Thursday, January 6, 2011

URUMQI - New Year's Eve

January 1, 2011
Eng: Urumqi, Xinjiang, China 
Chn: 乌鲁木齐,新疆省,中国

Written by Em

   After checking into the Youth Hotel in Urumqi (really a hostel but the sign is missing an 's'), we headed out for some local Uighur food. We asked the owner of the hostel for a recommendation and she sent us around the corner for some da pan ji or big plate of chicken. About 15 minutes after ordering, it arrived - a giant, steaming plate of potatoes, chunks of chicken, whole garlic cloves, and slabs of ginger and spring onions, all stewed together in a tomato broth covered in a layer of chili peppers with hand-pulled, wide, doughy noodles served on the side. We stared in silence for about 30 seconds and then dove in. I don't think we spoke at all until the whole plate was almost gone. I knew our stomachs would punish us later, but we hadn't seen that much meat on one plate in a long time!

  Being Chinese, we took a walk to see the ice sculptures in Hongshan Park, about 15 minutes from the restaurant. It was really cold, but our bellies were so hot it felt nice to be moving around. The ice sculptures weren't exactly what we expected, some camels, Chinese zodiac animals and a dragon that was really a wall of ice with some chunks cut out for eyes. Still, it was nice to get a view of the city from above and walk off some of the meat fest.

 Emily with a caravan of Ice Camels

Dan conquering the mini pagoda of Urumqi's 
Hong Shan (Red Mountain)

  We'd searched online and found Fubar, a foreign owned bar advertising travel advice and good beer - much like the Lodge - and headed there for New Year's Eve. We opened the door to a dimly lit bar with sofas, acid jazz and tables full of people eating Western standards; think pizza and burgers. We felt a bit out of place, mostly because the other people were dressed up a bit and we had on our lumberjack, mountain-chic, flannel uniform. After a few beers we met some Europeans who were in university studying Chinese.

  They tried to convince Dan to join them in a shot of the house specialty, The Stinger. Dan foolishly agreed and we all watched in horror as the bar tender mixed the shot. The Stinger is a tall shot glass with a spoonful of dried scorpion stingers topped with chili infused vodka, a dash of Drambuie, and a splash of Absinthe lit on fire and then downed with a twisty straw. 

The Stinger - those bits at the top are dried scorpion stingers

   I died laughing as they blew out the shots and stared before puckering up. Like a true veteran, Dan downed it one go, shutting one eye like a pirate. The others didn't fair so well; one ran from the bar vomiting in his hand, while the other sneezed and shot what he thought was a chili out of his nose. We didn't have the heart to tell him there were no chilies in the glass and it must've been a scorpion stinger. We spent the rest of the night toasting a giant, drunk Uighur guy who was smashing plates and glasses while chugging from his very own bottle of Chivas. It was a great start to the New Year!

Skiing Adventure

   The next day we woke up early to go skiing. The hostel owner gave us some discounted tickets we couldn't pass up. For only rmb 130, we both got transport to and from the mountain, ski rental, 5 hours of skiing AND lunch. Let's just say it was complete mayhem the entire day!

  We got to the mountain and spent the first hour pushing and shoving in line, trying to get the right sized boots and skis. I was really afraid they wouldn't have our size, but after enough yelling we managed to get the biggest boots they had. I snowboarded while Dan went for skis. We suited up and went outside. Strapped in and ready to go, we started down the mountain. Or hill really.

   Dan gave himself a push with his poles and slowly started down. I leaned forward, ready to cruise and just stood there. Unfortunately, with no poles, I wasn't really able to go anywhere because it was too flat. Dan slowly got comfortable on his skis and glided the rest of the way. I hopped and pushed myself until the end where there was a slight incline. At the bottom we looked up at the masses of Chinese people with no gloves, hats or snowpants flying down, half screaming, half laughing, as they slammed into the snow bank at the bottom. Only in China would they throw skis at people and let them have at it. No one could stop. Dan was by far the best skier out there! Incredibly, the worst thing we saw was a woman being slowly dragged up the mountain by the tow rope, which her ski pole was stuck to. Dan ran, or actually quickly ambled over to her in his too-tight ski boots to see if she was okay. Luckily, she was.

 The ski 'hill' - where are all the people? 
they're lying in a pile at the bottom

The 'toilet' - notice the frozen pile of poop 3 meters 
below the hole, we both almost slipped in!

   It really was a great day, even though the temperature was about -30! We took a break for lunch; half-cooked fried rice with carrots and sweet potato, chocolate milk tea and some popcorn for a treat. We went down one more time and that's when I saw Dan crash into the snow bank – his skis tangled above his head as another Chinese guy came barreling down, crashing just next to him. We called it quits after that.

   Back in the city we feasted on noodles in tomato sauce, giant kebabs of barbequed lamb and naan. As Dan said, "I've never felt so full after a meal in such a long time." Well that and after we got back to the hostel, "Jesus! Lord, that's a lot of poop!"  We met to send this email last night, but passed out from 9pm until 10am this morning. We're going to the market today to buy some carpets and knives for you guys and then head to the museum to see some mummies. We plan to move on to Turpan tomorrow, about a 3 hour bus ride from here.

No comments:

Post a Comment