Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Silk Road Part 2: Turpan

On August 12 we flew back to Urumqi and hopped right into a car for about a 3.5 hour drive to Turpan. It was a long day having flown and sat in a car for a total of about 6 hours. We were beat and were pleasantly surprised to actually find ourselves in a decent room at the hotel the tour company booked for us. Except we had an unexpected guest - a huge spider. Naturally, I tried to capture it. I was unsuccessful so I had to call to request a different room. I wouldn't have been able to sleep knowing that this spider was lurking. All I could imagine was it laying eggs in my mouth as I slept.

It really was about the size of my hand

On August 13, we headed out to see the Karez Well, the Jiaohe Ruins, and the Sugong Mosque. The Karez Well (Karez means well) is an irrigation system built during the Qing dynasty that diverted the water from the mountains to town. It is still used today for farming.

Entrance to a section of the Karez Well

The Karez Well is a series of hand dug wells connected to each other - in essence, making an underground river bringing the melted snow to the farms

The ceiling was really pretty

Paul was working hard but the other guy clearly had him from the start

The Xinjiang province is the largest grape growing area in China

They were quite sweet

Our next stop was the Jiaohe Ruins. Originally built in the 2nd century BC to 5th century BC, the Jiaohe Ruins is the world's largest and oldest surviving raw soil architecture. According to historical records, Jiaohe was home to about 700 homes - 6500 residents plus over 800 soldiers.

Flinstones...meet the Flinstones...

Looks like Bedrock to me

It was actually pretty amazing to think about the people who lived here

If you stare at these structures long enough, you can see animal shapes - kind of like clouds

Looks like a surprised face to me

More ruins

Walking down the path

It was crazy hot - over 100 degrees!

Shadows among ruins

This doesn't really show how sweaty we really are

A landscape shot

There used to be a river that ran through here

It really didn't seem real!

Walking into the temple area 

Buddha heads were taken off in the temple

Slinky shot

Temple ruins

The hot desert sun

The East Gate

Walking along the empty path

Can you see the city in the background?

Don't they look like two camels kissing?

The sign says "Don't step here"

My nightmare - tourists galore with guides using microphones connected to their own loud speakers! 

The last stop of the day was the Sugong Mosque (although officially, they call it the Sugong Pagoda).

Sugong Mosque (or as the Chinese call it, the Pagoda)

Close up of the tower

If you stand in the center and clap, it would be amplified - that's where the Imam would stand to speak to everyone

Inside the mosque

Looking up at the tower


The next day, we visited the Flaming Mountains also known as the Gaochang Mountains. Stretching 100 km long, they are eroded red sandstone hills. According to wikipedia, the Flaming Mountains received their name from a fantasy account of a Buddhist monk who was accompanied by a Monkey King with magical powers who runs into a wall of flames on his pilgrimage to India in a 16th century novel.

In front of the Flaming Mountains

It looks like the beast is riding the camel on the left

I don't know how fast this guy could really go but he looked quite festive

Modes of transportation...see the highway in the background? 

I was waiting for him to spit but he didn't

This is Joe

Scary beast statue - these were demons that the heros needed to fight in the Monkey King story...look up the movie with Shia LaBeouf, Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

Camel and ladder

I love how this camel is sitting with his hind legs tucked

Lonely cart

Just what I imagine what the desert would look like

After the Flaming Mountains, we headed to the Bizaklik Thousand Buddha Cave, home of about 40 murals in various caves. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside but the scenery was still pretty cool.

You can climb to the top of this mountain (we skipped this activity) - see the stairs? 

Home of the many murals

All the doors are entrances to the caves

We also stopped by the Astana ancient tombs. There are thousands of tombs here but we were only allowed to visit three - one of which included a mummified couple. But, we weren't allowed to take photos inside the tomb so you'll just have to trust me that it was fascinating to see a mummified human body.

Courtyard entrance area

Walking down toward one of the tombs

Fuxi-nuwa statue (Chinese Adam and Eve)

One of the 12 zodiac animals. It's too bad that we didn't bring along our rooster mask to battle it out.

"I want the knife...give me the knife..."

This horse had it comin' - really.

Our last stop of the day was Gaochang Ruins. Gaochang was an important stop for merchant traders along the Silk Road but it was destroyed in the 14th century.


Walking around the ruins of Gaochang

Similar to Jiaohe ruins...we honestly have no idea what these were though...our guide only talked about Yao Ming- 

I think this one was a home

Mosque in the background along with a mountain

Paul and I think this was the mall of Gaochang

A sign of life

This was the high school (maybe?)

Doesn't this look like Mufasa?

A bay window

The Gaochang Arena where various games were played - maybe even gladiator! 

More of the ruined city

We spent about 2 hours here walking all around but our guide didn't tell us one thing about this place

This is Luke's house - inside there is a plethora of blue milk


Two-level Walmart

Donkey cart


  1. Little mss muffet. Afraid of an itsy bitty spider. You yhave a huge husband. Were you both hiding? Disgraceful!!!

    1. I'm not sure who this is but if you saw the size of this thing, you'd hide too!


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