DATE:30 SEPTEMBER 2017
URUMQI, DAY 1
The taxi tout at Urumqi train station seemed puzzled when he was told we neither speak nor understand Mandarin. Then he asked, “Malaysia? Muslim?”. I nodded and that sort of satisfy his curiousity. Both Nik and myself have Chinese features and you’d find that our country Malaysia is truly a melting pot of ethnicity and culture.
Before leaving Xi’an, Nik tried to find a guide to take us on a day tour of Urumqi. However, the price an available guide quoted was too high. So we had opted to get around the city by ourselves. Mr Google and other social media are not accessible via the local wifi and broadband. Other search engines such as Yahoo was accessible, but the broadband connection was very slow. Nik and I bought our Malaysian Digi 72-hour combo roaming pass for RM 25. Just can’t do without internet connection and social media accessibility.
On Saturday morning, we walked about 1 km to the bus stop and got on bus no 62 to go to Hong Shan (Red Hill) Park. At the East gate entrance to the park, our bags were put through the scanning machine. To enter smaller premises, all members of the public walk through a metal detector. Bags and handbags may be inspected by a security officer and he/she might wave a portable metal detector over them. These premises with metal detector at the entrance include our hotel, KFC restaurant and shopping complexes.Hong Shan Park sits on a hill overlooking the city. At various points throughout the park visitors get the chance to view the city. The park is cool and shady, an ideal place for both adults as well as children. We came across a few groups of adults performing light exercises and tai chi. The ferries wheel and some rides should keep the children happy. Other attractions are the Chinese temple (Yu Huang Ge) and the Pagoda which sits on a cliff.
Nik and I strolled downhill along shady paths towards the South gate. Before reaching the gate there is a tall flight of steps leading to Yuan Tiao Pavillion and a little further down is a beautiful lake.
Since communicating with the locals is quite a problem, Nik used the Google Map apps on his phone to find bus routes and to get directions for the nearest bus stop. Due to the unavoidable delay in the signals, it took something like 10-15 metres before we realise we should be walking in the opposite direction. Nevertheless, we found the bus stops and got on the right buses eventually.
Our next stop was the International Xinjiang Grand Bazaar. We had got off the bus at the wrong stop and had to walk back some distance. By now it was mid-day and time for lunch. A local directed us to a restaurant near the bazaar. I’m afraid neither Nik nor myself remember the name of the restaurant.
The International Xinjiang Grand Bazaar has an interesting architecture which fooled me into thinking it was an old structure. The cylindrical tower at the centre of the courtyard blended well with minarets of an adjacent mosque. The shops along the perimeter of the courtyard sell almost similar items namely dried fruits, nuts, scarves, carpets, soaps and Uyghur knives. Inside the buildings on boths sides of the courtyard there are more shops selling jade, jewellery, traditional musical instruments and handicrafts. It was a cloudy and cold day. We hardly see foreign tourists here.
Earlier I came across a website suggesting a visit to the Xinjiang Silk Road Museum. Nik and I thought we ought to visit it and since it is located along the same road as the bazaar, we might as well drop by right away. After going back and forth along the road in the vicinity of Aksaray Hotel and asking several locals, we eventually found the address. It turned out to be a residential apartment block. I was tired. Time to return to our hotel (Jinjiang Inn on Hongqi Road) for some rest.
In the early evening we went window shopping at the New Asia Plaza. This is an extensive underground shopping complex consisting of retail shops selling trendy clothes, sports attire and accessories. By the way, this is not the place to look for those cheap, simulated Chinese goods.