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:
||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
|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.