Silk Road day 1: Beijing- Urumqi – Kashgar

After months of planning, it’s all coming together nicely and we are at D day! The trip of a lifetime and an adventure i’ve been looking forward to for quite some time.
the fun started early at starbucks in terminal 1 with tasty taste hot hot chocolate, runny nose and right eye and 3 sleepy people… it was only gonna get better after that.

finally, we landed in good ol’ Urumqi! Uighur, the local language uses arabic script so it’s quite fun looking at it and being able to read it.

we were picked up at the airport by K’s cousin and her husband who drove us into town and took us for a nice “welcome to xinjiang” lunch in some hidden corner of the city. The menu included chuan’r (kebobs) , lamb ribs, yogurt, pickled veggies and xinjiang-style rice cooked with lamb, raisins and carrots. we literally pigged out and left the restaurant stuffed… those freaking chuan’r were just out of this world both in taste and size

Overall, a great first meal to begin the journey (the crap they served on the plane can’t begin to be called food). The biggest surprise for me was that the place did NOT have chopsticks!!! yes sir!!! forks and spoons were the preferred tools for this particular trade. After lunch, we went through the customary fight for the bill and that one almost turned into a WWE wrestling contest.. when brute force didn’t help, we did it the sneaky way and left money on the back seat.. K’s cousin was not amused and she got a nice call once the trickery was discovered… didn’t matter, we won.

Overall, I can’t say there was much to Urumqi. The city is fairly non-descript with small spots of wonder scattered throughout the area. between a high rise and another high rise stands a high rise, however, every so often, another building that just doesn’t fit the overall theme shows up.

We wanted to do the museum but it turned out to be closed for lunch so we headed over to the bazaar instead.

The fruits are just amazing in this side of the world! the grenadines or pomegranates are the redest I’ve ever seen with vendor stands on every corner peddling freshly squeezed juice. we had to give t a shot and chat around with the little Uighur vendors.

Inside the Bazaar, we stood facing a cacophony of colors and smells: dry fruits, fresh lavender, Henna, knives, carpets, leather and the list goes on. Vendors were amazingly restrained with no calling or grabbing for the most part.

This little sign was all over the city with the cheesy mustache guy advertising a China Mobile subscription:

My two favorite parts of Urumqi came next. RendezVous, an American coffee house run by 2 yanks which felt like an oasis of welcome after we roamed the streets for a few hour. a up of coffee with a free refill: 8 rmb!! Slice of homemade chocolate cake 15rmb.. Beijing should take notice!

We then headed over to Hong Shan which is smack down in the middle of the city:

you’d think they could spell the name of their own city :p

They obviously had issues with the letter N:

After a day of walking, sneezing, eating, drinking and arguing with airline employees, we made it onto a flight from Urumqi to Kashgar where we were picked up by our local guide and brought to our home for the next 2 days: the Seman hotel, formerly soviet embassy in the city: