Archive for XINJIANG
Okay, I’ll put it out there… Nothing in my life raises such a nervous sweat than going through immigration at an airport. And that goes for driving across international boarders too. I am the obvious victim of watching too many cheesy TV shows and Hollywood movies! I can’t help it, when I approach an immigration kiosk or gate, my skin becomes clammy and I begin to rehearse what I will say if questioned, hauled over and stripped searched!
So, you may ask, what does this have to do with your entry into China? Good question. I have entered China from two locations, Beijing and Hong Kong/Shenzhen Customs. Both are the same in their very quaint and ridiculously cute way.
LAOWAI (Pinyin: l?owài) is one of several Chinese words for foreigner. Laowai literally translates as “old” (lao) “foreigner” (wai).
Hey! I’m not that old!
But as I stroll along this shop & stall-lined street within the fifth ring-road of Beijing, I am conscious of one fact… I am tall! Its not like I go around measuring myself beside every passer-by. But when you are surrounded at close quarters, it becomes obvious. I am 193 cm tall (that translates to about 6′ 3″ in Church of England!).
Once, when I was in Xinjiang, I was accused of being too tall for my hotel bed and that there would be an extra charge! Totally preposterous! My sharp-eared guide stepped in to “gently correct” the over zealous hotel entrepreneur! I must admit though, I’ve heard a lot, but that was a first!
Ahhh! And I have found it, my stroll in the sun bleached 5th ring-road area has brought me to my destination, a small massage studio. I have been told by a local it is one of the best around and completely staffed by blind massage attendants. The proprietor is a petit woman who greets me and pulls me inside out of the sun. It is clear I am probably the first Laowai to darken their door. The attendants, a young man who will do my body, and a young woman, who will work on my tired feet, both touch me and size me up with their hands and shut eyes. After a few giggles it was down to business. And what a business it was.
OASIS TOWNS AND DESERT HOSPITALITY
I didn’t realize it at the time, but leaving Turpan was hard to do. It is a desert city, large by desert standards and lush – as lush as can be in a dust bowl! The ingenious underground irrigation nourished and fed the vineyards of grapes. Fresh dates, and other succulent fruits were also thriving here.
EMPTINESS! WELCOME TO XINJIANG!
A few weeks ago I had been on my way to Vietnam to shoot for my client, Tour East, a leading Asian tour company in Canada. But then, as so often happens, plans change. Now I am here, in the middle of one of the world’s largest deserts, documenting my trip through this amazing part of the Silk Road.
After a direct flight from Toronto to Beijing, then a fast connection onto Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, my journey westward begins. A room was booked for me at the new Sheraton in Urumqi where I grabbed a four hour sleep and a shower before being awakened and told my guide and driver were outside waiting for me.