Category Archives: China

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Overview of Tuyuk Village, Turpan

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Ancients Thousand Buddha cave, Tuyuk village

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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

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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

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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?

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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 .

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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.

Cheers

MM

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

 

 

 


Minimalist mindset in Tibet

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Fish eye view of the sky and the cloud

Last year, I visited Tibet via overland route from Xining to Lhasa  (1,907km long). I had been curious about Tibet for quite sometime.  The mysterious Tibetan that stayed up high on the mountain and their features looked a lot like the Native Americans in US, the stories of the Dalai Lama with monasteries and nunneries playing a very strong role in Tibetan culture, the political struggles and so on.

My road trip started from Xining and ended in Lhasa, covered only a small portion of the geographically huge and famous Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. The Tibetan plateau was amazingly vast and as I can see it … Tibetan inherited a freedom of space from their ancestors, the sky was the limit. But the vast geographical space smelt resistance. Checkpoints by stern police and army personnel at every border crossing point created unnecessary twist on my stomach (checking for travel permits, passports and sometimes just finding excuses to look at your face). There were police personnels at every corners in Lhasa too.

And, the risk of experiencing altitude sickness was very high here as Lhasa itself was located at 3660 meters above sea level, passes and some inhabited plateau areas that we passed through along the way were mostly over 3000 meters. The highest was at Tanggula Mountain pass at 5231 meters.  I thought that I could survived this journey without popping in the anti AMS pill but I started to experience a bad headache when I was at Xining (2275meters). The pounding headache stopped only after I took the anti AMS pill.

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Tangulla Mountain Pass at 5231 meters. The highest summit in the world reachable by motor vehicles

Our journey from Chaka- Geermu- Tuotuohe- Dangxiong felt very isolated. It felt as if we were in a twilight zone. Some nights we were totally disconnected from the world (no phone signals at all, no electricity, no pipe water etc). The view along side of the roads were empty, bared and cold. No trees just piles of rocks, occasionally some open grasslands and plains (totally inhabited). The huge and beautiful man made roads were empty except for some trucks and a  few daring motorist like us. The landscape view was splendid, the sky was in deep blue color and the clouds were thick like cotton candies. I had a blast time admiring the sky and the clouds … God’s blueprint was everywhere for the thinkers to witness and to confirm on HIS existence.

For more landscape photos taken during this trip, please browse through my Tibet Zenfolio photo gallery here at Minimalist Mindset in Tibet.

I seldom feel homesick when I travel but during this trip after a week on the road, I started to feel bored and restless. The journey from one point to another was too long … and most of the time we were stuck on our seat in the bus. Plus the constant headache that I had, some drama here and there makes me a bit tired.

I think it would help to have a good companion during a hard trip like this. But finding a good travel companion was not easy. Some times a good companion during our ‘laughing’ time would turned into a monstrous  companion when we were on the road. Me? … I prefer to be alone and sticking to my own business, less drama and less distraction. Kurang kan kontroversi, tingkat kan produktiviti (less controversy, more productivity 😉 ).

What else did I see during this trip? From the eye of an outsider who spent just a few days mingling around locals there, what I noticed about Tibetan was their devotion towards their religion. It seems like most of them had that praying beads hanging at their finger tips at all time. Most of them were Tibetan Buddhism but … I did meet some muslim Tibetan while I was roaming around Lhasa’s back alleys.

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A very familiar sight among the Tibetan

We came across a few monks performing their ritual act of religious … prostrating at the road side of Geermu on their way to Lhasa. Amazing devotion … it took them a few weeks to reach Lhasa and they survived through donations (food, water and shelter) from passers by. Talking about being a complete minimalist and living with no material burden at all,  I think they were obviously a champion minimalist.

I have a lot more photos of Tibetan devotees performing their prayers in Lhasa, feel free to  browse through my Tibet Zenfolio photo gallery at Minimalist Mindset in Tibet  yeah …

I am a self declared minimalist myself but for this trip I went overboard with my luggage and I left traces everywhere (i.e left my favorite jacket at one of the hotel and a few more here and there). It created unnecessary worrisome to my ‘simple’ mind. I had been taught well during this trip on why I need to be a complete minimalist traveler. Nowadays I traveled super light (except for my never ending struggle with my photography’s gadget). I applied the same minimalist method of living to my personal life too, yeah I don’t visit shopping malls as frequent as before and I am more mindful on my spending (except on my camera gadgets 😉 ). But, hanging around GayaIzzah.com gang and my Breakfast buddies … wow! I am diverting my fashion shopping from the malls to … online shopping arghhhh!

So, what did I get for myself during this trip? Honestly, I didn’t grab anything for myself because nothing caught my eyes. Bought some souvenir for friends and family but I discovered that I can get all these touristy Tibetan jewelry here in Kuala Lumpur with much cheaper price. You can find made in China jewelry just anywhere in Malaysia, no big deal.

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Tourist stall selling various ornament targeting on tourist at Lhasa

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I bought some souvenir for my friends at this stall

I bought one weird looking pendant for my daughter for 20 Yuan (after much bargaining). While doing my soul cleansing (my jewelry soul cleansing 😉 ) at Ikano Power Center in Damansara, Kuala Lumpur … darn! I saw a replica of that necklace pendant (a cat face instead) at RM10.00. Wow! lesson learnt … girl! … you are a lousy bargainer, lol.

Cheers,

MM

P/S – Happy Birthday Malaysia … my Malaysia is always my Home Sweet Home


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