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XINJIANG: FAR WEST CHINA PRESENTS:

Urumqi 乌鲁木齐 Gateway to Xinjiang

Written by Josh Summers ©www.farwestchina.com

All rights reserved. All illustrations, photographs and maps used in this publication are the property of Xinjiang: Far West China and may not be reproduced without prior written permission from the author.


Table of Contents Introduction................................................................ 1 Maps ............................................................................ 2 Historical Perspective ................................................ 4 Transportation............................................................ 8 City Attractions International Grand Bazaar ...................................... 18 ErDaoQiao ................................................................. 20 Urumqi Mosques ....................................................... 21 Urumqi Parks ............................................................. 22 Urumqi Museums ...................................................... 24 Other City Sights ....................................................... 26 Near Urumqi Heavenly Lake ............................................................ 27 Center of Asia............................................................. 28 NanShan Scenic Area ................................................ 28 Ruins of Luntai City in Wulabo ............................... 29 Urumqi No.1 Glacier ................................................ 29 Extra Information Urumqi “Best” Lists .................................................. 30 Hotels .......................................................................... 32 Restaurants.................................................................. 35 Appendices Train and Bus Schedules ........................................... 39 Urumqi Travel Agencies ........................................... 41 Bibliography / Suggested Reading .......................... 42


Introduction

I

t’s not the most beautiful city in China nor does it boast many well-known tourist destinations, but if you’re planning to visit any other part of Xinjiang then chances are you’ll find yourself roaming around the capital of Urumqi. Most people are either scared of the unfamiliar surroundings or unaware of what the city has to offer, so they tend to disregard Urumqi as a place to pass through, not enjoy. I can sympathize – for the first couple of years I lived in Xinjiang I dreaded spending more than one night in the capital. Thankfully this doesn’t have to be the case and travelers may find that their short stay in the city isn’t just a wasted day. With every visit to Urumqi I learned to appreciate a new portion of the capital that I hadn’t yet experienced. I hope this guide will help make your trip to Xinjiang smooth and easy. I don’t expect you to love Urumqi, but my goal with this guide is to give you the tools to keep you from hating it! For more information on Xinjiang I invite you to stay updated on the Far West China website. Also, when you’re finished with this guide I hope you’ll contact me with any comments or suggestions. Enjoy your trip to Xinjiang!

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URUMQI – 乌鲁木齐 11 (See opposite page) BUS STATIONS Nanjiao Station .......... C7 Nianzigou Station ...... A5 Mingyuan .................. A2 Juzhong ..................... A6

TRAIN / AIRPORTS Airport ....................... A1 Train Station .............. A6

INFORMATION Police Station ............ C1 Hospital ... B1, B3, C5, C6 Bank .................... B4, C5

CITY SIGHTS 1 Urumqi International Bazaar .................... C7 2 Erdaoqiao ................. C7 3 Hongshan Park .......... B3 4 People’s Square ....... D4 5 Botanical Gardens.....A1 6 Xinjiang Museum ......A2 7 Mineral Museum ......A2 8 Urumqi Museum ....... C1 9 Shaanxi Mosque ....... C5 10 Southern Mosque ... C5 11 Tartar Mosque ........ C7 12 Memorial to the Eighth Route Army ............ C7 13 Former Residence of Mao Zemin............. C5

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HOTELS 1 White Birch Hostel ... C1 2 Bogeda Hotel ............ C4 3 City Hotel.................. C5 4 Super 8 ..................... B4 5 Home Inn.................. C3 6 Pea Fowl Hotel ......... A3 7 Aq Suray Hotel ......... C7 8 Sheraton Hotel ......... A1 9 Hoi Tak Hotel ............ C5 10 Xinjiang Grand ........ B4 RESTAURANTS 1 The Texas Café ....... C5 2 The Vine Coffee ...... C5 3 Aroma..................... C4 4 Pizza Hut................. C5 5 Fubar ...................... B4 6 Edo no Sakura ........ C4 7 Castle...................... C7

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Historical Perspective A Condensed History of Xinjiang and Urumqi

Urumqi. Wulumuqi. Ürümqi. Dihua. Tihwa. Luntai. The names given to this area of Xinjiang are almost as numerous as the ethnic groups that populate it. The city is strategically located on a pass in the TianShan which separates the Tarim and Dzungaria basins, a positioning that has helped build Urumqi into one of the most important trade centers of Central Asia. It hasn’t always been this way. When compared to many of the Silk Road cities throughout Central Asia, Urumqi is a relatively young establishment. Only in the past century has Urumqi grown to become a powerful player in the Asian market.

