Journey to Northern XinJiang, China 2009 (Part II)
by Kelvin Khor
Day5 (29 Sept.’09 Baihaba)
Baihaba is known as the most north-west village in China. And it is restricted to foreigner due to its close proximity to Kazakhstan. Only with special pre-applied permit foreigner is allowed to enter. There was a guarded check point outside the village. This village is pretty much un-touch by outside world.
15 minutes walk in early morning took us to a hill nearby overlooking Baihaba. Villages were still using wood to boil water and cook food. Hence, smokes could be observed from chimneys around the village. The hill provided an ideal location to take over view pictures of back-lighted Baihaba. Smoke, traditional village, golden yellow leaves and free roaming cows add up a dramatic picture that I had imagined. My dream came true at that point of time.
Baihaba in rare golden sunset
We spent the rest of the day around Baihaba taking pictures. By foot, you could tour this small village within an hour. However, I advise you to slow down your paste to cover every path. Every where I turned seem to be a photographic opportunity. My CF card quickly filled up. Duwa and Kazakh are the majority people living in this picture-perfect village. They are friendly although some shy away from camera.
Late evening, we waited at another hill for sunset. A friendly Kazakh family came over to join us. They were not camera shy at all. We snapped a lot of photo before catching up with our sunset. Later the children invited us into their front garden. I must say they had the best view in town.
Best view in town
Day6 (30 Sept.’09 Baihaba to Burqin)
Unwillingly, we left Baihaba early in the morning. Our key photography spots that day were God Bay, Moon Bay, Crouching Dragon Bay and Five-color Bay. The first three bays located in Kanas Nature Reserve and within few kilometers of each other. God Bay is a small wetland at lower mountain stream running though a valley. It is surrounded by thick mist and cloud in the morning. Moon Bay resembles mirror image of “S” than a moon to me. Crouching Dragon Bay is a tiny flat island shaped like a dragon. Same river run though these three bays. Its water color changes from green to blue to milky white at different season. What some beautiful sights to see!
Sunrise at God Bay
Leaving Kanas Nature Reserve in the afternoon and heading toward Burqin, scenery in front of us changed back to semi-desert I once forgot. We had one more pit stop before check into motel at Burqin for the night. Photographing Five-color Bay’s sunset was our target. While waiting for sunset I managed to snap some locals herding cows back to their home. Life is simple & traditional.
Sunset at Five-color Bay
Day7 (01 Oct.’09 Burqin to Altay)
Burqin was a quiet clean small town where over 70% of buildings are motels. The town was developed to cater for increasing in bounce tourists over the years. I did enjoy the peaceful atmosphere although nothing really interesting to see here. On the way to Altay we stopped by somewhere to shoot Populus Diversifolia. These trees are plentiful and usually growing along river bank. I spotted a herd of domesticated camels resting at nearby desert. I could not resist snapping few photos to show to my daughters.
Day8 (02 Oct.’09 Altay to Urumqi)
Nothing interesting happened today. It was another seven hours crossing Gurbantunggut Desert returning to Urumqi. But as usual, we never forgot to treat us a good local dinner. XinJiang produced the best mutton that I had ever eaten. During this trip, we had tried various way of cooking mutton such as grilling, smoke and boiling. My favorite was still XinJiang style grilling of mutton, intestines, liver and heart. Yummy! Must try!
Day9 (03 Oct.’09 Urumqi)
We decided to take a lazy way of day out by joining a guided day tour to Tian Shan and Heavenly Lake located not too far from Urumqi. Definitely not my way of travel but I do get lazy sometime. My comment is after visiting Kanas Natural Reserve, Tian Shan and Heavenly Lake are just another mountains and lake. They are not under “must visit” location anymore (as far as I am concerned).
Tian Shan and Heavenly Lake
Day10-11 (04-05 Oct.’09 Urumqi to Lanzhou to Suzhou)
We boarded 3pm train heading to Lanzhou, Gansu nearly 1800 km away. The train took 20 hours to reach this city. We hang around for few hours then caught a night flight to Nanjing, and then spent few more hours on road to reach Suzhou, Jiangsu where I stay.
There is no need to fly back from Lanzhou. Our initial plan was visiting few places by train as we travel toward Lanzhou. But due to some reasons, we cancelled original plan. The best is of course flying from Urumqi. If we have done our plan correctly, we could have cut short our trip by three days or spend extra days at Hemu or Baihaba. Well, I can’t complain. This is the best trip I have done in China. And it is the second most beautiful place that I have ever been to; just slightly behind South New Zealand; by a hair thin. But I can’t really compare these two places. XinJiang truly is a place one must visit in his/her life time. Now I can put down another mark in my travel wish list but I have missed her since the day I left.