2017
04.30

3 GIRLS FROM SHANGHAI

SYNOPSIS:  About pagodas, an interesting bus ride, and about stumbling into the liveliest street life in Xian known as “Muslim Street”.

Why they are called Wild Goose Pagodas is beyond me, but there they are:  The Big Wild Goose Pagoda and the Little Wild Goose Pagoda.  They are a must for every visitor of Xian, and are only two of the truly old treasures the city still boasts.  The easy way around in town is to take a taxi and that’s what I did.  It saves time and does not cost the world.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
04.29

FOR SALE

SYNOPSIS:  Pits and Mausoleum.  About changes in 15 and 45 years.  No terrorists in Shaanxi Province? 

There must be no terrorists in Shaanxi Province.  I guess, they all live in Xinjiang Province.  Security is back to post 9-11 levels as we know them in the US.  Even though I visited a UNESCO site, arguably the most famous sites of all in China — the Terracotta Army built by Chin Shih Huang Di — nowhere did I have to show my passport, and I only had to go through two bag checks, one at each of the related sites.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
04.28

BELL TOWER

SYNOPSIS:  About some unexpected hassles at the airport.  About Xian and my new, lovely AirBnB.

After a lovely breakfast made by Summer’s mother, Summer, my AirBnB hostess had indeed taken off to her new/old job 500 km away from home — J.B carried my luggage to the street and a taxi whisked me off to the airport.   Compared to Urumqi’s train station, security levels seemed “normal”; that is post 9-11 normal.  I guess, terrorists work the streets and the restaurants in Urumqi, not the airport (Don’t take me seriously here. To me this is all such utter nonsense and false sense of security, I can’t help but be sarcastic about it).VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
04.27

WINDMILLS

SYNOPSIS:  Transit Urumqi.  A train ride across the new Silk Road. Dinner with U-man.   

For two full days I had explored remnants of the old Silk Road.  They were impressive and they spoke volumes of the days when camels were crisscrossing the desert and spices, textiles, pomegranates, grapes, tea, bronze, gold and silver, horses, and ideas were traveling from Xian as far as Rome

As my high-speed train left the ultramodern, mega-sized Turfan train station — this time I managed to get to the station close to town and board one of the fast trains — I could not help but reflect on what seems to me the Silk Road of our times, a new Silk Road of sorts. 

On and off, the desert was filled with fields of windmills producing green energy.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
04.26

GAOCHANG

ET WITH TANDEM AT GAOCHANG

SYNOPSIS:  MORE EXPLORATION WITH THE UIGHUR-MAN FROM URUMQI.  A FEW TOMBS, A FEW MUMMIES,  AND A DANCE IN THE PARK.

There was still time to see yet another ancient adobe city. It is located much farther than Jiaohe;  46km southeast of Turfan.   Like Jiaohe, it was founded in the 2nd century BC as a Chinese city.  It is located in the plains.   No natural protection is available and so, contrary to Jiaohe, it was fully walled in.  Xuanzang, a famous Buddhist monk, visited here in 7th century teaching Buddhism.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
04.25

WOMAN WORKING ON A TYPICAL UIGHUR BENCH IN TUYUK

SYNOPSIS:  About Uighur culture and Karez constructions.  About exploring the area with my new Uighur friend.  About a traditional Uighur village.  And about an ancient cemetery.

Yesterday, when I sat down at one of the far-flung parts of the Jiaohe Plateau, a young man entered the scene.  We exchanged a few words about the site and it became apparent that he knew a lot about local history.  He had been at Jiaohe three times already and had come back again.  Before long I asked him if he wanted to join me on my next excursion.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
04.24

RARE SCULPTURAL REMAIN

SYNOPSIS:  About 1000 Buddha Painting Caves and 100 Mud-Stupa Cities in Uighur country.  About VPNs and social media in China. 

My taxi driver Achmed, a local Uighur with a stoic face and no knowledge of English, showed up at the agreed hour.  He would drive me to the local sites over the next two days; there is no other way to see them unless you dare to drive yourself.  Not me!  Under luckier circumstances, I would have shared the taxi with other tourists, but there seemed to be none around.  We bonded over the nice Uighur music he played.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
04.23

TWO UIGHUR MEN

SYNOPSIS:  About a train ride into the death kettle of China.  About a youth hostel, a self appointed taxi driver, grapes, and a stroll through “grape town”.

At my little guest house in the remote desert town of Turfan (also known as Turpan), I was greeted with — you could call it “Still life with Helmet”.  A police shield was leaning against the receptionist’s table, a steel helmet decorated the desk and a scanner such as the ones used at the airport, as well as a club to beat down on rioting crowds, waited nearby.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
04.22

TANK AT THE TRAIN STATION

SYNOPSIS:  A fortified province.  About security and “the situation” in Xinjiang.  About this trip, a museum visit,  a hot pot dinner, and a difficult decision for my host, Summer.

If I hadn’t known any better, I would have mistaken Xinjiang Province for a war zone, or a country under martial law.  Far from it.  This was only the Chinese government hard at work to ensure the safety of its people.

At Urumqi (pronounced:  You-room-chee) — the capital of the province, where my journey in China begins — the train station was barricaded as if they expected the return of the Mongol Army!VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY

2017
04.21

33 HOURS

ENTRANCE DOOR

SYNOPSIS:  From Pinckney to Urumqi.  About a few characters on the plane(s).

Three plane rides were ahead of me.  1.5 hours, 13.5 hours, 4.5 hours, and a few hours of layover along the way.  Between getting up and going to bed, there would be 33 hours in transit.  A wise saying by Lao Tzu always comes to mind:  A journey of 1000 miles has to begin with a single step.  So true.  No point in fretting over the hours yet to travel or the destination to be reached. What matters is to manage the next step in front of you and to observe the people around you.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY