July 21: Turpan, Xingjiang, China
9:05 It’s already 33C and forecast to hit 46C today. We leave the hotel and head to the Jiaohe Ruins located about 10 km west of the city in the Yamaz Valley.
9:30 It’s about 37C when we step off the truck at the site of the ancient city of Jiaohe. The site dates from 108 BC when Jiaohe was the capital of the Anterior Jushi kingdom. It was abandoned after an invasion by Genghis Khan and the Mongols in the 13th century and partly excavated in the 1950s. Parts of the city have been restored but most of it has been eroded so badly that you can barely tell walls and foundations from the natural rock and sand of the desert. The boardwalks, speakers playing soft music, and a plethora of souvenir vendors complete the very Disney-like atmosphere. This is yet another Chinese tourist site that holds my interest for about 15 minutes.
10:30. We drive across town to the Turpan or Turfan water system museum. According to Wikipedia, “Turpan owes its prosperity to the water provided by its karez well system which is made up of a series of vertically dug wells that are then linked by underground water canals to collect water from the waterhsed surface runoff from the base of the Tian Shan Mountains.” There are over 1100 karez wells and over 5000 km of underground canals. For a change I’m actually impressed with a tourist attraction. The fact that it’s a downright chilly 20C in the underground canals is a mere coincidence.
13:00. This seems like a good time for a nap in front of the air conditioner at our hotel. The only problem is that a transformer has blown just down the street and the power in the hotel goes on and off repeatedly.
16:00 The AC hasn’t worked in an hour so I retreat to the shade of a vine-covered patio and order a beer. Their cafe’s fridge hasn’t worked in two hours so the beer is only slightly cooler than their coffee.
19:00. James and I strike up a conversation with a young guy from the UK by the name of Connor Spence. Connor has been working in Australia for two years and is now hitch-hiking home to London. He managed to get from Australia to Bali by boat and has been taking rides with truckers, tourists and locals all the way from the south of China. James isn’t well so he heads to the hotel while I take Connor out for dinner. He’s a vegetarian so most of the street food is out of the question. We eventually opt for a sit-down restaurant with an Englush menu. I’m not sure which is more appealing: the bloated and perhaps cancerous lungs that one street vendor motions for us to try (see photo below) or the “stomach of cold hair” and “cold acupuncture needle mushrooms” on offer at the sit-down restaurant.
24:00 I walk back to the hotel. It’s still 39C. Thankfully the AC is working.