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Hot to trot!

Turpan, China

Stepping off the bus from Urumqi in the afternoon I was hit by a blast of hot air, it didn't stop! The only thing i can liken it too was a massive dusty hairdrier. Turpan an Oasis town in a basin 200 km south of Urumqi is without doubt one of the hottest places i've ever been equally as hot as my short escapade into the sahara with Helen back in the day. And this was the town it was only going to get hotter once we ventured into the surrounding environment.
Turpan is famous for being the hottest place in China (it once recorded temperatures just short of 50 degrees) and its also the second lowest depression on earth (only the dead see is lower) at 154 meters below sea level.
Didn't just go there for the sauna like conditions though, Turpans surroundings contain some fabulous ancient cities and green valleys full of grapes.
So our single full day there was spent taking a car to the sights and coping with the heat.
We got 2 major sights in. Tuyoq a traditional Uigar village which is a major pilgrimage sight for muslims, its considered that 7 trips here equal 1 to mecca, the mazaar a tomb is the object of the pilgrimage as it contains the first Uiger muslim (Uigers are the majority race in Xinjiang province by the way) Also by the village are buddhist caves dating from the 3rd century AD. We walked up there only to find that they were all closed but just as we were heading back a local chap came puffing up the hill with a set of keys and opened them up for us. The paintings still remain though up to head height they have been picked away (apparently by German archaeologists in 1903 and those above have all had the faces chipped off by Mao's cultural revolution in the 60's They are still amazing with more than 1000 small Buddha's painted there, you'll have to just imagine though as no photos where allowed.
Driving back we went past what are called the flaming mountains, as the sun shines directly on them around midday they go orangey red because of the colour of the earth. Apparantly you can walk around them but only at dawn as its too hot the rest of the day.
That evening I clocked up a 3rd UNESCO sight in a month. The Jiaohe ruins is one of the worlds largest oldest and best preserved cities. Originally established by the western Han in around 200 BC it was carved on a plateau out of the rock, and flanked by 2 deep valley of water and green trees. It king of looks like Luke Skywalkers home in Star wars only there no robots! Its a crazy place as you can still make out the streets, houses and temples, spent the evening there wandering around and there where no other tourists to be seen.
After driving back to Turpan we strolled though the bazaar eating yet more shaslik kebabs and naan breads... I really need some vegetables!

permalink written by  Dan on May 15, 2008 from Turpan, China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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