Ürümqi… This name sounds now to my ears like a world full of mysteries, the one of the great Taklamakan desert. This place is absolutely incredible because of the archaeological finds that were made there. Due to the very dry climate, all textiles and tissues are conserved. This leads to having both museums of Urumqi and Turpan filled with mummies of incredible quality and the greatest ancient textile collection in the world. As I came into the first museum, I had to restrain my tears of not crying, but couldn’t stop cursing of joy as I was walking by the vitrines. The following pictures give you a little impression of what treasures you can find there.
-Some of the oldest chopsticks in the world
-Bowls made out of leather!
-Ancient crossbows and composite bows
-Complete wardrobe of ancient people (hats, pants, tunics…)
In Xi’an I was hosted by a super nice American girl, who teaches English to Chinese kids. I could spend a little time with her, in particular my first thanksgiving, spent in a Tex Mex restaurant of the city.
Being in Xi’an, I couldn’t resist going to one of the places I dreamt seeing once in my life: The Huashan mountains. It’s mostly known for its vertiginous plank road, which leads to a very small Taoist chapel. Having already some experience with climbing and via fferratas, I couldn’t wait to see this place.
I made my way very early to the bus station. After waking up at 5h30, I took the bus at 6h, crossed the gigantic city of Xi’an from south to north, and could take the train at 9h30. I could actually begin the trail at 11h, walking from down the mountains to the top. Most of the tourists took a cable-car, but I wanted to spare my money and to do a little sport. Wikitravel told me it would take 2 to 5 hours to reach the north peak, the first summit you can see on the plateau. After 2h15 of hiking and breathtaking views, I reached the top, seeing flipflop-tourists laying around eating there lunch. I had just enough time to reach all summits (east, south, west and central) before night). Little problem though: The cable-car from the west peak closed at 17h, and I was there at 17h10. In a hurry, I ran through the central peak to the north peak, where the cable-car closed luckily at 19h. Anyway, in the worst case you could sleep in several hotels on the top, but it costs a lot of money and it gets really cold in the night.
Fun fact: at the cable-car, I met the guy with whom I started in the morning! I was faster than he was, so I left him behind. He went to the east summit and back… To honor this, we went home together and ate Hui lunch (Hui Chinese are a Muslim minority in central China) in the market.
I stayed quite a long time in Chengdu. The city is well know for its Pandas. In the south of the city, you can also see the nowadays biggest Buddha in the world (since the originally biggest were exploded by the Talibans in Afghanistan).
I also discovered the nightlife of Chengdu, which is quite active. You can as a foreigner easily get free drinks for the whole evening (since it’s cool to have foreigners in clubs, the owners invite you).
At the end of the stay, I met Deng Jia, a girl from Chengdu. We spent a lot a time together and then went to Dali and Lijiang together. The Sichuan Opera, the most stunning spectacle I saw in my life: It displays traditional Chinese theater, puppet show, shadow show, face-changing magicians… and all of this with a beautiful music. I couldn’t restrain my tears, as I saw the shadow show…
And I enjoyed the spectacle with Deng Jia, a Chinese girl I met on Tantan, the Chinese version of Tinder. We spent more time together in Dali and Lijiang, and will maybe see each other again in Southeast-Asia… Museum in Chengdu, displaying very high quality Chinese ceramic (porcelain and celadon). You find also little statues of gods from Hinduism and Buddhism, or of Chinese administrators, which were put in tombs of nobles. Leshan, the place where you find the biggest Buddha in the world (70 m high). There is also a temple with very high quality statues of wood and stucco
I made a little tour on the food market at the corner of my street, in Kunming. Well, the treatments to the animals are, let’s say, not very nice (skinning living fishes, for example). But the food in general tasted incredible, and I never got sick of it, even if we could wonder about the hygienic conditions
Excursion to Dali and Lijiang
Dali is mostly know for its lazy atmosphere at the side of a lake. A lot of European hippies settled there, what has for consequence that you find hundreds of shops of leather bags, handmade paper books or of restaurant with diverse food (Italian, English, Tibetan…).
Lijiang was interesting for its old city. But, again, the Chinese government make of nice places a Disneyland: The restorations of the buildings are so extreme that you don’t know what is old or new, and the fact that there are only shops destroys totally the nice atmosphere you would have had in the 19th century…