The Different Colors of Old Silk Road

Camel riding at
Camel riding at Gobi desert, Dunhuang

I am at my ‘home sweet home’ now enjoying the tropical raining season. Been busy recuperating from my previous back to back traveling and at the same time catching up with my life. There were a few times during this week whereby my mind were full and congested with my ‘things to do’ activities that I kinda missed my ’empty and blank’ mind during traveling. Ahh … “All that glitters is not gold, all who wander are not lost.” J.R.R Tolkien

I visited one of the many routes of the famous ancient China Silk Road recently. Old Silk Road has been sitting in my ‘bucket-list of places to visit before I  go senile’ since 2 years ago and the minute Photosafari Malaysia posted that they were organizing such trip, I decided that I need to join them.

A die hard fan of Indiana Jones movies, I could imagine that this place were full of adventures during those days whereby merchants from different part of the world (Chinese, Persians, Syrians, Arabs, Turks, Indians etc) struggled to protect their trading goods from all sort of bandits and barbarians. Caravans of camels, horses and mules transporting merchandise in between countries and exchanging not only goods but ideas, believes and culture. The evidence of their journey could be traced along the mountains, rivers, caves and desert across several countries. This is where my Indiana Jones instinct comes alive.

Gobi desert, Dunhuang, northwestern Gansu province, Western China.

The harsh geographical landscape surrounding Ancient Silk Road routes added the sense of adventure to the already difficult overland journey.  And, it makes me wonder … what did those brave and courageous traders back then were made of?

Are they made of greed for materials, powers and fames or just merely survivors trying to improve their life conditions? Or  maybe they were just being adventurous.

The amazing human ;- ) at Gobi desert, Dunhuang
The amazing human 🙂  at Gobi desert, Dunhuang

Our journey started from Xi’an and we spent a few days there exploring the city of the Terra-cotta Warriors before we proceed to Lanzhou – Xinhe – Zhangye – Jiayuguan- Dunhuang- Humi- Turpan – Urumqi and fly back to Xi’an again. We took flight from Xi’an to Lanzhou, train from Lanzhou to Xinhe and travelled via our shutter bus straight to Urumqi. The distance from each location to the next was really ‘killingly’ far. Being a hyperactive woman, sitting for a long hours on my seat can turned me into a lady Terra-cotta warrior … lol. Talking about the Terra-cotta warrior … honestly when I was in Xi’an … well … that was the only thing that I like there (apart from the food) … only the Terra-cotta warriors.

Terra-cotta warriors before the restoration process, Xi’an
Terra-cotta warriors under restoration, Xi’an

Xi’an is a big city. Big cities in China looked and felt all the same to me. The building architecture looked the same and the culture of the people felt the same. I called it the opportunist and capitalist culture. You see one and you have seen it all, just my 2 cents opinion though. Honesty and integrity are always my number one priority in life but with these opportunist and capitalist culture, that type of value is near to the extinction here in China (generally) . Well, I am a ‘touch and go’ kind of traveller so my opinion might not matter … right?

We visited a few major ancient Silk Road’s stops along the way, most were too touristy for me and a few stops were like … well … okay … what is going on here, is this a twilight zone 😉 ? My twilight moment …

But one place that I like the most was the ancient Tuyugou or Tuyuk village in Turpan, Xinjiang. My kind of place … ancient buildings made of dirts and clay like in New Mexico, USA. Seeing this place bring back memories of my young self traveling across New Mexico heading towards the US Grand Canyon. I need to repeat that journey again with my Nikon D800 … yeap! will do that again for sure.

