Right after train arrived, we’re now no longer strangers to Urumqi Railway station since having been here for short transit before Kashgar earlier. We quickly took Bus no 10 going to the Bazaar, and before that, we informed Nazar that we’re back in Urumqi and if he’s free for meet-up.
We’re also going to meet Hasnat – the Pakistani student I knew from Xinjiang Facebook page – whom we didnt have a chance to see during last short transit. Nazar said he would be free, so would Hasnat after his class, so I guess we’d spend time with them for afternoon. We waited for Nazar at the Bazaar as usual while having pomegranate juice.
Because of plans change, we didnt really prepare anything for Urumqi for today, so when Hasnat offered us to visit Red Hill, we just said OK. Nazar came first to meet us, and it was Zuhur time so we went to the mosque first. This is Uyghur mosque in Urumqi, among the biggest ones. Although, it’s only him and Az praying inside while I had to wait outside (no prayer space for women, unfortunately). Which later it was such a hassle to find a place for me to do prayers which we ended up asking from a boutique so I could do my prayers inside.
So our itinerary for Urumqi is roughly like this:
Today (Wednesday): go around town with Hasnat, Nazar, later meet our CS host, Mischa
Thursday: visit Tianchi Lake, maybe overnight there
Friday: visit Nanshan pasture
Saturday: fly to Xian afternoon
But unlike Kashgar, Urumqi is a very big city that we’re not sure how to go to those places by our own feet, or probably we have taken Urumqi for granted for not having much studies on bus stations and routes (then again, least we thought that Urumqi is actually this BIG!) and getting to meet 3 locals here kind of made us less independent in a way ;D I mean, we can easily ask Hasnat and Nazar and Mischa and maybe ask them to go with us, no?
Having told Nazar our stories in Kuqa and how we managed to leave our shoes in the sleeper bus and now are left with crocs, he brought us to several shoe shops around the town to see if we like to buy our new shoes here. Which we couldnt find any – they look cheap but aren’t that cheap either, so we said we’re going to survive with crocs only. Later we asked Nazar to bring us to his favorite restaurant in Urumqi, and we ended up in this posh-looking restaurant!
We havent been in any restaurant this standard while traveling so I had to ask Nazar a few times if it’s expensive. And to our surprise, the food is rather affordable! We had two plates of polo rice (I share with Az), and a big portion of grilled lamb, all for 45 yuan. They even serve yoghurt as dessert. I was overwhelmed to see the big lamb chunk with bones and didnt really know how to start with it. It taste really good! Shortly when we’re done, I got a call from Hasnat that he’s arrived at Bazaar, then we directly made our way to the place again.
Now a group of Malay – Pakistani – Uyghur friends in Urumqi! :) We introduced ourselves and exchanged stories, and when Hasnat said he was bringing us to Red Hill, Nazar then offered us to leave our big luggage in his aunty’s house, some steps away down main road in the town. Nazar then left for having some matters and we’re now following Hasnat to Red Hill.
We aren’t fan of parks like this, let alone parks with heaps of tourists. But since it’s near and we dont have any other plans in mind and it’s Hasnat nice offer to bring us there so there’s nothing much to complain. Other than having to climb very high stairs to the top! (I had to stop several times taking breath). That’s the view of Urumqi city we get to see from the hill top. You wouldn’t imagine Urumqi looks like this, no? ;)
After Red Hill, we followed Hasnat to nearby tour agent office from which he took his trip for Tianchi Lake earlier, for only 100 yuan. Initially we had in mind to do the trip to Tianchi by ourselves as we did for Karakul Lake, but knowing that we dont even know which bus station to take in Urumqi, and the tour package is offering 100 yuan including transportation and entrance ticket (which we understood earlier from internet it’s 100 yuan alone for entrance) so we thought it’s a good deal and bought the trip for tomorrow from the agent.
When it’s getting dark, a friend of Hasnat, Nitasha came to join us. She’s a university mate of Hasnat, and although she’s from Pakistani descent, she lives in Saudi Arabia, and at the same time, an American citizen! (how complicated is that?). Our CS host, Mischa called us and joined us as well. Mischa is Kazakh Chinese and now we’re a bunch of multi-national group having a dinner at this decent restaurant. Pity that Nazar wasn’t around to join! Anyways. We had a large platter of spicy chicken and in fact the largest plate I have ever seen in my life! They dont serve forks so you’d better be good at using chopstick already!
Here’s a short video to summarize today’s places and people: