July 5-8, 2014
From 30 km to Urumqi area, massive constructions and huge buildings welcome you. The centre is on a hill so it was really difficult to find our way in and into the centre. The pollution and road construction made it even more difficult. We were tired, so 7 km before reaching the centre, we found a hotel and checked in. The hotel was the best we have been to so far on this trip; however, it was not that expensive, $30 for a double room. The only downside: no WIFI anywhere in the hotel, only Internet cable in our room.
The first thing that catches your attention in Urumqi is the presence of police and security officials everywhere. If you were to go into a shopping centre, your bags would be checked and the content would be put in a red sealed bag. You would also have to go through a security scanning machine, like the ones at the airports. At the gas stations, cars are kept outside and let in one by one. They are security checked. Last night, there was arson on a public bus. The terrorist simply poured gas on the floor and lit the matches. There was a horrifying footage on TV. For that reason, we also have trouble getting our gas for our cooking stoves.
It took me three days to find a coffee shop with WIFI. In Urumqi, I got cold feet and was seriously considering taking a flight to Tehran or Toronto. I was tired and this part of China is so boring and polluted. There also were some unexpected problems at home in Toronto that got me thinking of going back. I tried to find a travel agency to inquire about flights, but I could not find one. I didn't have internet to see them online either!
In the evenings, we go out to a nearby street where there are a lot of restaurants to eat, but the food is really bad, I think. Everything you try is very spicy. The only way for us to order food in restaurants is to look at the pictures and order them, but looks are deceiving. One of the dishes we ordered was pieces of chicken, even its foot, with bones and skin cocked in red chilli.
The people in the hotel do not speak English. There is only one English-speaking employee, who is almost never available. Every night at 11, the receptionist calls and says something in Chinese and I just say " I do not understand Chinese"--every night.