A Closer Look at Urumqi It’s hard to believe when one looks at the hundreds of tall concrete buildings and the congestion of roads and cars throughout Urumqi that less than two centuries ago this land used to be beautiful green pastures populated by nomadic herders. The name “Urumqi” is actually a Mongolian word that means “a beautiful pasture land”, but those days are long gone. The most logical way to break down Urumqi’s history is to follow the changes in its name that marked turning points in the region’s history. Although nomads have roamed this land for centuries, the best place to begin is a Tang military garrison located 10km south of Urumqi’s current location. Luntai / Beshbaliq (7th century to 18th century)

Although China had stationed troops in this area intermittently throughout the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 24 A.D.), it wasn’t until the Tang Dynasty in 640 A.D. that an official prefecture was established. The area was named “Luntai County” and was an important Tang military outpost whose income came via taxes

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collected from caravans that passed along the northern arm of what is now called the “Silk Road”. Very little is written about this period in Urumqi’s history, primarily because more interesting historical events were happening in both northern and southern Xinjiang. Following the Tang Dynasty fall and retreat in 755 A.D., Central Asian powers became entangled in a complex tug-of-war for control of the area until a mass migration of Uyghur set up their winter capital at Beshbaliq. Beshbaliq (known in Chinese as Beiting) is located northeast of present-day Urumqi, nowhere near the ruins of Luntai, but this demonstrates the fluid nature that is characteristic of Xinjiang history. From the 9th to the 13th centuries this city remained a part of the Uyghur state until pressure from Mongolian invasions forced the rulers to retreat to Gansu. The Uyghur people who remained pledged allegiance to the Mongol state. This very scattered history of Urumqi was finally unified when the Qing Dynasty marched into Xinjiang to stake their claim. Dihua (1763 to 1954)

Once the Qing troops marched through in 1750 and brutally exterminated all opposition, they quickly set up state farms to take advantage of Urumqi’s green pastures. In 1763 the old town

Street scene of Dihua near Erdaoqiao by G.J. Ramstedt 1905

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of Luntai was officially expanded north and renamed “Dihua” meaning “guided to civilization”. Because Dihua was a relatively new town, most of its inhabitants were Han Chinese as opposed to Uyghur. Rapid development stimulated population growth and by 1884 Dihua was named the capital of the newly formed yet still unstable Xinjiang Province. A wall was built around the city and much of the surrounding land was used for agriculture. Due to constant wars and poverty in the south, many Uyghur began to migrate to the fertile lands of Dihua, most of them setting up outside the South Gate of the Dihua walls – an area which is still predominantly Uyghur today. As growth continued, international trade became a permanent part of Dihua’s economy. American and Soviet A Dinner Date with Death Consuls were set up in the Xinjiang has been host to a few very city and large bazaars bloody dinner parties. Here are the became a magnet for foreign three most notable: and local merchants to buy 1. 1st century Chinese general Ban and trade goods. Chao beheads King Zhong of Kashgar for conspiring to rebel. (Kashgar)

2. During a 1916 New Years Banquet Xinjiang governor Yang Zengxin drinks with and then beheads 3 of his officers who had planned a rebellion to overthrow him. (Urumqi) 3. Yang himself was shot seven times in a banquet assassination in 1929 by another government official looking to take his place. (Urumqi)

By this time the Qing Dynasty had collapsed without much notable affect on Xinjiang. Chinese generals continued to struggle for power in Dihua, a story which includes two fascinating instances of banquet dinner assassinations (see left).

These struggles continued throughout the 1940’s when the Guomingdang (GMD) rose to power and finally came to a head in 1949 when the CCP marched into Dihua and “liberated” Xinjiang.

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Urumqi (1954 to present)

For five years the CCP maintained the name “Dihua” for its Xinjiang capital as it struggled to maintain control of the region. It wasn’t until February 1st, 1954 that the city was officially changed to the Mongol name Urumqi, a move that reflected the government’s early attempt to promote autonomy in the region. Over the next half a century Urumqi outgrew its walls, which were eventually torn down, and continued to expand to the north. Today the terms “North Urumqi’s South Gate - 1910 Gate” (北门) and “South Gate” (南门) still represent where these walls once stood, but the towers that marked the entrance to the city can no longer be seen. Despite its agricultural roots, Urumqi has now grown to become a central hub for Central Asian activity whose food and water must be brought in from neighboring cities. Very few historical buildings remain, but in continuing with historical precedent, it’s location as a central hub for tourism ensures that almost everybody entering Xinjiang will most likely step foot inside Urumqi.

**A bibliography of historical sources as well as a list of recommended reading on Xinjiang and Urumqi can be found on Pg 42 of this guide.

