Larry and Spencer Go to Xinjiang, China

or 10 Days West of Fast Food

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Urumqi, July 18-20, 2001:  July 18-20, 2001: The first stop of our trip actually in Xinjiang was Urumqi, the capital. The town name is pronounced "your room key" which was a constant joke during our stay.  Other pronunciations and definitions:
Xinjiang – SIN juang
Uyghur –  WE gur
Autonomous – means populated by a minority ethnic group and subject to a large influx of Han Chinese either because they “volunteered” or were exiled.  Similar to Tibet (Xizang Autonomous Region) where the central government is importing millions of Han in order to gain a population dominance over the historical residents.

Our flight from Shanghai to Urumqi lasted 4 and a half hours with Neil sitting next to a screaming baby every mile of the trip.  As many Chinese babies including this one do not wear diapers, just split trousers - you can guess the rest. Neil and the flight attendants were not amused.  They spent most of the time trying to get the grandmother to wrap a towel around the kid.  I say "grandmother", because the mother was so incapacited by air sickness she was not of much help.  So, Neil had a fun trip.  Larry, Spencer, and I watched from a safe distance. 

Urumqi has been in China'a history the place where dissidents and others out of favor have been sent.  Our trip into town looked like a drive through post-war Kuwait.  Trash everywhere, broken sidewalks, dilapadated buildings, little light, smoke and soot in the air.  This is truly the Wild West of China, far different than the relative orderliness of Shanghai.  We had dinner on the ride in at the restaurant that should have been torn down years ago - but the food was good.  LUCKILY, our hotel was brand new and owned by Hong Kong Chinese.  It has a 5 star rating, a swimming pool, and a bowling alley.  After our trip into town, this was a huge relief. 

Across from the hotel is a huge downtown square, the gathering place for the Han Chinese to exercise in the morning or socialize at night.  Thousands turn out everyday.  We went over to watch mostly older people doing Tai Chi exercises and some jazzercise to American rock and roll.  Kids were running around with kites and beach balls. Larry and Spencer joined in the beach ball games but resisted the attempts of Chinese girls to come join them.
 Neil and I watched about 30 couples in their 60's and 70's enjoying ball room dancing.  The tales those folks could tell about the last 50 years of their lives!  Yet, here they were in the middle of nowhere dancing cheek to cheek.