Saturday, April 09, 2005
Next morning as usual we were the last people to breakfast, hey it's hard for two people to get washed up and dressed in 30 minutes. The meal was light but decent. After breakfast we headed to the ancient city of Gaochang. It was an interesting drive as we negotiated between vineyards and Gobi desert.
Driving to Gaohang you entered a community that seems as ancient as the city. The poor residents, woman washing clothes in a small bucket in front of her homes. Simple ramshackle mud homes were our pathway to the tourist site. The people in this area used to farm in Gaochang but the government now prevents it, they are allowed to participate in the tourism biz by providing donkey rides within the ruins, selling souvenirs, and children hawk trinkets.
Gaochang was a major commerce point on the Silk Road and central in the spreading of Buddhism in China, it was abandon in the 1300's.
Seeing the ruins of Gaochang, a city that lasted 1500 years emphasizes the fleeting life societies have. We spend so much time building riches; people, countries and the wealth go away, everything has its' cycle.
Close to Gaochang are the Flaming Mountains and they are spectacular. Without a blade of grass, sharp angles and impressive red sandstone, the mountains are a scenic backdrop for exploration.
Afterward we Flaming Mountain, learned about the Karez ancient irrigation system intially built 2000 years ago uses gravity, wells and underground canals to get water from mountain glaciers. Along with the Great Wall, and the Grand Canal it is considered one of China's great ancient engineering accomplishments. What I find amazing is how the residents figured out how to used the water and create an irrigation system in such an inhospitable environment. Humans' capability for great inventions did not appear in the last 1000 years. I wonder how much knowledge have we lost from wars and collapsed civilizations.
Afterward we visited Grape Valley, Turpan is known for it's variety of fruits and grapes are included, the region is known for its wine production. We visited Grape Valley during the off season, unlike the wine country in California there weren't any tasting rooms, we did enjoy local wines with our meal. Unfortunately I didn't get their names but I enjoyed a very good sweet desert wine.
While in the Grape Valley we visited an Urgur home, what was interesting about the home was it hard bed/sofa which had a built-in brick furnace for those cold desert nights. The home was modest and comfortable with a large backyard patio where our host served us raisins (which they were selling) and fruits. Our host played Urgur music and we finish the afternoon dancing and enjoying a pleasant meal. It was a nice way to end the site-seeing for the day.
Ancient City of Gaohang - Buddhist Site
The Impressive Flaming Mountains
Grape Valley were vineyard and desert meet
Grape break in Grape Valley