Urumqi China 2
Bishkek Kyrgyzstan 1
Bishkek Kyrgyzstan 2
Almaty Kazakhstan 1
Zharkent Kazakhstan 1
Almaty Kazakhstan 2
Zharkent Kazakhstan 2
Urumqi China 3
Zhang Ye China
Wu Wei China
Lanzhou China 2
Hello from Korla China,
Oil wells dotted the desert landscape as we again approached civilization. Though not even on most maps of China, Korla is a thoroughly modern first world city, complete with arrogant oil barons. The fancy restaurant in our deluxe hotel appeared to be the venue of choice among Korla's sparse offerings.
Coca Cola seems to have lost the cola wars here. Refreshment stands offer "Future Cola" only, a close imitation of the real thing, but not quite. There is a popular fast food chain named "Best Food Burgers" that attempts to mimic MacDonald's, complete with golden arches. They come pretty close for a Chinese copy. One guy explained MacDonald's had been banned from opening in this part of China to protect the homegrown fast food burger outfits.
The people here are mostly Muslim, but I heard no call to prayer at any time, though I did see many mosques around town. The only WongBa I could find is unreliable and no place to process my camera. Long delays and service interruptions soon discouraged me from further tries at Internet access.
Every night one wide sidewalk area near People's Park is turned into a food bazaar with several dozen street kitchens offering kabobs and beer. People linger around plastic tables sipping local beer and slurping noodle soup. The second day during a walk through People's Park I witnessed a concession attendant shouting at a young teenage boy. I could see they were having a dispute over money... the kid claiming he had given the shooting gallery attendant a ten Yuan note and the attendant claiming she had received a one Yuan note. The kid's parents joined the boy as a crowd gathered to watch the fray. Finally a woman bystander pulled a ten from her purse and handed it to the attendant to end the argument. That didn't work. The attendant and mother nearly came to blows before the trio stomped off shouting angry words back at the fuming attendant. I couldn't tell the devil from the angel.
The evening I visited the bus terminal to check on schedules for Kuqa, a giant mosquito found my leg and had his dinner. I quit my malaria preventatives a week ago thinking there were no mosquitoes in this part of China. I'm still hoping there is no malaria. I have tried on several occasions to buy common over-the-counter drugstore medicines. Aspirin is totally unknown by that name to most Chinese pharmacists! One did find some orange flavored 500 mgm effervescent tablets and one produced a package of APC tablets. Need an antacid? Forget it. Calcium Carbonate appears to be a secret formula in this part of the world. Makes me wonder what teachers use for chalk. In response to my scribbled notes in English and chemical notation, one pharmacist produced bicarbonate of soda tablets (baking soda) as a medication for my "upset stomach." Not bad, but no cigar. My Urumqi guide said her doctor prescribes a traditional Chinese herb concoction for acid stomach, but it doesn't work too well. I spent an entire afternoon looking for a Chinese produced version of TUMS, to no avail.
Our long distance bus for Kuqa left a half hour late. The driver quickly put an end to a sneak smoker in the back of his bus... and I didn't even need to give anyone a concerned look! On the drive to Kuqa we passed the recent aftermath of a head-on collision between a truck and bus. The fronts of both vehicles were totally demolished. It is hard to see how the drivers survived, but during our brief passing I could see no bodies. Our own driver seemed to increase his caution after seeing evidence of carelessness.
Our lunch/comfort stop made me again appreciate twenty-first century indoor plumbing. A three meter high concrete block wall hid a trench covered by boards positioned to make five or six openings over which users were expected to squat... trying to imagine all slots being used simultaneously boggles the mind. Flies buzzed around the smelly area and clouds of dust jumped with every gust of wind. A scattered pile of unused tissue sat partially covered with sand for the convenience of visitors who had failed to bring their own.
A sand storm darkened the sky and obscured the road like fog as we waited for our trip to resume. People covered their eyes, some slipped on surgical masks. Most of the waiting passengers took advantage of the enclosed "dining" area where cooks worked over large LPG fired woks producing various fried noodle dishes. A coal fired ten-gallon boiler outside the building heated water for tea and soup. A plastic garden hose brought the boiling water inside. One look at the setup and I decided a couple candy bars and mineral water would make a dandy lunch this day.
A short stay; a short postcard.