(Distant Xinjiang – Part 4 of 6) – Part 3 of 6 here
6 August 2015
After exploring the beautiful Kanas nature reserve we paid a visit to the Tuwa/Tuva (圖瓦) villages around the area.
The Tawa/Tuva people or Tuvans (圖瓦人) live in three villages around the Kanas nature reserve, i.e. in Kanas Valley, Hemu (禾木) and Baihaba (白哈巴) with a total population of around 2,500. We were told by the tour guide that for a group of people to be classified as a race/tribe they must have the minimum required population of 3,000 and since the Tawa people have less than that and in fact, are dwindling in number they are not officially recognised but as Mongolian since they are of Mongolian descent. Hence, they are called Mongolian Tuwa/Tuva or Tuva Mongol(蒙古族圖瓦人).
The Tuwa people believe they are the descendants of the troops of Genghis Khan left behind during his crusade to the west so in almost every home there is a portrait of Genghis Khan on the wall.
The first village we visited was in Kanas Valley after we had witnessed the magnificent scenic view of Kanas Lake.
After the visit we hopped in to the van and travelled to Jia Deng Yu (贾登峪) not far away to check in to the resort we were to stay for a night and had a very late dinner. The long walk up and down the mountain, the journey in the van, the late and heavy dinner (it was midnight by the time we finished it!) and a few glasses of the very strong sorghum spirit (高粱酒) caused us to almost dozed off at the dinner table… 🙂
We were prepared with our warm clothing as we were told before we departed Malaysia that the weather in Kanas was expecetd to be sub 20° C but it was milder than we anticipated. Adding just a cardigan was sufficient for us to walk around the resort at night and in the morning.
7 August 2015
We originally planned to go to Baihaba (白哈巴) in the most north-western corner of China which borders with Kazakhstan to visit another Tuwa village but during breakfast our tour guide after a chat with fellow guides found out that the access to Baihaba had been restricted and control tightened and foreign passport-holders were not allowed in except that of tourists from Hong Kong and Taiwan. But still, they were only allowed half way and not to the border.
In fact, the control along the whole journey had been very strict and we had to produce our passports at most check points and especially at the last point before entering Burqin where we were asked to go into an office and questioned, and handed over our passports to be photocopied. The control we were told had been enforced and tightened since the racial unrest and riots in Urumqi in 2009. Inevitably a change of plan was in order and we made our way to Hemu village (禾木村) which is the largest among the 3 Tuwa villages instead.
scenes around Hemu village
After Hemu we travelled back to Burqin/Bu’erjin to stay for a night before the long journey back to Urumqi the following day on 8 August 2015.
The architecture in Burqin is so different from the boxy highrises that we had gotten accustomed to around Urumqi and it is definitely more western influenced. Such a quaint little touristy town, clean and nicely landscaped.
We visited the night market in Burqin
On the way back to Burqin we saw the fields of sunflowers which we passed by on the way to Kanas. This time we simply could not resist but requested our driver Xiao Wang to stop by the road side and let us out to take a few pictures of the beautiful sunflowers in the evening sun…
This concluded our adventure in the northern part of Xinjiang but our exploration did not end here. After the milder weather in Kanas we were bracing ourselves for the heat in “The Oven” of China! Our journey continued…….
(End of Part 4 of 6) – Part 5 of 6 here