Overview of Tuyuk Village, Turpan
Ancients Thousand Buddha cave, Tuyuk village
Local mosque made from dirt and clays in Tuyuk village, Turpan
Jiayuguan Hanging Great Wall aka Badaling of West China
Jiayuguan Hanging Great Wall aka Badaling of West China
Jiayuguan Fortress at the Western most Point of the Great Wall of China
Jiayuguan Fortress at the Western most Point of the Great Wall of China
The famous Flaming Mountain: My twilight zone moment
The famous Flaming Mountain: My twilight moment
Another twilight zone moment for me
Another twilight moment for me
Hami Wupu Yardance Geological Park: There is obviously nothing here. Maybe I can shoot milkyway at night but … the air here was too hazy (with air pollution) for me to appreciate the sky. A totally twilight moment …

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region indeed is a very interesting and rich province with abundant oil and gas reservers. The land here are not only rich in natural resources but they are rich with human cultures too. The people of Xinjiang consist of Uyghur, Hui, Kzakhs, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Han and Mongols with majority of them are muslims … so you can imagine how uniquely diversify their way of life could be.

They do not have that Chinese Han features. Some of them have red hairs and green/ blue eyes similar to the European and Mongol features. Their languages are different, their foods are different and their morals are different too. I always try to associate being different with beauty. Beautiful for being different. And any argument about being majority vs minority or mainstream society vs alternative society would make life more ‘unnecessarily’ complexed.

I saw him at Tuyuk village
Met him while walking around Tuyuk village, Turpan
At the market
Met this family at a market in Turpan

People here in Xinjiang were friendly and warm despite of whatever tension news reported by the news paper. What I like the most about Xinjiang was the lamb. Wow! … the lamb tasted superb, finger licking good. I am a struggling vegetarian for the past 6 years due to my sensitive stomach. And, I prefer fish over meat too.

But I ditched my vegetarian diet during this trip and opted for lamb during lunch, snack, dinner and supper. I chewed on lamb fat as if I was born and raised in Xinjiang … lol. I smelled like lamb, my hair smelled like lamb … and if I had stayed in Xinjiang for a month or more, I bet I will bleat like a sheep. The roasted lamb, the lamb stew, the barbecue lamb, the kebab lamb, the local noodle with lamb broth were cooked at it perfection. The meat does not smell like lamb and it tasted just like chicken … my mouth is watering right now as I am recalling the taste of that superb lamb stew at Turpan market.

Raw lamb hanging around the market.
Raw lamb hanging around the market
Lamb stew
Lamb stew
Barbecue lamb and naan bread
Barbecue lamb and naan bread
I always love rock melon. Here in Turpan I had tasted the most delicious rock melon in my whole life so far
I always love rock melon. Here in Turpan I had  the best rock melon in my whole life so far. Sweet, crunchy and watery … perfecto!
Rice cocked with lamb
Rice cooked with lamb
Steamed lamb
Steamed lamb
Steamed lamb on my plate
A true struggling vegetarian look ...
Me and my struggling diet … not sure either that was a guilt or a pleasure expression

I still have tonnes of RAW photos of this trip to process … hmm and I probably will take my own sweet time before I decide to upload it all to my Zenfolio profile 🙂 . I will travel again next weekend for my family year end trip … the last trip for 2014.

I had a tiring good time during this Old Silk Road trip.The simple minded me has nothing much to complaint about except for the distance between places was really killing. Due to the recent unrest incident in Xinjiang, China government has tighten the security ruling around areas entering Xinjiang checkpoint borders. Sadly muslims with head scarves, veils and long beard are targeted for detail scrutiny checked at every checkpoint … leaving you feeling wronged and humiliated just for being who and what you wanted to be. Being a frequent traveler, I am not used to being treated as a terrorist just because of my religion but well, there will always be a first time for everything .. right? … ‘Alah besi tegal biasa’, whatever that doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

What did I get for myself during this trip?

Ehem … potential ‘jade’ stone from Tuyuk village, Turpan 😉 … yea yea I know I am crazy! … layan je zasss

Apart from picking up a potential ‘jade’ stone on the street (at Tuyuk village, Turpan), I bought a small white jade pendant in Urumqi … just for a sentimental reason. The shop lady told me that the jade was from one of the hill around Xinjiang .

White jade pendant from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

I won’t be surprised if she lied to me just to sell off the jade.  This time around if I got cheated … I would put the blame on this blog because I desperately need to buy something so that I can update it here in my blog lol … woman with 1001 reasons.



p/s Twilight moment aka lost in transition moment aka nothing interesting here




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Be yourself - everyone else is already taken! - Oscar Wilde

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