place with many bars and chatted with the owner of a bar for almost 3 hours.

Then worked on my blog at an internet cafe. To those who want to travel cheap, it’s possible to get a seat at the internet cafe for the whole night (11pm-8am) for just 5 Yuan. The chair is quite comfy and is possible to sleep in the internet cafe.

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Dec 28 2009

DunHuang, China

The train attendant woke me up and arrived at LiuYuan train station at 5.15am in the morning. Got on a shared taxi (30 Yuan ~USD$4.5, 1.5 hours ride) and departed for DunHuang which is another 150km away.

Arrived at Dunhuang around 7.40am and asked the taxi driver to drop me off at the bus station because it’s still dark because of winter. Since the sky will only lit up at 9am in the morning I stored my bag at the train station and planned my next destination. Spent some time thinking if I wanted to stop by JiaYuGuan or just go direct to Lanzhou.

Since time is tight, I decided to go direct to LanZhou and bought the 7.05 pm train ticket (251 Yuan, Upper Berth sleeper) at the station and skip the trip to JiaYuGuan.

Walked around and found an internet cafe close to the bus station. Finally I can check my email after 10 days without internet access. Spent an hour at an internet cafe (3 Yuan). Surprisingly, the internet speed was quite fast. I always thought that because of the Great Firewall in China, it will slow down internet access in the country.

MoGao Caves is sort of a must see tourist spot in DunHuang. The cave is around 25km away from DunHuang city. Took a public bus (8 Yuan, 30 minutes ride) few blocks down the road from the bus station and I was lucky that I don’t have to wait long for the bus to depart. Met few other Chinese tourist on the bus and head to the cave together. I haven’t really seen any tourist in XinJiang province so it’s a good thing to exchange information.

Since it’s a low season for tourism, the ticket was 50% off the usual price of 160Yuan. For people with Chinese university ID, it cost only 40 Yuan to enter but ISIC card is not accepted.

Mogao Caves

Map

Some Chinese tourists

MOgao Caves is famous for its Chinese Buddhist art. It has the greatest repositories of Buddhist art in the world. There are more than a thousand caves here. The founding of the first cave was around 366AD. There is also the world’s 3rd largest statue of Buddha 34.5 meters (The world biggest Buddha statue is in SiChuan province and is around 65 meters tall) is in one of the cave.

Camera is not allowed in the caves and the art on the wall and statues are quite well preserved. There is an infamous library Cave 17 which stored many priceless Buddhist manuscripts but in 1924, close to 20,000 of the manuscripts and books were sold to a British and French archaeologist for 150 pounds.

We visited 10 caves and then took the 1.30pm bus back to the city.

Visited ShaZhou Market

Famous DunHuang statue

With a traveller from Shanghai

Crescent Moon Lake (YueYaQuan) is around 5km south of DunHuang. Took public bus no. 3 (1 Yuan) to get there but I didn’t go in because I thought the entrance fee of 120 Yuan is quite expensive.

Able to see sand dunes outside the gate.

DunHuang has a new train station 12km away from the city. Took a bus to DunHuang new train station

at 6pm to catch my 7pm train T9668 (DunHuang-Lanzhou) to Lanzhou.

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Dec 27 2009

Urumqi to Turpan(TuLuFan) to LiuYuan, China

Went to the train station in the morning

and took the 9.36am train 544 to Turpan (TuLuFan).

Pollution

In Urumqi, the sky only lit up at around 9.30am Beijing time.

There were workers cleaning the train, sweeping and mopping every now and then. There were also many Carts selling food running around the aisle. Many Chinese were eating all kinds of fruits and junk foods, to me, even western China seems quite well off compared to Central Asian and Eastern European countries.

Got to Turpan at around 12pm.

The train station in Turpan is actually located in DeHeYan and is around 40km away from the city. Bought another night train ticket (164 Yuna, upper berth sleeper, ShangPu YingZhuo)to LiuYuan which is a stepping point to DunHuang.

Passengers waiting in line

Stored my bag at a hotel for 10 Yuan and then took a bus (7.50 Yuan, 40 minutes) to the city.

Weather today in Turpan ranges from -3C to -10C and is warmer than Urumqi. Turpan is 154 meters below sea level and is the city with the 2nd lowest altitude on earth (Dead Sea is the first). It’s also the hottest city with average temperature of 43C during summer. It is one of the driest spot and grows the sweetest melons and grapes in China.

Lunch (12 Yuan~USD$1.8)

Turpan is famous for grapes. Grapes girl

Took public bus 5 to PuTaoGou (Grapes Valley). This is a low season for tourism and there were nothing to see really.

