Imagine standing on a hill overlooking ancient ruins dating back 2,000 years. As you scan over what was obviously a large city in its day, you can't help but be taken in with the mysteries of the people that once inhabited the place. How did they live? What did they eat? What did they wear? Before you know it, the sun starts touching the edge of the horizon, but the sky is still aglow with residual light. Walking by what once must have been a grand temple, you again contemplate the lives of these people and what made them leave. As you walk back to the car that brought you here, you say goodbye to the ruins of Jiaohe, knowing that they will still be here long after you leave.
Turpan is a city that is best known for its grapes and fresh fruit. Your first glimpses might have you wondering if you are still in China. The architecture, clothing, and street foods are all completely different from most of the rest of the country, reminiscent of the Muslim world. But keep walking and you will see the typical street signs, tourists, and other reminders that you are indeed still in China. The local fruits are a treat to try while you explore the local markets, which sell everything from naan bread to jeans.
The true treasures, though, lie outside the city center. The Jiaohe Ruins, the Bizalkik Thousand Buddha Caves, and the Flaming Mountains mentioned in the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West, are ancient sites well worth the trek—which is itself an experience yielding incredible views. The arid desert occasionally teems with life as a source of water passes through it. With daytime temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius, Turpan is the hottest place in China, so carry plenty of water and sun block.
This article was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 61 ("and the winner is").
Photos provided by PureQuest Adventures. For more adventure ideas, please visit their website.