Oh yeah, China.

I suppose I’ve let the site cool down enough after Marq overused it and risked causing a fire. I guess I should relate some tales of my trip to the Other Side Of The World.

I guess I’ll go chronologically. After a whole bunch of planes and the longest travel time I’ve yet experienced, I ended up in Shanghai. Terry and Buffy still had a day of teaching school left, so I got to see all the little kids they teach, which was cool. I found Shanghai to be quite humid and I totally sweat like a person smuggling nuclear cocaine into a police state. The second day there, though, it poured rain. By the end of that the shoes I’d brought were totally ruined and we had to buy me some new footwear. We also bought me some shorts to sleep in, because it had not occurred to me that what I usually sleep in might be a little not-enough for the trip. The footwear we ended up with turned out to be sandals. I generally am not a big sandal wearer, but these ones worked out pretty darn well, especially considering the amount of time we spent in the desert where full socks and shoes would probably have been way too much. Oh, we also bought a bag for me to carry around which was smaller than the big one I planned to use. Not a bad idea either.

Anyway, as I mentioned we went to the desert. The bulk of the trip was spent in the province of Xinjiang, which is the Westernmost part of China. We totally flew to a place called Urumqi and then another flight to Kashgar and that was where we began our travels.

In Kashgar we totally got to see markets and bazaars and the like. People there really want to sell you stuff. I’m a total sucker for salespeople and in most cases would probably be talked into buying stuff or feeling bad, but Terry and Buffy were much better at handling this. Plus, since I didn’t speak the language I was mostly not the target of anyone’s attempts. Also, haggling is a big thing there and I am totally not used to that. As a self-hating and money-hating person, I’m generally okay with paying ridiculously marked-up prices. It’s how I rid myself of all that currency I neither want nor deserve, y’know?

Referring to my notes, I see that on the Thirtieth of June it was that we took a camel tour. That is to say we rode out into the desert on camels. Now we didn’t ride out very far. We pretty much just went out to the first couple dunes and looked out on the rest. And the ride was shorter than advertised as well. But I was okay with it. I’d never ridden a camel before, so that was neat and I’d never seen desert sand dunes in person so that was neat (and ran my hand through the sand, as well). Though as we were out there the wind kicked up and we got lots of sand blowing into our faces. I couldn’t put my teeth together without chewing sand for hours afterwards.

Another cool plus for that part of the trip is that the three of us went on this camel tour with four other travellers all of whom seemed very nice and gave us companions for various other excursions during the remainder of our days in Xinjiang.

The next significant segment of the journey was a ride up into the mountains to see this cool mountain lake (which I’m afraid I don’t remember the name of). Though an hours-long trip through lovely mountains was there to break it up, I was particularly impressed by seeing snow after having been in the desert so soon before. I was able to appear impressive by simply knowing what a yurt was ahead of time. The way to be a successful idiot is to make it appear as though your idiocy is a ploy to cover some hidden intelligence. Though we did not sleep overnight in the yurt, we all had a good nap before we went back to our hotel.

Sometime later we left Kashgar via rail. We rode a train through the desert to Turfan. I think I slept more than usual on the train, because it was supposed to be twenty-some hours but didn’t really feel that long. We’d opted to pay for sleeper rooms so we’d have beds. Terry and Buffy told me of times they’d just got seats and had to sit there for terribly long and crowded rides. Myself only having experienced this way, I can say kinda like train travel.

Turfan is another nice little desert city. One thing I really liked was the big roads that were trellised by these grapevines to allow for shade (there’s a picture on the Wikipedia page even). While in this town we also saw a mosque with the tallest minaret in China, the remains of a fort that was probably pretty impressive back in the day what with being on this plateau thing and some little village I didn’t catch the name of which seems to have less people left than it once did. Also that village had the remains of some Buddhist temples that had been defaced when the town was invaded. Also in Turfan we used an Internet cafe which looked pretty much as one of those would be expected to look, though dim lighting and air conditioning are pretty nice in the desert. The Internet is not easy to use over there, though. Oh and we ate at a place called Best Food Burger which has my favorite name for a fast food place because of the sheer confidence it exudes.

Oh yeah, speaking of food I forgot to mention that we ate a Pakistani place back (I think) in Kashgar. It was really good and I find myself wishing such a place were around here. It’s not like my street here doesn’t have a million restaurants already. For the most part I enjoyed the Chinese food as well. We ate way more than I generally do. I know more than one meal a day is supposed to be healthy, but it takes some time for me to train myself to manage it. But as I said, I liked the food. And I didn’t seem to embarrass myself with the chopsticks either.

Okay where was I? Right, so we left Turfan and took a bus back to Urumqi. On the bus they played some Bollywood movie which didn’t look all that great but I was amused that when the main character went on a revenge driven quest to kill the criminals who, (I think) killed his wife and an elderly man (his father? his fighting master? I don’t know) he wore a leather jacket with the American Flag on it. That flag will become visual slang for “Gonna Kick Some Ass” before we even know what happened.

We were mere moments too late at Urumqi airport and we missed our flight (overzealous but obviously confused cab company owner leading us on a mad chase for one of his cabs didn’t help with that…) and we ended up spending an hour or two trying to get money off of credit cards and ended up spending the night in a hotel before we were finally able to fly back to Shanghai in the morning.

Since I had to leave the day after we got back to Shanghai (and Terry and Buffy move the day following) there isn’t much else to tell. They apparently didn’t quite feel right putting me to work on my vacation (though I’d not have minded) so I spent most of the time that remained simply relaxing. Then I got back onto a plane and eventually made it back here. I think that’s about it.

All in all I think I had a pretty awesome trip. My next travels can not come soon enough. I have a first batch of pictures up on Facebook for those who can see that. When Terry and Buffy have finally got around to making their own albums I’ll make a second with whatever pictures are left over. We certainly have enough of them.

And once again I must give a sincere Thank You to Terry and Buffy for letting me come with them on that trip. Hopefully I wasn’t much trouble to carry around. Thanks guys.

  1. Awesome, Pat. When you ran your hand through the sand, was it gritty or was it very fine like powder?

    I’ve seen deserts, but I’ve yet to see a real sand desert.

    And, I need to add you to Facebook, it appears.

  2. The thought that came to my mind was that the sand was just like the sand at MacDonald beach over in Dartmouth. Except more numerous. But then it’s been like a decade since I’ve been on that or probably any other beach…

    But it was like the grains of sand you find at the beach but in great big piles. It was cool.

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