Chinese made, 3 wheelers

Visited a bazaar.


There were quite a good mix of Uygur and Han Chinese in Turpan.

Tried to take a bus back to the train station but it was full so had to take a shared taxi for 20 Yuan. The driver is an ethnic Uygur but he can speak mandarin without an accent. Most Uygur Chinese speak Mandarin with a thick accent and in Kashgar not many Uygur can speak mandarin.

English translation literally

Got on a night train T70 to LiuYuan departing at 9.56pm.
Train coming

The T70 train (Urumqi-Beijing) is heading towards Beijing and is in a very good condition. It’s quite clean and the sleeping berth was quite comfortable.

So far things in China is quite well planned. Even though the train company is government owned but the people working in the train are pretty professional and provide a better customer service than what I expected from a state owned company.

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Dec 26 2009

Back to Urumqi, China

The weather was pretty nice today and was able to see a blue sky.

Visited University of Xinjiang.

Students clearing up the snow

Library with Uygur writing on the left and Mandarin on the right

Nationalistic Slogan (Long life to the great People’s republic of China)

Inside the library. The library even has a glass elevator.

Snow from yesterday

ErDaQiao market. Deer products, such as horn and different parts of the animal as health products.

City View

Main Square

Ice Carving

Slide

Walked 4 hours from the southern part of the city to the northern part.
JiaJiaLe shopping mall.

I visited Mall 71 yesterday as well and noticed that China has a lot of their own products and brands on the shelf. Unlike most other countries where international brands dominate the local market, China has a pretty wide varieties of their own brands. In both supermarket, they have many selections of ready to eat food and it’s very tempting for me to spend money.

I sent my camera for repair 2 days ago and I was able to pick it up today. It cost 200 Yuan~USD$30 to fix the lens. I was quoted a price 3 times more in Iran. Service in China is still inexpensive.

Looking at the Classified section in newspaper, average salary is around 1,500-2000Yuan ~USD$250 in XinJiang. Compared to Eastern Europe and Central Asia, people here do have a much higher purchasing power because things are cheaper because of the strong competition among businesses.

Spoke with a few people about the July 5th riot in Urumqi and most people mentioned that the death toll was much higher than what was reported by the government. More than a thousand people were killed. The owner of the shop where I sent my camera for repair told me that 2 of his friends were killed. Majority of those killed were Han Chinese. Even taxi driver told me that most Uygur attackers were not from Urumqi but from other cities. The riot was a planned event by some Uygur separatist group overseas. People were also afraid that once the internet ban is lifted, separatist group overseas will try to spread rumours and organize riot again. A nurse told me that there were still patients staying in the hospital because of the riot.

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Dec 25 2009

ShiHeZi, China

It’s snowing heavily this morning in Urumqi.

Took bus 16 to south train station and took a bus from there to ShiHeZi which is another city 2 hours away (27 Yuan~USD$4) from Urumqi.

????
Someone told me that ShiHeZhi is a beautiful new city which was developed recently. The Chinese government has been developing new cities for people to move in and SHiHeZhi was founded just in 2004.

Sat beside a student and he explained to me a little about Chinese history.

Someone told me that Urumqi is the second most polluted city in China and most time you can’t see the sun. But in ShiHeZhi I was able to see the blue sky.

Shopping Street

People in CHina and are quite hardworking. There were hundreads or even thousands of volunteers cleaning the snow and ice on the street.

Took another bus back to Urumqi (29Yuan~USD$4).

Pollution

Got back Urumqi train station at 7.30pm. Went in the train station to get more information.

The signs in the train station are practical and useful. This is a more efficieny system I have seen so far after traveling to and from different train stations.

Schedule

Price and distance

There is even a big sign in front of the train station showing the number of seats available.

This is a more efficient system I had seen so far in my travel.

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Dec 24 2009

Urumqi, China

The road across the desert is in good condition

and surprisingly cell phone signal was pretty good all along the way.

Saw 2 big wind farms along the way. China has one of the biggest wind farms in the world.

Arrived in Urumqi at around 12pm after 26 hours on the bus. Spending Chistmas in Urumqi..yea..

Urumqi is the biggest city in western China with population of around 3 millions. The word Urumqi means beautiful pastures in Mongolian language. Han Chinese are the majority, with 70% of the population and Uygur consists of 15% of the population. The city was pretty cold, temperature was below -20C.

