Turpan (Tulufan, 吐鲁番）is Chinas death valley. At 154m below sea level, it’s the second-lowest depression in the world and the hottest place in China. In July and August, the time when we visited the place, temperatures soar above 40°C, forcing the local population and visiting tourists into a state of semi-torpor. Despite the heat, the ground water and fertile soil of the Turpan depression has made this a veritable oasis in the desert, evidenced by the nearby centuries-old remains of ancient cities, imperial garrisons and Buddhist caves. The Turpan area has been inhabited for thousands of years and was once an important oasis on the northern silk road.
Arriving at our hostel, we discovered that the showers/toilets were made for little dwarfs, not suitable for German tanks:
In the evening we just went out to grab some barbecued food. We enjoyed some lamb, Xinjiang-style bread (called Naab?) chicken legs, and noudle soup. We were so hungry, so we ordered so much. We couldn’t finish the dinner and made some other tourists happy with our remaining meat. That’s the way to make friends in Xinjiang.
The next morning, we decided to get some Baozi for breakfast, filled with either vegetables or lamb meat. Super delicious as well.
We planned a long day trip, so we also bought some bread. Xinjiang is famous for its various bread specialties.
Interesting as well is the method, how the Uighur people bake certain bread, that contains lamb meat. They just stick it in the inside of the walls of the oven. Obviously, the bread doesn’t fall down from the oven walls. Very amazing, it also tastes like heaven!
After preparing enough food for the day, we went out. Turpan is famous for its grapes and raisins. You can see grape plantages everywhere and so it was no wonder that we needed to cross a grape field in order to get to the first sight: the Emin minaret.
The Emin minaret was built to honor Turpan general Emin Hoja. This splendid 44m high mud-brick structure, built in 1777 is the tallest minaret in China.
Since we strolled through the countless grape fields, we felt forced to buy some of the super famous raisins there and we didn’t regret it, so sweet!
At the exit, we met a Danish guy who joined us for the rest of day. He had lost his smartphone weeks ago in Chengdu, Sichuan province and can’t speak any Chinese, so I really admire him how he survived in China.
One Uigur girl stopped us to ask for a picture with us, on the left you can see the Danish dynamite. By the way our hand sign is the Chinese sign for six, which can be translated to “excellent”. Maybe you already noticed us using that sign several times earlier in the blog.
We proceeded to the Karez system, a museum dedicated to the uniquely Central-Asian-style irrigation system that includes hundreds of kilometers of above and underground canals, wells and reservoirs, many of them still working. I have no idea where my pictures of this place are, so make use of your imagination at that point 😉
In the evening we went to the Jiaohe Ruins （交河故城). Jiaohe was established by the Chinese as a Garrison town during the Han dynasty and is one of the worlds largest (6500 residents once loved here), oldest (1600 years old) and best preserved ancient cities, inspiring with its scale, setting and palpable historical atmosphere.
The way back home from the ruins was also super nice.
We finished the day with some unexpectedly fried food. In fact we thought they’ll barbecue it but that’s where we were wrong. So if you ever wondered how a fried egg looks like, here’s the result:
The next day we hired a taxi explored the surrounding area of Turpan. The first stop were the flaming mountains (火焰山）, that were immortalized in the Chinese classic journey to the west, when Sun Wukong (the monkey King) used his magic fan to extinguish the blaze.
On the way to the next stop, we asked the taxi driver to make another stop somewhere on the road, because we were so fascinated by the desert-athmosphere around us.
Next stop were the Bezeklik Caves, a complex which dates from 6th to 14th century, has a fine location in a mesmerising desert landscape. Bezeklik means ‘Place of Paintings’ in Uighur and the murals painted in the 11th century represented a high point in Uighur Buddhist art.
After the caves we went to another place,
Afterwards we went to the Gaochang Ruins (高昌故城). Originally settled in the 1st century BC, Gaochang rose to power in the 7th century during the Tang dynasty. Gaochang became the Uighur capital in AD 850 and was a major staging post on the Silk Road until it burnt in the 14th century. Texts in classical Uighur, Sanskrit Chinese and Tibetan have all been unearthed here, as well as evidence of a Nestorian church and a significant Manichaean community. Manichaeanism was a major dualistic Persian religion widespread in the East and West between the 3rd and 7th centuries.
The last stop was Tuyoq village (吐峪沟), set in a green valley fringed by the flaming mountains, the mud-constructed village Tuyoq offers a glimpse of traditional Uighur life and architecture. Tuyoq has been a pilgrimage site for Muslims for centuries: the devout claim that seven trips here equal one trip to Mecca. Any Uighur planning a pilgrimage to Mecca is expected to stop here beforehand.
Also famous are the dried fruits here. We especially liked the dried melons!