The second week in October was a National Holiday for 7 days so we went on a trip with 50 other BYU teachers to the far northwest part of China to follow part of the route of the silk road. The silk road is the trade route that traders from China traveled to India, the Middle East, and Europe. We got to see an entirely different part of China that has ethnic groups that do not speak or even look like Chinese.
We flew from Jinan to Urumqui a distance of about 2,400 km or 1,400 mi. II took this picture of the bank sign to illustrate the fact that most of the signs had three types of writing; Chinese, English, and Arabic script. About half the people living in this part of China are of the Ughur (Weegar) ethnic group. They look more like Arabs or Turks than Chinese.
The bazaar area of town was very interesting. We had a couple of hours to explore and see the local people and goods for sale.
The elongated cantaloupe is very good.
The climate is much like the San Joaquin Valley and so were the crops. They are very proud of all the raisins that are grown here and there were many varieties of golden as well as black raisins. There were also lots of almonds, walnuts and other nuts. They also grow cotton.
There was a mosque in the center of town and many of the Ughur men wore hats like the man in the next picture.
The Ughur women wore scarfs on their heads.
We bought some delicious bread and had some shish kebob for dinner.
The next day we drove to Turpan by bus. This area seemed to be the heart of the grape growing area and the road to our hotel was covered with grapes.
I was able to discretely take a photo of something we see almost every day, we call it "happy cheeks". From about 3 months till potty trained the children wear crotchless pants. We have been told that children are successfully trained much sooner than in the US. Must be those cold winter breezes.
We visited the village of Mazar that is in the Tuyuk Valley. As you can see, this is a very dry arid region. The guide told us that some of these adobe buildings were almost 1,000 years old.
They grow grapes on trellises like this and pick the grapes from underneath.
Most of the raisins we saw were the golden type that are dried in structures like this. We saw hundreds of these buildings.
Inside the grapes are hung to dry to a beautiful golden color.
Later we saw paintings in the Pachikli Grottos.
This wonderful Ughur man playing this instrument was a big hit with everyone. He even had props so you could pose for pictures.
Here is a statue depicting the Chinese legend of the Monkey King. All Chinese are taught the story from childhood and the story of he and his companions is very well known.
It almost felt like we were in the Amazing Race as we galloped past our fellow travelers by donkey cart to visit the ruins of the ancient town of Gaochang.
Gaochang was built in the 1st century BC and was a trading center along the silk road. It was destroyed in the 14th century. Most of the city is almost completely gone but several of the structures are in various stages of restoration.
The next morning we got an early start to visit the ancient city of Jiaohe. It is built on a high plateau at the convergence of two rivers. People first inhabited this area 1,800 years before Christ and this city was the an important stop along the silk road. It was abandoned in the 13th century after being destroyed by the Mongols led by Genghis Khan.
The ruins were really spectacular and covered a large area. We were there for almost 4 hours and everyone needed a break once we got back to the parking lot.
I got to go on a 5 minute ultralight flight over the flaming mountains. Less than $50 and no release forms to fill out.
Later in the afternoon we visited an interesting display of irrigation tunnels that conveyed water from the mountains and foothills into the valley below without allowing excessive evaporation. These tunnels were hand dug beginning in 1830 and some were over 18 miles long. They used an ingenious method of digging shafts several hundred feet apart and then connecting them via tunnels underground.
That night at about midnight we left Turpan via overnight train to Liuyan. Stan and Nancy Pace were our compartment mates. Don't ask about the bathroom on the train. We were picked up by bus at 7 AM and traveled for several hours across part of the Gobi dessert to Dunhuang.
Near Dunhuang are the Mogao Grottoes. They are a series of caves that were dug and painted by Buddhist monks beginning in the 4th century. The caves are elaborately painted and are quite famous in China. No pictures were allowed inside the caves. In this picture is a poster of the inside of one of the caves.
South of Dunhuang is a large recreational park at some giant sand dunes. During this time of the year thousands of visitors come here to climb on the dunes and ride camels.
Our tour director told us that during this busy holiday time they have 700 camels here. We got a 45 minute ride up the dunes.
Everyone had a great time!
We then flew to Xian and spent some time on the oldest original city wall in China.
That evening we went to a special dumpling dinner and cultural performance.
The next day Libby went to see the Terra-Cotta Warriors. I stayed in the hotel all day due to illness. But we had been before so I didn't miss anything.
We had a very interesting trip and particularly enjoyed the camaraderie with our fellow BYU teachers. The next morning we flew back to our beautiful city of Jinan. Weekly lesson preparation and classes are all we get to think about for a while. Coming soon... Mt Tai excursion.