Ah, this is the life. Sitting cross-legged on the bottom berth of an ancient iron bunk-bed trying to charge up every electronic item I own – every backpacker has been there. It feels somewhat nostalgic to be doing it again, though – it’s been a good few years since I did the rounds of dodgy hostels, manic bus stations and generally getting lost in city after city, too tight to splash out USD1 on a cab.
I’ve made it to Urumqi, capital of China’s far-western Xinjiang province and supposedly the furthest place in the world from the sea (bit of trivia there for you folks, 225okm no less). This place also tends to get poo-pooed by the great unshaven backpackers, but compared to many large Chinese cities, I personally find it a perfectly pleasant place. The food is great too (see pic) – but perhaps more on that later.
By far the most noticeable thing already, however, is the sheer variety of faces milling around the streets. You get the distinct feeling that Han China has backed onto the rest of Central Asia and created a hub that has managed to suck in all the other nationalities in the countryside around. It is fascinating.