Chinese Turkestan 2004

In March of 2004 myself and 3 of my compatriots had the chance to meet Curzon and some friends in Kazakhstan. We decided to go through China since we were (mostly) living in Japan and cross the China-Kazakhstan border. Due to “efficient” Chinese officials, one of our members was left with no time to get a Kazakh visa. We flew 4 hours to Urumqi, then split into two groups: one pair heading into Kazakhstan, and the other (me and me mate) crossing the Taklamakan Desert to the westernmost reaches of Chinese Turkestan. We would meet back in Urumqi 10 later and head back to Beijing together.

Map of our journey to Chinese Turkestan 2004
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is China’s largest province, covering over 1,600,000 square kilometers, one-sixth of China’s total territory. It is home to 47 ethnic groups including Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, etc. Sunni Islam is the prevalent religion. It is bordered (from North to South) by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistani/Indian claimed territory. At one point we were 20km away from Afghanistan.

Considering we didn’t understand Chinese (or Uyghur) and at one point my partner came down with a mild strain of cholera (thanks to the gypsy bus), we had a blast. “Here is a small gallery of photos taken during that trip.”:

Don’t forget to click on the IMAGE INFO in the bottom left corner of each pic for an explanation. Enjoy!

About Younghusband

Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942) was a British explorer, army officer, military-political officer, and foreign correspondent born in India who led expeditions into Manchuria, Kashgar, and Tibet. He three times tried and failed to scale Mt. Everest and journeyed from China to India, crossing the Gobi desert and the Mustagh Pass (alt. c.19,000 ft/5,791 m) of the Karakoram mountain range in modern day Pakistan. Convinced of Russian designs on British interests in India, Younghusband proactively engaged in the nineteenth century spying and conflict over Central Asia between the British and the Russians known as the Great Game. "Younghusband" is a Canadian who has spent a number of years bouncing back and forth between his home country and Japan. Fluent in Japanese and English with experience in numerous other languages from Spanish to Georgian, Younghusband has travelled throughout Asia. He graduated with an MA from the War Studies Department at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he focussed on the Japanese oil industry and energy security issues. He has recently returned to Canada from Japan, and is working in the technology sector.
This entry was posted in Travel, Turkestan and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Chinese Turkestan 2004

  1. Alfred Wallace says:

    Thank you for some wonderful pictures. Is it really true that most of the windmills were rusted solid, or were they merely turned off for lack of need? One of the problems with wind power is adjusting power supply with power demand…

  2. Younghusband says:

    You are very welcome, Mr. Wallace.

    It is hard to tell from that photo, but those mills weren’t in optimal condition. Although a definite majority were operable, a noticeable number of them were suffering from lack of maintenance, missing blades and sometimes entire heads. I can’t rightly remember but I think our man told us that this was the largest windfarm in China. China is pretty power-starved. In 1995 there was a push to increase this windfarm’s capacity 300% (30MW to 1000MW) by 2000. It currently stands at about 90MW, “fulfilling only 3% of the needs of Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital.”: Another example of Chinese efficiency…

  3. Peter says:

    I have to agree with Mr. Wallace – fantastic pictures. Sounds like it was quite a trip. I think most people would be surprised at how different Western China is from the rest of the nation. On my trip through Sichuan/Yunnan/Tibet, I found that these parts operate with significant autonomy, at least culturally. However, we did pass a sizeable military convoy heading into Tibet, probably to reinforce sovreignty. Instead of windmills, we saw at least 30 hydroelectric dams. I would suggest that one should not photograph those… or bridges… ;)

  4. Saru says:

    I checked my notes, and I think he said it was the largest windfarm in Asia. China began importing the windmills from Denmark in 1988 and has gradually been replacing them with Chinese-made ones as they wear down. I’ve no idea how frequently this occured, but given their location in the middle of an alternatinly scorchingly hot and hellishly cold, and obviously windy desert, I would imagine they don’t last long.

    Don’t know if you put any oil rig photos up, but just in case you did, that began in 1992.

