Tuesday, November 20, 2007
We spent longer than intended in Urumqi. Urumqi is a big city but easy to get around on great cheap buses and the city had a good feel to it. We tried but couldn’t get our lens fixed here, so we got a 50mm 1.4 lens to use in the mean time.
We found this great Hot Pot restaurant near Wuyi night market. You pick skewers of vegetables, tofu, mushrooms etc, from the shelves then cook them at your table in a huge hot pot which has a soup base with tons of herbs, spices, onion, ginger, garlic.
It was great as it can be hard ordering vegetarian food because of the language barrier. We have written down in Chinese and Uighur “No meat or fish please, we only eat vegetables”, which works most of the time. There’s great Vegetarian food here, including Tofu etc but they often like to sprinkle port bits on top. Sometimes there is an English menu or pictures, on one menu under vegetables it had ‘duck intestines’ and ‘old man fungus’, you can see why we liked the hot pot restaurant so much.
We sat outside alongside the bustling night market. To pay the guy counts how many sticks/ skewers you’ve used. We’re sure the couple opposite us were throwing a few of theirs into the street. It was a great place and cheap with Beer around 3 Yuan (20p).
On the way home a guy insisted we join him and his mates for a beer in a KTV (Karoke Bar). Why not. This one was a little scruffier than others we’d seen, we went in, through the warren of corridors and was given a room. Beers came and the guys selected their favourite love songs to crone along too. A little later a parade of girls came in, some in jeans others a little more skimpy, and stood for selection! This wasn’t just a Karoke place, a couple came and sat by me and the guys. We made our excuses and left, the guys stayed.
Claire and her friend Andrea came a few days later. I went out to ‘Fubar’ a great pub run by an Irish guy, to catch the Rugby final with them along with Tristen from Washington state US, and Ken ? also from OZ.
There was quite a crowd there including one South African and a load of young English volunteers who were out here on the British equivalent to the US peace core - teaching English. The game didn’t start till around 4am Beijing time (?) so there was plenty of time for drinking before hand. Also met Josh from Oregan who is living here and working as a Uighur to English translator. It was quite a night with more drinking when we got back to the hostel till way past sunrise.
I got maybe an hours kip before we had to leave to get a bus and taxi to Tian Chi (Heavenly Lake). Andrea was leaving the next day, so it was her last chance, so still a little drunk to be hung over we went for it, us, Claire, Andrea and Tristen. It was a Beautiful drive, the trees glorious in their autumn fall.
Tian Chi is beautiful but over developed to the point of turning nature into a theme park. Large TV Screens display images of nature at the car park and entrance. We took the well laid path and bridges up to the lake, signs would alert you to ‘be civilised’, that ‘green grass is afraid of your trample’ and ‘Please have mercy on the green grass’. There were plastic bins modelled on trees or the endangered Panda bear. At the lakeside you can get dressed up in 'traditional costume' and have your photo taken.
We saw two couples having their Wedding photos taken whilst we were there, wearing trainers and jeans underneath their wedding dresses to try and keep out the cold breeze. We were told its quite common to have your wedding photos taken like this, going to several locations, like a photo shoot, not on the day of your wedding. Coming down we followed the road taking short cuts down sketchy trails and under barb wire, which was more fun.
Posted by Richard Edkins at 5:46 AM