As I’m currently busy with upcoming exams, I have not been dedicating any time to my blog, and probably will not do so until my exams are over. I thought, therefore, that I might as well (finally) publish Day 2 of Xinjiang. (You can find Day 1 here). I actually wrote this the old fashioned way – by hand – while actually in Xinjiang, and since typing it up approximately last July, it has been sitting in my drafts. I just couldn’t bring myself to publish it after such a prolonged delay, but alas, the time has come. Ahem.
Even though I cringed slightly while rereading, I’ve left the post mostly as it was, for reasons of authenticity, so without further ado, here it is:
The Heavenly Lake – 天池
I think pictures will do most of the talking for today, and even they don’t capture the beauty of this place. Getting to the Heavenly Lake required us to get on a bus from Urumqi’s main bus station to a place called Fukang, costing 15 kuai, and then a second bus costing 5 kuai to take us to the Heavenly Lake itself.
When you get to the site, there is one place selling food, and it was super expensive compared to the prices we were used to, but I suppose that was to be expected.
The admission ticket costs 170 kuai, and involves the scenic bus ride to the top of the mountain, where the lake itself is.
We tried on some traditional Kazakh colourful dresses and took a few pictures with this absolutely stunning backdrop; there were also lots of people eager to take our photos… Beth said she wouldn’t be surprised if pictures of some foreign girls in Kazakh dresses appear on Weibo tonight. (Weibo is a Chinese social networking site)
Words can’t even describe the beauty we saw today, we were left speechless. So many times we opened our mouths to express wonder, only to find our breath catch, turning the corner to see yet another fairytale scene. Beth summed it up at one point: “I can only make sounds now”. There were literally no more words.
Clear blue skies, lakes the colour of jade, green mountainous valleys, and a clear waterfall, by the side of which was a rainbow.
We went to try and get ourselves a yurt to stay in for the night, an episode which ended up almost getting us in trouble….
The helpful Kazakh woman who drove us up the hill to where the yurts were, and with whom we had agreed a good price, showed us to a yurt which was much bigger than we had expected, and said that the two of us would have it to ourselves. It was huge! Inside it was furnished (if you can call it that for a yurt) with thick rugs, a low but large center table, some more Kazakh dresses hanging on the walls, a stereo (to play Kazakh music from?!), and a mini fridge. Or maybe we were mistaken about having seen a mini fridge, as we were only stood in the doorway of the yurt for all of 30 seconds before she asked to see our passports…. Oops. We hadn’t brought them with us. She wasn’t sure if she could accept our student cards as appropriate ID when we asked if they would do, so she took us down to the on-site police station to ask. That really wasn’t the best idea! The senior officer there told us that STATE LAW in China requires foreigners to always carry their passports on their person. It may sound obvious, but no one had mentioned this to us, let alone stressed its importance. He paused for a few seconds and then looked at us pointedly, saying: “You know, if I see foreigners without their passports, I’m supposed to arrest them…” I quickly understood that he was offering us a warning, much earlier than Beth did, who was still trying to confirm with him whether our not having our passports on us was the reason we weren’t allowed to stay the night in the yurt. I quickly managed an “oh oh ok, we’ll go home then!” before taking Beth’s arm and backing out of the office.
That was a close encounter.
On the way out, the Kazakh woman apologised to us, gave us her mobile number and told us to contact her for next time!
After finally making it back in to the city, and finding some dinner, we took a taxi back to the hotel. Beth comments: It’s nice to be able to afford a taxi.
It’s been a long but surreal day. I just asked Beth if she has anything to add about today, and she’s replied “How am I supposed to describe that? I had no words at the time, how would I have some now?” But after a minute’s pause, she says “We met some really nice people today: The bus driver, the Yurt lady, the policeman *laughs* and the Kazakh man who showed us how we should pose when we put the dresses on!”
I couldn’t agree more.