October 10, 2009

The flight to Urumqi (pronounced Urumchi) was long about 3 hours but it didn’t feel like 3 hours. We landed and I got my bags okay. We decided to board a bus and it dropped us off at the hotel where I’m currently staying. The ride was ¥10. I’m kinda pissed at Urumqi because internet has been cut off. They cut it off because of the ongoing protest here. In Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang provence, they don’t want to be apart of China. They want to be their own autonomous country. Here, the people are a mix of middle eastern, persian, and asian. On signs there’s Chinese lettering as well as Arabic. This is interesting because I would have never thought a place like this could exist. But, it makes sense that there would be an area in the world with some mixture of Chinese and Arabic cultures. This place has been described to me from my new black friend Jimmy that this place is the muslim area of China. About 1 out of 10 or so people I saw weren’t han Chinese looking. They looked like a mix of Persian and Asian. They’re called Uyghurs. Uyghur/Han mixed girls are so fucking hot! I think I found my favorite type of girl now. The reason they’re so hot is because they look Persian but with a tinge of Asian to it. They are also very very rare, since they only exist in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. I saw one tonight at the bar and fell in love.
At another bar we me up with Jimmy who then introduced us to a lot of other people. They were fun to hang out with and we played the dice game for quite awhile. One of them brought out a taser which he proceeded to give us a example of a zap. This scared the shit out of me. He pulled the taser out of nowhere. Han chinese feel threatened enough to carry a taser around for safety. This is protection from the Uyghur guys, who can be quite aggressive and pissed off that more Han Chinese are entreating their territory. Because of the violence, riot police, local police, and military are all on the ready to intervene if shit goes down.
We passed up the chance to go clubbing so that we’d be fresh tomorrow for the hike. On the walk home from bar street I had some blueberry ice cream it was delicious.
This place kind of reminds me of Israel in that there’s military presence on the street everywhere. It’s a place like no other. It’s kind of bizarre how seeing armed footmen marching the streets don’t faze me anymore.

October 18, 2009
Woke up today early around 8A and set out to go hiking in Nianchang mountain. After some direction asking by Alec, we found the main bus station and paid ¥9each, each way, to get to the mountain area. We headed across the street to get some dumplings for breakfast. For ¥10, we got two racks of 8 dumplings and milk tea. Alec said it had a Xinjiang taste to it, meaning it was really fatty. I enjoyed it. It was cheap and good and filling, and most importantly didn’t make me sick. It was impossible to get any naps on the bus because the roads are so horrible. On the way I saw a bunch of tent homes, with small boxes lined up in formation outside. Every half km or so, there’d be another setup just like it. I guessed they were beehives and people who were living there were beekeepers. Xinjiang is full of beekeepers and they’re known for their honey. Anyway about an hour and a half I was dropped off in the middle of nowhere. A lady on a horse comes and tries to get me to ride her horse for a fee. I decline. She tells us that there’s a cool waterfall that way and points towards the road. So we both go on a trek to try to find the waterfall. The incline is such a way that it doesn’t feel like it’s steep. The surroundings are very deceiving. The higher we go, the colder it got. I could see my breath as I walked. Anyway we walk for about an hour and reach a parked bus that drove past us up the mountain. The park ranger looked at my sandals and tells me my shoes are inappropriate for the climb. I’ve been wearing these sandals everyday for two months straight, I was fine. The reward of the hike was worth it. A huge waterfall was our reward. After some snaps in panoramic mode, we walked all the way back to the main gate. we were passed by a caravan of cars on our way back from the waterfall. They were a part of a wedding. We got to see a piece of the wedding at a reception hall close to the main gate. It was a Uyghur type wedding and was very interesting to watch. The MC sang and did toasts. Then people approached the bride to offer her rings. The groom was nowhere to be seen, or I couldn’t recognize him. The bride was wearing a very beautiful white dress with arab influences. Her face was covered by a white pointy veil with a feather to top it off.
After that long day, the bus left us not at the bus station where we got on, so we walked around some more to explore. We went into a mall and on the top floor at a footlocker-like store, a Uyghur girl working caught my eye. As I was leaving to turn the corner she’s right in front of my face and flashes me a smile BAM. She was so gorgeous.
The walk back to the hotel was filled with checking out bootleg DVD stands. I wanted to get one that had all 3 Back to the Future films on it, but the bargaining was unfruitful. On a side-note, traveling has really improved my bargaining skills. In China, whatever the initially offer is, the real price should be around a third of that. So when I was in Yashow Shopping complex, a huge shopping center in Beijing, a pair of chucks was quoted to me at ¥200 ($30). After some bargaining I ended up paying ¥70 ($10). I still think I could have done better, but if they know you’re a foreigner it’s tougher to get the real Chinese price. Another good strategy is to scope out the pricing for the same item at different stores. In Yashow there are a bunch of stores selling the same thing, so after a few quotes you should be able to get a good idea of what something really should cost.
So anyway, Jimmy who we met last night called and wanted us to have dinner with, who at first, was described as Vietnamese and her daughter. What happened was totally different. Alec surmised that it was gonna be one of those things where they would ask one of us to marry their daughter. He hit it right on the mark. This old lady that was a friend of Jimmy’s friend wanted to set up her niece with a foreigner. Tonight, I found out that ‘foreigner’ means white person. I, being asian, did not qualify as a foreigner to her. I’ve been getting this throughout my travels in southeast asia. I don’t get treated as a traveling American so my experience has been unique. For example in North Korea, where they hate the United States for what we did to them, everyday citizens were delighted to take pictures with Americans. It’s actually good luck or a good thing to have pictures with Americans. But only if they’re white. So in the park in the middle of Pyongyang, a family asked to take a picture with each member of our 10 person group. One at a time. I’m standing on the sidelines as each person takes a picture with the family. I’m standing, waiting like I’m last picked for the team or something, thinking I’M FUCKING AMERICAN TOO! But I wasn’t even last picked I wasn’t picked at all. They don’t want a picture with me. It is what it is I suppose.
So then, when Jimmy said she likes foreigners it meant that she likes white people. I basically was out of the equation from the get go. The lady was quite a character though. She was a Han Chinese living in Urumqi. When asked what she thought of the Uyghur minority, she said, with a salty look on her face, that they had no manners. In the same breath, she hocked up a giant loogie and spit it on the restaurant floor. This blew my mind. Her friend who had dinner with us was also hawking. She hawks a miracle cure based on honey. Earlier in the trip I said I saw a lot of beekeepers on the way to the waterfall. In Xinjiang they actually produce a lot of honey and so many believe that it works well for many diseases. She told me that her honey cure makes HIV non-transmittable when taking it before sex. I thought this was amazing. Pressing her more, she confesses that it’s also a cure for H1N1, swine flu. I wanted to tell her to pick the bone sticking through her nose, with her witchdoctor self. What began as a strange dinner ended up a really strange and intriguing dinner in a small town in the far west of China.