1 September 2019

Turpan: Ruins, Minarets & Holy Water...

My final day in Turpan served to me four immensely interesting elements before my high speed train back to Urumqi. Beginning with a breakfast that wash promised to be very local I kept an open mind. The ruins of Turpan Jiaohe Ancient City put the cat amongst the pigeons for sure, it was vast! If truth be told, after finding a KFC coffee, it brought me back to life! 

After meeting my guide and the driver, we made it over to a local looking restaurant for breakfast. I had never seen so much meat on offer for breakfast, no breakfast sausage or bacon but lamb dumplings and even chops were being consumed for breakfast by the local Turpan people. As you do, I had some lamb dumplings and some soya milk. For that experience alone I gave that uniquely Turpan breakfast one chance. Fuelled by that bizarre start, making our way to the ruins of Turpan's Jiaohe Ancient City gave me a deeper sense as to how rugged and stripped back Turpan's former settlement. I wasn't too bothered about the history behind that first port of call because the views overlooking the former city posed to be more than enough for me. Walking to the top in the summer sunshine was something, being early on in the day it was so damn hot already! The heat was getting to me, I needed some water! 

Going back a few steps to the buggy ride to the foot of the ancient city, most of the domestic tourists got out at a building that looked authentic but according to my tour guide it wasn't an original feature.  If truth be told I managed to get some amazing photos from the top of the city's peak, the decaying stone remains making up the former Jiaohe Ancient City blended in with the rocked and mountainous backdrop. When I looked closer into the distance I noticed a small area of lush green trees and vegetation within the baron and dry land that occupied the former ancient city. I would find out in less than three hours as to why Turpan held pockets of lush vegetation within its harsh and hot terrain. The vast expanse of the Jiaohe Ancient City improved me much, the whole experience may have been swelteringly hot to handle but worth it in the end. Enduring the heat I need some caffeine to keep me going, I was struggling. How I didn't know the coffee was on the way! Go!

No grape attraction for me, the authentic roadside scene the day before had impressed me enough. Arriving at Turpan's Suleiman Minaret gave me views of a place that I had really wanted to see during my Xinjiang trip during the planning process. I adored the fact that such an islamic sight stood within China's Mainland due to the high presence of Buddhist, Confucius and Taoist temples. Down to the core, I'm all for religious diversity! The sky was so blue, the sweeping clouds slowed me to see such a clear and precise view. Getting to the top of the steps allowed me to see the minaret from an up close and personal point, entry wasn't permitted inside the minaret but each brick looked like it had been painstakingly laid into place by hand. Baking in the sun, in one way the chimney like shape of the minaret reminded me of a pottery chimney within the Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent! Stoke-on-Trent in China? No way!

Going inside the adjoining mosque had me embracing a higher love! I'm not religious but for the spiritual feelings that I felt I couldn't connect them to any of the previous feelings felt within any other Mainland place of worship other than those within China's Tibet Autonomous Region. The interior of the mosque showcased a harsh yet smooth stone surface, a small prayer room allowed me to see its heavenly sky light that supposedly had a direct link to the prophet. Did it though? Leaving any prejudices at the door, the visit to Suleiman's adjoining mosque chilled me in one respect because it wasn't a working mosque. Not asking any more provocative questions, well I did ask some more because my guide was more accepting compared with my Kashgar counterpart. KFC? Yes, leaving the Suleiman site gave me a caffeine hit that I had missed for nearly two week! A new opened KFC franchise served me the cup of Joe that I needed! The travelling grind was getting to me, I needed chill! Sorry, T!

Confused by the look by the final site to see before returning to Urumqi that day, I had no clue! The clues to this concluding place had been quite evident during my two days in Turpan. Being such a dry and hot place with hardly any lush pastures I had seen patches of land that were as green like oasis's, I was about to learn more about the science behind Turpan's clever Karez Irrigration System. 'Karez' meaning 'well' in the Uyghur language explained how the ancient underground structures acted as well to channel water beneath Turpan's scorching dry deserts and mountainous geography. Going further underground the whole place was a bit bizarre. Reaching what felt like the bottom of the Karez Irrigation System, I was able to see an opening to the water system. Adhering to the strict rules I was able to fill an empty bottle of water with the fresh Karez water. Yes, I saw a woman who looked European, she was Chinese!

The whole 48 hour experience spent in Turpan felt so authentic, the guide and driver were great and everything was on time and as planned. The Karez water system attraction impressed me but keeping away from those garish souvenirs I gladly accepted an arrival back to the train station before my Urumqi bound service. My Xinjiang trip was coming to an end, I wasn't feeling bitter about that trip ending because it had been unique and challenging. Even those passport checks seemed to make the trip seem worth it? It was something else compared with any other region visited within China before. Waiting for what felt like an eternity at Urumqi's well guarded train station, I managed to get to my hotel without any hitches. My restful night was fine with my takeaway meal delivered successfully. Urumqi, Kashgar and Turpan gave me the opportunity to see several sides of China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. So being truly honest, Turpan turned up the party for that last day! Yes!

Truly Turpan!

Joseph Harrison 

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