Turpan, Xinjiang, China تۇرپان

Oh man, it’s way too hot outside.

Turpan (Chinese: Tulufan 吐鲁番) is located 200 km southeast of Ürümqi (Wulumuqi 烏魯木齊), the capital of Xinjiang province 新疆. Ürümqi is already the most landlocked city in the world — it’s far from every ocean. If this lack of water isn’t already enough, Turpan is located in a depression that’s the one of the lowest places in the world. (Though not quite as low as Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression or Israel/Palestine/Jordan’s Dead Sea.) That makes it pretty darn hot, and the low-altitude Ayding Lake has pretty much dried up. Oh, and it’s also surrounded by desert, though Turpan itself is an oasis city. Now why’d I decide to come in August?!

Also, if you’re not familiar with this area of the world and you’re wondering about these names: Xinjiang is officially a Uyghur autonomous province. Uyghur people have far more in common with everything west of China than China itself: they speak a Turkic language like neighbouring Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan and far-away Turkey, and the people look… not Chinese: imagine a mix of everyone between Turkey, Pakistan, and Russia. Not only is that geographically true of Central Asia, it does sort of explain the physical traits of the population.

So it was really weird to get off of a train from Dunhuang and immediately be surrounded by people looking nothing like Chinese people, many following Islamic dress, speaking something that sounds like Turkish, with signs written in the Arabic alphabet. Is this really China? The only giveaways are the bilingual signs and the fact that my only able means of communication here is Mandarin. Even the way people measure time is different: despite being in the same timezone as Beijing, people use “Xinjiang time” (-2 hours) unofficially, due to how far west it is. The sun sets around 10 pm Beijing time!

It’s over 40°C (100°F) outside, the hottest place in China. Can I go inside for some air conditioning now?
Continue reading