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Transportation By Air

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he new Urumqi Airport is currently one of only two airports in Xinjiang that offer international flights (Kashgar also enjoys one flight outside the borders) and is an important hub for transportation both within the province and around China. To/From the Urumqi Airport 乌鲁木齐飞机场

Unless you have a friend or travel agency picking you up at the airport you might understandably be nervous about transportation into the city. A few options are available to travelers who first arrive at Urumqi’s airport: 1.

Private Car:

Those who arrive with a larger group or extra-large baggage may wish to have a private car or van. Inquire about what is available at the service desk near the baggage hall’s main exit. Estimated Cost: 50-100 RMB/car

2.

Taxi:

A special taxi lane is located just outside the main exit and is usually full of waiting taxis. Be advised that most drivers will require you to pay the 5 RMB toll to exit the airport, so don’t be surprised. 30-40 RMB is a fair price for a trip to the city center. Estimated Cost: 30-50 RMB to Urumqi city center

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3.

Shuttle Bus:

Although no city buses come near enough to the airport to use, there are a couple shuttle buses that travel to various parts of the city. Check the map and tell your driver where you want to be let off. A ride on the shuttle is about 15 RMB, which is relatively cheap, but often the shuttle stops are far from your desired location so you’ll have to take an additional taxi. One shuttle ends at the train station (45 min) and is perfect for those who will be taking a train to their next destination.

A ride in the shuttle is 15 RMB per person

By far the easiest way to get to the airport is to take a taxi. The higher-end hotels offer airport shuttles, however, so ask ahead to make sure. The average taxi rate to the airport should end up being around 35-60 RMB, the same as exiting the airport.

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By Train

U

rumqi’s train station is unquestionably the busiest transportation hub in all of Xinjiang. From here you can make your way inland towards Beijing, Shanghai, or Chengdu, or you can travel west toward Kashgar, Yili, even crossing the border into Kazakhstan. Currently construction is underway to more than double the amount of track in Xinjiang, an ambition which promises to make the incredibly large province just a little bit smaller. To/From the Urumqi Train Station 乌鲁木齐南站

Unlike the airport, which is far to the northwest of town, Urumqi’s train station is located not far from the city center in the southwest corner. Despite this good location, however, travelers still often complain of complications leaving the station. 1.

Taxi:

Immediately upon exiting the station you’ll see a narrow taxi path where you can try to find a car. Unfortunately there are usually not enough cabs to accommodate all the exiting passengers and there is no place to form a line for the next available cab. Often you’ll just have to play mean and jump ahead to grab a taxi. If you don’t, somebody else will! Fares from the Station: City Center: 10RMB Airport: 40-60RMB

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2.

Private Car: While looking for a bus or waiting for a taxi you are likely to be approached by private drivers who are not officially taxis. You’ll have to bargain hard but that doesn’t mean it’s always a rip-off. Don’t pay until you reach the destination and don’t be afraid to walk away. Otherwise, this can be a nice option especially if you’re traveling with a bigger group or with extra luggage.

A private car to your hotel could cost approximately 50-70 RMB 3.

Bus:

Taking the bus is by far the most pain-free way to enter the city – that is, if you can read Chinese and know exactly where you’re headed. Still, if you’re having a hard time getting other transport you can always hop on a bus until it brings you further into the city and then try to find a taxi there.

City buses that reach the train station: 2 8 10 16 20 26 36 44 50 58 62 902 903 905

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By Bus

T

aking a bus in Urumqi may not always be the cheapest option (the hard seat on a train is sometimes cheaper), but it will always be the easiest. Buses are frequent and require very little effort to purchase tickets. The only drawback to taking a bus is determining which bus station you need to go to. There are multiple stations scattered throughout the city and each of them serves a specific area – or a specific city - in Xinjiang. Urumqi South Station --南郊客运站

(nánjiāo kèyùnzhàn)

Urumqi South is located a couple kilometers south of the International Bazaar. More than likely this will be the bus station you will be headed to. This transportation hub services Kashgar, Turpan, Hami, Korla, and most of the “south Xinjiang” cities.

DON’T FORGET! Bus and train station timetables / prices are listed on Page 40. www.farwestchina.com

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Nianzigou Bus Station

-- 碾子沟客运站 (niănzĭgōu kèyùnzhàn) This particular station is located just a couple kilometers away from the Urumqi train station. From here you can grab a long distance bus to cities in the north and south of Xinjiang such as Yili (Yining), Tacheng, Hami and Beitun (near Kanas Lake).

Beijiao Station

-- 北郊客运站 (bĕijiāo kèyùnzhàn) This bus station covers most of eastern Xinjiang, which isn’t of much interest to tourists. Chances are you’ll never step foot in this station.

