Slow Train to the Silk Road

Tomorrow at 6pm, Allison and I will be boarding a train from Beijing to Ürümqi, in an area the Chinese call Xinjiang (literally, “New Frontier”) Uyghur Autonomous Region, but which the native Turkic Uyghurs have called “East Turkestan” for much longer. (Of course, while in China, one would be advised to not use the term “East Turkestan” – it’s liable to get you thrown in jail.)

Although Uyghur language, cultural and politics aren’t Allison’s current project, she’s strongly considering studying just that as she begins work on her PhD. The local culture is one she’s long been interested in, and I confess that I too have been interested in this as well. She was shocked when, one and a half years ago, on our very first date, I had already heard of the Uyghurs and knew something about them already. There will be lots to see – stuff related to the Silk Road, beautiful lakes, marketplaces, and of course, great Uyghur food. I don’t know that this makes too big of a difference, but the city has the unique distinction of being the geographically most inland city in the world, that is, the city farthest from any ocean. We’re excited about this trip.

Of course, the train trip… well, will be an experience. We leave at 6:45pm tomorrow (Sunday). The train arrives in Ürümqi in the morning. On Tuesday. Yes, on Tuesday. That means it’s a 36 hour train ride, perhaps longer. And back. Well, lots of time for disseratation reading, I suppose. Since the battery on my laptop died, I can only hope that this train has places to plug laptops in.

I’ll try to post as soon as I can – not only about this trip, but also about the trip we took to the Forbidden City a few days ago, with tons of photos.


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