July 24-25, 2001: We are in Turpan
today. It is described as the hottest and lowest place in China.
Hottest means that the summer temperature is often 120 degrees. Lowest
means 500 feet below sea level. This area, called the Turfan Depression,
is the 2nd lowest place on Earth after the Dead Sea area. However,
nearby mountains, the Tian Shan, can reach to 20,000 feet. It is
the snow melt from the mountains draining into this low area that provides
the basis for all life here.
Temperature today is OK, less than 100 degrees,
yesterday it was 112. The town takes a midday siesta much like the
Middle East does. Then when the temperature falls below 100, the
hotel phone service automatically calls each room to wake up the guests
and tell them the good news.
|This is a very active agricultural area - lots
of grapes, nuts, apricots, and melons. The downtown area has grape
vine canopies over wide pedestrian streets, very nice. I did notice
that all the statues within the canopies show classical Greek women rather
than Chinese - maybe no Chinese statues were available. Lots of wines
here but the Wine Fest is not until next month.
NEIL AND OUR TOURGUIDE ENJOYING
THE "GRAPE VALLEY". THIS IS A MARKET THAT SELLS 10+ VARIETIES OF
GRAPES AND RAISINS
THE TURPAN AREA HAS BEEN INHABITED
FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. RUINS OF ANCIENT CHINESE CITIES CAN BE FOUND
IN SEVERAL AREAS NEAR THE CITY
||A GRAPE GROWING AREA NEAR ONE
OF THE ANCIENT CITIES.
|We are off to Dunhuang at 7 PM by overnight train.
The Turpan train station is 50 some kilometers from town. Remember
the town is below sea level. Therefore, the trains bypass the Depression
with the tracks running along its edge. While we waited for the train,
Spencer, Larry, and I participated in the local pasttime of street pool.
These tables were hand built and remained out in the street in all weather.
Cost to play - about 2 cents per game.
|The hotels and trains described in travel books
of just a few years ago are long gone in this area. Our train to
Dunhuang was air-conditioned and new with soft sleeper bunks. For "old
China hands" proud of traveling in dirty, wooden seated train cars, this
may be a great disappointment, but we enjoyed it.