Mingyuan Station & Jungong Station

--明园客运站 (míngyuán) & 军供 (jungong) Mingyuan has hourly buses only to Karamay. As a tourist, one of the only destinations to visit here is the Ghost City in nearby Wuerhe. Jungong, next door to the train station, services Shihezi and all the small towns along the way.

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Transportation Within Urumqi

S

ometimes it can be frustrating trying to travel around Urumqi while other times it feels way too easy. It’s best to be prepared for both situations. Keep in mind that difficulty finding a taxi during peak times may force you to walk where you want to go, so it’s a good idea to choose a centrally-located hotel and keep a map on you. Other options for transportation in the city include: City Buses

City buses are the primary form of transportation for the general public in Urumqi. Once you get the hang of the system they’re really quite simple (and cheap!) to use, but you have to be willing to stand for long periods of time in very packed quarters.

1. Have somebody at your hotel write your destination in Chinese characters, then ask people at the bus stop which bus to take. Most people are quite helpful!

2. Each bus stop has a wall of bus numbers and their routes. If you can read Chinese characters these route indicators are a great help.

Tips for using the bus system

3. Most every bus in Urumqi will cost you 1 RMB. Bus drivers don't give change, so come prepared.

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4. Watch out for pickpockets! They're not any more common in Urumqi than elsewhere in China, but I've seen them work.

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Taxis

Taxis are everywhere in Urumqi yet somehow most of them always seem to be full or “out of service”. To avoid being ripped off, make sure your taxi is registered with a meter and an insurance card that they are required to display on the dashboard. A couple of things to note about taxis:  In Urumqi the meter drops at 6 RMB.  At night, most taxi drivers won’t let passengers in the front seat for safety reasons.  Giving a taxi driver a 100RMB note is just begging for him to hand you back a fake 50. Keep the bills small.  Taxi drivers often love to chat – both Uyghur and Han – it’s a great opportunity to practice your Mandarin or have them teach you some Uyghur. Bikes

It’s common in many places in China to rent bikes and take a “bike tour” of the city. I’ve never personally seen this option in Urumqi, but if it is available I highly discourage participation. Most Urumqi roads aren’t designed for bike use and there aren’t many good places to lock the bike up. Motorcycle Taxis

This form of transportation is a dying breed but it’s one you can still find in the southern, “Uyghur” part of Urumqi. Anyone can get on the 3-wheeled motorcycle with a carpet-covered flat bed. These taxis follow a prescribed route and don’t take request for detours. Just hop on, let the driver know when you want to get off and pay your 1 RMB toll. Don’t know what these taxis look like? Check out this picture. www.farwestchina.com

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THE DETAILS

International Grand Bazaar

Name: 国际大巴扎

Guójì Dàbāzā Location: City Map C7

A

Price: Free to enter bout a kilometer south of the city’s NanMen, or “South Gate”, is a popular tourist spot known as the International Bazaar. This complex of 6 buildings covers an area of 100,000m2 and although it looks like a historical site, don’t be fooled. It was first opened to the public on June 26th, 2003.

Inside the bazaar, described by Xinjiang tourist pamphlets as a “fantastic shoppers’ emporium” you can get your fill of massproduced souvenirs including Uyghur knives, musical instruments, a wide selection of Xinjiang fruits, and of course jade jewelry. Also available for purchase are rugs, but they usually aren’t as high-quality as those found in Kashgar and Hotan (Khotan).

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In the center of the Bazaar is a large tower Tip: Skip the tower which, again, looks like an important Islamic and just walk building but is instead just a small viewing around the bazaar. deck. After paying 20 RMB you take an elevator to the top to get a 360 degree view of Urumqi. No calls to prayer are made from this building and the windows at the top obviously haven’t been cleaned for quite some time.

Highlights of the Bazaar:  Stock up on (touristy) souvenirs  Taste different kinds of Uyghur foods  Pick up foreign goods at basement-level Carrefour

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THE DETAILS

ErDaoQiao Market

Name: 二道桥市场

èrdàoqiáo shìchăng cross the street from the Location: City Map C7 International Bazaar is the equallyPrice: Free to enter popular, yet considerably smaller Erdao Qiao market. Although the building was renovated in 2002, this site and its name have long been synonymous with Xinjiang trade.

A

As early as the late 1800’s during the Qing Dynasty, the ErDaoQiao Market was a well-known center for trade. Slowly its ties with the international community have waned, replaced by the needs of foreign tourist. Most of what you’ll find inside will be overpriced trinkets and the shops themselves don’t usually reflect a “true” Xinjiang. Still, if you’re looking for those last-minute souvenirs this might not be a bad stop. An added bonus to the market is the fact that there is usually a camel right out front that you can ride and take pictures with (for a fee).

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