  5. Younghusband says:

    Here is a “great post on Uyghur seperatism”: (thanks to “MutantFrog”:

    And check out this expat blog of some dude in Xinjiang! “”:

  6. uygur says:

    im uygur bae ti uygur

  7. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Leaving soon

  8. Michael says:

    I’m going to Xinjiang in two weeks, any advice on what to take/do/not to do? I speak Mandarin. Sort of…

  9. Younghusband says:

    How long will you be there? What cities?

  10. Curzon says:

    Dude, you’ve asked the right guys! Sir Francis and I have both been on seperate occasions, and it’s one of the best places I’ve traveled too.

    You can forget Urumqi, the place is a dump. Turpan is PHENOMENAL, and we can hook you up with an excellent and economical guide if you want one (which you do, believe me). I’ve only been that far — Younghusband (both the real life one and on this blog!) has explored the regions nearer to Pakistan, out in Kashgar and the mountains approaching the Kyrgyz Republic.

    Feel free to use the contact form in the ABOUT section to contact us directly for more information.

  11. Younghusband says:

    I agree re: Urumqi. Turpan is pretty good, but I would recommend that you GO TO KASHGAR! It is really amazing. And take the plane, as the bus is hell (unless you get one of those newer ones straight from Urumqi). I can hook you up with a guide there if you like (use the contact form to email me).

  12. Sunguh5307 says:

    Make it up to the Altaic region if you can- in August the weather should be the best. Heaven Lake north of Urumqi was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, once you ditch the tourist areas. Of course, the further north you get the more you would need to get your own vehicle since the roads aren’t great.

    Urumqi is only good as a rest area in between, I agree. The more interesting places are definitely Kashgar and Turpan (Kuche not so bad as a point to see other stuff). Great place.

  13. Mike says:

    Hey. Thanks again for the help finding the guide! My Flickr now has Xinjiang photos as well as the rest of my pictures from China on it. Definitley a worthwhile trip, although I didn’t make it to Kashgar, sadly. I’ll be back…

  14. sun bin says:

    go to see Tian Chi (Sky Lake) as well.

    btw, one of the main problem of these wind mills is that they often succumb to very strong wind at the wrong direction and will fall down. you see the same thing near palm spring, CA.

    there is still no good solution in the world, although a few years ago, some ingeneous design were reported.

    you went too late, the best season should be june or sep. it must be cold now.

  15. Curzon says:

    Urumqi was cold, but Turpan was PERFECT in March — it apparently gets up to the mid 40sC during the summer (110+F), which is insane.

  16. sun bin says:

    like death valley, but only deeper.
    i think it is -154 meter

    6 deg celsius/ 1000 m. so it is about 12 deg warmer than Gansu.

  17. bq. And check out this expat blog of some dude in Xinjiang!

    Heh, thanks for the plug. I lived in Urumqi for 3 years, so I have a certain place in my heart for it. If you’re in Xinjiang on holiday though, it’s not where you want to be. The bus is a rough one, but I recommend the bus from Urumqi to Hotan – cuts right through the center of the Taklamakan desert. 30 hours, and waking up to the sun rising in the middle of the desert is unbelievable. Hotan is a great place to visit, especially now that Kashgar is getting the Chinese Disneyfication treatment. The Grand Bazaar and the Id Kah mosque got makeovers, and the Old City in Kashgar is steadily shrinking. Very few Han Chinese tourists go to Hotan – not that I have anything against them, but it makes for a different experience. Plus if you make it to Hotan via the desert, you can stop in Yarkand and Yengisar on the way to Kashgar. Yarkand is undoubtedly the most conservative, Islamically speaking, and Yengisar is little place devoted to knifemaking. On the road to Tashkorgan you can stay in the little Tajik villages near the Pamirs.

    Pictures of when I did all that in 2003 can be found at my half-finished photo gallery.

  18. Jim says:

    To enter China one has to pass through Hunza vally and that’s where I live. He-he!

  19. Pingback: » Blog Archive » The attraction of Chinese imperialism