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Break on the steppe at Barkul

Sculpture of dancing musicians in a park in the centre of Hami, Xinjiang province, China on a sunny day 10th November 2012

Testing the waters to ascertain how easy or difficult it is as a foreigner to make my way round China on public transport, I’d succeeded in traveling way out west to Yining where the waters drain westward out of China’s Xinjiang province, and into Kazhakstan. Now three days into the trail back eastward I had arrived in Hami, pretty much the last town in the east of Xinjiang, and famous for it melons.

Although easy enough, so long as you can read and write Chinese and speak Mandarin, relying on public tranport to travel independently throughout China can at times be slow. With no places available on the bus out of Hami south to Dunhuang for a couple of days, I perused my map, and spotted a ski resort marked close to a town over a mountain range to the north.

Mural of a man brandishing a bow on horseback viewed on the end of a tenement block in Barkul/Balikun in Xinjiang province, China.

Barkul, Balikun in Chinese, is a town on the steppe lands close to Mongolia, a few miles further along the road from the turn-off to the sky resort. Aside from the murals adorning the ends of its five-storey tenement blocks, and a grand Chinese-style gate, there seemed to be nothing of much interest in the urban area  –  its ‘functional’ architecture, in combination with thick cloud cover, gave a dreary impression.

The day was drawing on, and it was getting pretty cold, but for the sake of economy I traipsed around a fair while trying to find a ‘budget’ priced room. This endeavour proved fruitless, as in common with other towns and cities in Xinjiang, this was one where we foreigners can only stay in top end hotels, at three or four times the ‘budget’ price.



All change the following morning as the clouds and accompanying gloom had given way to a glorious azure sky, and a snow-covered landscape, with tufts of dry, yellow grass poking through the whiteness – a lovely sight.



Here’s a slideshow of thirteen photos I took on this trip. A caption for each photo will show if you move the cursor/pointer onto it:

Onward eastward from here, througn Gansu province, and into northern Sichuan.