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Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang province

Tom had arranged to have China Travel Service guides meet us at the airport and then take us around each of our three stops in Xinjiang: the cities of Urumqi, Khotan and Kashgar. Having prearranged itineraries and transportation made it easier to travel with the girls, for whom this was a major trek into deeply unfamiliar territory - and on us, too! Tom’s planning paid off again and again, first on our arrival in Urumqi, when our Uighur guide met us at the airport and whisked us off for a day of sightseeing before our evening flight to Khotan.

There’s not much to see in Urumqi, and we pretty much hit the high points.

First stop, Hongshan Park, on a hill overlooking the city. The park was filled with throngs of people celebrating national day and enjoying the elaborate floral decorations, real and fake, that are part of every major Chinese holiday.

Tom marveled at the city skyline, which had gone from low to high-rise since his last visit in 1987:

Miranda and Sami shouted to each other excitedly when they realized that they recognized not just one, but BOTH characters in a sign for the park’s name: “hong” (red) and “shan” (mountain). They struck a pose to celebrate their new knowledge:

By contrast, the English in the park was less recognizable, at least to us. One of our hobbies is collecting “Chinglish,” and we found two prime examples at Hong Shan. We got the "don't litter" meaning, along with a laugh:

As we wandered through the park, we saw some carnival games.

Miranda, recalling her prize-winning ways at Great America’s chicken-in-the-frying-pan game, stepped right up to pitch some softballs. A crowd quickly gathered to watch the foreign kid play. (We were, by the way, the only foreigners we saw among thousands of park patrons that day).
A few dozen balls and 50 yuan later (thanks, Mom and Dad!) Miranda took home a prize!

There’s not much else to tell about Urumqi. We browsed the museum of Uighur culture, which had pretty interesting displays of the costume and customs of some of the province's tribes, but did not allow photos. Tom couldn't stay away from the vendors selling bread (professional research, he called it), and asked our guide to stop the van as we passed some especially enticing displays:

We ate a LOT of bread in Xinjiang (since the girls don't eat mutton, the staple protein). Luckily for us, the bread was consistently great. Our favorite was the Uighur bagel, which could easily give a New York bagel a run for its money, even though it is baked in an Indian-style tandoor oven!

We also took in a streetside performance of traditional music...
...and uneasily contemplated the possible uses of the dried lizards we saw hanging in a shop.

After a quick and forgettable dinner, we were back on another plane heading south, deeper into Xinjiang.

Xinjiang chapter shortcuts: Intro Urumqi
Khotan Treasures Toy Bazaar Camel Weaving Shakeer Hats Food Costume Bowls Camel Ride
Overland Kashgar Old City Bazaar Kindergarten Rural Life Reunion

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