I think Communist China is the closest example to the perfect competition economy we studied in economic textbook. From what I can recall was that, there won’t be marginal/abnormal profit in an perfect competitive economy. From what we learned in school, America was not considered a perfect competitive economy and most people don’t even considered CHina as a market economy then. There are restaurants and hotels everywhere in the 2 cities I had visited and I can feel that business are so competitive here that marginal profit is close to zero.

Found Hotel Brothers on YanAnLu for (60Yuan~USD$9).

Later I found out that the JUly 5th riot was started around this area.

Around BianJiangBinGuan area, there are many traders and business people from Central Asian countries. Most of the signs here have 3 languages, Mandarin, Uygur and Russian. The Cyrillic characters reminded me of my trip in Central Asia.

Tried to get some warmer clothes at the bazaar.

ErDaoQiao market

Carrefour and KFC were the earlier western brands that invested in China. The investments paid off and these companies are holding a big market share in China currently.

City View
The architectures here have some Islamic influences.

Is this a real Uniqlo?

After the riot in JUly 5th, SMS and long distance call can’t be made. I had to wait 2 hours at CHina telecom office

to make a Christman eve call overseas. The customer service so far in China had been top class and better than what I expected.

Clowns inside a mall

Ice Carving at GUangChang.

Chinese fast food company, Best Food.

The manager told me that this brand has in business since 10 years ago. New competitions for KFC and McD.

Today is Christmas Eve and it seemed many Chinese joined in the celebration with some people wearing Santa’s hat and Christmas decorations in stores. When I use the word Chinese, I am including the different ethnicity such as Uygur, Kazakhs, HUi…

Found a bar at YouHaoLu with Christmas Eve performance.

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Dec 23 2009

Kashgar to Urumqi, China


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Took a 10am bus to Urumqi (24 hours ride, 248 Yuan~USD$35). The cheapest flight to Urumqi is 570 Yuan at 1pm but I figured that I will probably just gain 7 hours of free time or 2 hours of sunlight after taking account of sleeping time and transportation to and from the airport. Plus I will get to see some desert by taking the bus.

The bus had a delay and left at 12pm.
< In China, there are many slogans or propaganda written on the wall. Here, a flowchart showing the bus driver the process of entering the bus station.

Responsibilities of the bus station surpervisor are stated at the bus station.

View on the way

China’s growth is pretty amazing, even as a city at the western frontier, the city is well planned, relatively clean, has great infrastructures and there are many varieties of goods and services offered. Kashgar is relatively modern compared to most cities in Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. I was curious how the city looked like even just 5 years ago.

However, toilets in China are still pretty backward

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Dec 22 2009

Kashgar, China

It’s easy to eat out in CHina. There are many varieties of food here and it’s cheap.

Ate a pigeon (15 yuan) for breakfast
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Cleaned up the bird
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Air in China is quite polluted even in Kashgar.
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Moved to another hotel next door (40 yuan) because Hotel doens’t have hot water and is quite cold at night.

Someone important is visiting the city

Got on bus 9 to the west part of the city center. There are so many hotels (bing guan, jiu dian, zhao dai shuo) everywhere. I think Kashgar is a convenient place to stay because there are all different kinds of shops around, many modes of transportation and restaurants everywhere. I don’t have to walk far to get things I want here.

After school. Kids here wear very colorful winter clothings

Lunch, Hong Shao la mian and Niu Jing mian (10 yuan)

A shopping place street,

There are many different kinds of local Chinese brand name which I have never heard before. People are very enterprising here.

NOticed 2 sporting goods stores with logos similar to Nike.


A guy even came out and told me that I shouldn’t take photos because of business policy.

Cab is inexpensive here, around 5 Yuan to most places in the city. Took one to Kashgar Bazaar.

Part of the old city was demolished to build newer and safer buildings. There were people who criticised this plan saying this will destroy cultural history. But I think some buildings at the old city are torned and not sanitary to live in.

This is part of the Old city which is preserved for touristy purposes.

In front of a man make lake with a small pagoda and the old city at the back.

Met a talkative Uygur kid.
With a new found tourist guide infront of Lake DOng Hu

People’s square

Mr. Mao’s statue

Chicken market

Took bus 12 to Huang Jiang

I had to miss the Mal Bazaar (animal market) because it’s only held on Sunday and maybe Thursday.

Chinese food for dinner, it’s an all-you-eat can style for 7 yuan (USD$1).

After traveling for more than 4 months, I felt that in comparison with other countries, dollar to dollar, so far Kashgar has the best value for food. For USD$1-2, you can get pretty good food here.

Saw some riot police marching on the street. The city seemed pretty safe and haven’t seen any untoward incidence.

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