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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  



May 27. TURPAN (Xinjiang Province) We had pretty much seen all there was to see in Turpan in our first day so as much as we liked our comfy hotel we decided we should keep moving and planned to head straight to Kashgar on another sleeper train.  When we talked to Jenny, James, and Lee in the morning their plans turned out to be in sync with ours so we all packed up around noon and caught a bus back to Daliyan.

After our experience in Dunhuang we were worried about what they might try to do to us leaving Turpan but we just sailed past the checkpoints and onto the highway.  It was all very random with the SARS business.  Jenny, James and Lee had all come by bus from Urumqi the day before we arrived and were promptly put into an ambulance and taken to the Turufan (Turpan in Chinese) Hotel.  But, nothing was done to them after they were dropped off and they were still free to move around the city so we couldn't figure out what the whole show was about.  We, on the other hand, didn't even have our passports checked when entering Turpan.  They had also met our group from Dunhuang that left only two days before us for Turpan and didn't report any problems leaving Dunhuang while we were faced with blood tests and x-rays!

Our train didn't leave until 5:30pm so we had a few hours to eat and stock up on snacks before we left.  Rob played backpack-sitter while the rest of us bought a supply of local dried fruits and drinks.  While Jenny, James and Lee ate lunch I waited with Rob until they returned to take over the baggage watch.  We just ate at a nearby noodle shop but it was a tasty dish of noodles covered with a spicy sauce.  A little boy (3 or 4 years old) in the restaurant kept us entertained as we ate.  When we said "hello" to him he had to go outside and tell his dad.  He came back and continued to say "hello" again and again while he waived.  We waived back but when I went to scratch my ear I saw him do the same.  Later we found out that Jenny and James had been playing "head, shoulders, knees and toes" with him so he was still in mimic mode.  Rob found some US and Japanese coins to give him before we left.  He was thrilled.  Little did he know that the value of the coins exceeded what we had just paid for dinner.

Our train to Kashgar was very slick.  The cars had two stories so each compartment had only four people and the walls actually extended around the foot of the bunks so it felt more private.  It even had air conditioning! We were in one compartment and Jenny, James and Lee were in the compartment next door.  No other people had the other bunks in our compartments so we were able to spread out and enjoy the views from the second level of the train, drinking our coffee and tea with the assortment of dried fruits from Turpan.  

The desert went on forever with an occasional power plant on the horizon, reminding me of the old "Blade Runner" film.  The flat desert gradually gave way to the Tian Shan mountain range.  We felt the train turning so we could see the front end from our car and then we entered one tunnel after another.  We eventually figured out that the train was doing loops in order to gain altitude and get up over the pass.  Just as it started to turn dark we could see some fields with yaks grazing, the lone person riding a horse, and nomad tents.  It got dark late in Xinjiang.  The official time all over China is the same but Xinjiang is so far west that they voluntarily created a local time that is two hours ahead of Beijing.  The train got dark around 11pm Beijing time. 

CLASSIC CHINA Beijing April 23 April 24 April 25 April 26 April 27 April 28 April 29-30 May 1-2 May 3-4 May 5 Pinyao, Shanxi May 6 May 7 Xian, Shaanxi May 8 May 9-10

TIBETAN PLATEAU Xining, Qinghai May 11 May 12 Tongren, Qinghai May 13 May 14 Xiahe, Gansu May 15 May 16-17

THE SILK ROAD Lanzhou, Gansu May 18 Dunhuang, Gansu May 19-20 May 21-22 May 23 May 24-25 Turpan, Xinjiang May 26 May 27 Kashgar, Xinjiang May 28-29 May 30 May 31 June 1-2 June 3-6 Hotan, Xinjiang June 7 June 8-9 June 10-11 June 12-13 June 14-16 June 17-19

A LAST LOOK Shanghai June 20-29 Beijing June 30