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Urumqi Part II

Urumqi boiled in the morning sun, and we road around in a cab, searching for an internet cafe. An unsuccessful search for WiFi lead us far from the train station, and we eventually settled for one of the sprawling, and decidedly wired, World of Warcraft centers, which have spread across China like a hybrid between an opium den and a digital virus.

A World of Warcraft Center in Urumqi

This particular place was decidedly unsuccessful in catering to our missions, allowing neither me to post to the blog (asiawheeling.com seemed for some reason blocked) or Scott to take his Capital Markets final exam (good one internet explorer 1.0).

A little vandalism

So I slapped an AsiaWheeling sticker on their bathroom wall and we split. Suddenly, we realized we were starving, so we hopped another fantastic Chinese cab towards Mohamed and his stupendous Uighur restaurant. Our driver was a sinewy whip of a man. He wore deep blue sleeves, unconnected to his shirt and large, angular, jet black glasses. The moment we had loaded our luggage and climbed in, he began to play some of the most thumping and infectious electronic music we had yet encountered in China. We relaxed into the digital wash as he gunned the red jetta through Urumqi’s savage traffic.

Our savage Urumqi Driver

Mohammed was glad to see us, and to hear that our visit to his home city of Kashgar had been the savage ride that it was. We enjoyed a flaky meat based nan, with a flavor not unlike the pasties my father made during my childhood, this came to us alongside an array of gooey meat and vegetable dishes.

Yet another Uighur feast

Much revived, we heaved our packs back on. I thanked the stars that I had spent the money to get a redundantly padded model, this being our first day of lugging all our baggage with us everywhere we went. We meandered down the street to a nearby grocery. There, we picked up the essentials for the train, and from a local bakery we acquired some Uighur variations on Ruggula, a kind of Uighur coffee cake, and some perhaps dubious Uighur snack mix.

A glance at the calculator watch told me we had just enough time to stop into another internet cafe on our way back to the train station. And, dear reader, this one proved to be the best yet. They brought the entire team out to trouble shoot adding the AsiaWheelng Powerbook to their network. And for the next hour, I posted correspondence like a madman, while Scott uploaded pictures and KML files.

Urumqi Train Station

Then it was time to hit the station. We walked there with a friendly Chinese woman who had aided us in the complicated translation of technical jargon back at the internet cafe. She turned out to have studied British culture in the UK (I imagined a room full of people memorizing royal lineages and listening to Lady Sovereign… savage.). We remain very much in her debt.

Inside the train station, the usual stressful Chinese systems raged about us. But we strode unfazed through the melee. From our vantage point, a good foot above the heads of the rest of the waiting room, we marveled at the human fluid dynamics. One woman controlled a number of stainless steel gates. When the time drew nigh, she would begin screaming as if the building was on fire, slamming gates shut, then posting herself erectly at the gate what was soon to provide entry to the platforms. Other women then dispersed themselves through the human medium, also screaming bloody murder and hustling people into the appropriate corridor of chairs, which quickly became over-filled forcing many old people to stand, and young people to then stand up, relinquishing (as they should) their seats to the old. This added mixing brought the Reynolds number past a threshold and all ability to pilot one’s self was lost in the turbulent river of bodies.

Soon enough, we allowed our selves to, grinning, be swept into the fray. Bouncing against the people around us and squeezing towards the erect woman, who still shouted, and now was ruthlessly wielding a triangular hole punch.

Tickets punched, checked, rechecked, and traded in for plastic re-boarding cards, we settled onto the train, taking one last look at the savage skyline.

Urumqi Skyline


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