11.08.2012 - 02.09.2012 38 °C
Aksu, August 19th 2012
"Aksu" is sometimes spelled "Aqsu". The Chinese say "Akesu". Interestingly, Aksu comes from a Turkic word which means "white water". If you have been following me, you might remember the Turpan Facts I wrote previously. On the last paragraph I described how Turpan and Turkey are related. So now, that "Akesu" (930 km away from Turpan) is actually a Turkic name, should not be a surprise. You should be more surprise that there is another Aksu in today's Turkey! It's in Antalya Province.
Because I couldn't check in yet, I left my suitcase at the front desk and went out to explore. Across the street, not far from Pudong Holiday Hotel was a market. A busy market. I eyed on a porridge vendor, but was too shy to approach. Pass.
Further away from the market turned out to be what I had not expected to see: An automobile market. Rows and rows of huge showrooms lined up. After 9 days on the Silk Road, I had been so absorbed that my mind laid back to centuries behind, to the camels and donkeys on the desert.
And then suddenly I returned from the time tunnel astonished to find out that all Bactrian camels have reborn into Dromedary camels that only have one hump. Camels feet behind the time tunnel could widen as large as a plate in order to prevent itself from sinking into sand. But the camels' feet here are twenty thirty times wider than a plate! Wow!
Why does the donkey's cart look like this? Where are all the donkeys? Why don't they make noises?
The unintended visit to this area seemed so un-Silk-Road to me. I should look for breakfast right away before I cannot differentiate between fantasizing and hallucinating.
Voila! Xinjiang pizza! No, no! I don't know the name. The story was like this. From outside I read the menu on the restaurant's window glass. One of them said something with the characters 牛肉面 which means "beef noodle". So I went inside. The owner welcomed me as warm as she would do to a local. I got nervous. Looking at the written menu on the glass from inside the restaurant confused me. "Errr... I want... I want... this..." I didn't what I was pointing at.
In turn, she gave me a surprise look. Her slanting eyes widen. I could read it above her head: "You are not Chinese??"
Haiyaaa. What is "beef noodle" in Mandarin. That word "niúròu miàn" just vanished from my memory. I said que sera sera to my pointing finger on the restaurant's window glass. Hence, here what it was. The fillings has a similarity to pizza. Thus, I call this Xinjiang pizza.
But you know, I'm very hungry. Besides, for many years since I was still in junior high school, I've trained myself to have a full meal for breakfast, because I read, that's one of the healthy ways. Nah. This Xinjiang pizza cannot be considered a full meal.
Ting! Suddenly I heard another guest asking for beef noodle. Haiyaaa! That's the word! Niúròu miàn!! I walked to the cashier table and placed my order confidently. One small beef noodle, please.
Slurp! This had been my best Chinese noodle all along the Silk Road. I say "Chinese noodle", because later there would be Xinjiang's style of noodle which is to me way different from the Chinese noodle.
Let me give you a close up ya. Slurp!
The noodle and "pizza" cost 11 yuan only.
At the hotel next to my hotel, was a wedding ceremony. It seemed to be kind of the wedding month, because later on I found scenes like this again and again. The first time I saw such thing was in Korla. It was fascinating, because it was my first time. The Chinese I know don't conduct such a wedding ceremony. This kind of ceremony actually looks more Westernized than the Chinese wedding ceremonies in my home country. Westernized, and yet still Chinese. Such as the one I saw in Korla, burning firecrackers is undoubtedly a Chinese thing. But, burning firecrackers of a huge heart-shape, is something Western, I would have to say. Where in Chinese tradition can you find that heart-shapes which depicts love?
Also like the cars in Korla, the cars here were also decorated with pink balloons. This, too, suggests something Western. Isn't Chinese traditional color red? It's to me just like the automobile market this morning that seemed so un-Silk-Road. So are the heart-shape and the color pink to me. It looks so un-Chinese to me. Anyway, as a matter of fact, Xinjiang is geographically way closer to the West country than my home country is. So... be it.
Obviously, I'm standing on an industrial ground. This is the view from my room's window.
After the Break
This easychair by the window was such a temptation. Nothing could be more pleasant than stretching my legs on it with Colin Thubron's "Shadow of the Silk Road" and a cup of coffee while the day goes by. Nevertheless, after taking a nap on the bouncy-bounce-bed, I decided not to betray myself. Tomorrow morning I will already be rolling on to Kashgar. Get up! Jiāyóu!!
Stepping out from the hotel's lobby was like stepping into a giant oven. First task to do was to top up my Chinese SIM Card. I tried to memorize the sentence from my Berlitz Mandarin pocket book. Then confidently I went into a shop with the sign China Mobile. The owner couldn't understand me. So I showed him the phrase from my pocket book. And, he got it. But when I showed him my SIM Card, he only serves China Mobile whereas mine was China Unicom. He told me to go next door.
The lady next door shook her head hard right after I finished my sentence. I thought she must have misunderstand my intonation. So I thrust my pocket book under her face while pointing on the phrase. She took a look and shook her head harder. She pointed to the direction behind me, but I couldn't understand her talking at all. Whatsoever, I cannot top up my SIM Card here.
To the direction she had pointed to there seemed no shop selling SIM Cards. I tried one, just to make sure. The shopkeeper told me exactly, they don't sell SIM Cards.
I continued walking just following my happy feet. Since the beginning Aksu had been my no-plan-destination anyway. My thermometer declared 380 C. Ughhh, Turpan has been blown by the desert wind over here.
At a market place I found a shop that sold cellphones and the accessories. I repeated the phrase from Berlitz. The shopkeeper understood. I gave him my number. He looked at it and then said something I didn't really understand. I thought he was commenting on the code number that isn't a local (Aksu) number.
"Yes, I bought it Xi'An," I answered to whatever he said.
And then another bla, bla, bla.
"So I cannot top it up? Bù kěyǐ ma?"
Bla, bla, bla. But I understood the last question. "How much do you want to top up?"
"Then it's 53 kuai."
I gave him the money, he sat down at his computer and typed something with one hand while the other hand held a cellphone which looked like mine. Now, I become absent minded again. I thought that cellphone he was holding was mine. So when he said "Done." I stayed there. My cellphone is still in his hand, you know.
"So I'll wait here?" I asked.
"No, it's done.... bla, bla, bla."
Meanwhile I heard a ringtone exactly like mine. Wow, I thought to myself, so far on the other part of the world here, someone has the exactly ringtone as mine. FYI, my ringtone I recorded from "Atonement"s soundtrack.
I stood here watching him and the shopkeeper sat there watching me. Silence.
"How long would it take?"
"It's done already... bla, bla, bla."
Then why don't you return my cellphone? I said to myself, but not to him.
At last he said, "Come here. Look!" He pointed on his screen.
So I stepped inside and took a look at his screen.
"See? This is your number. It's done already. See?" I didn't understand every character, but there was the character 了 which usually suggests a past tense.
When I rolled my eyes to the left, my view bumped into his cellphone laid on the table. Ooops! This is not my cellphone! Errr... wasn't that just now really my own ringtone??
I opened my bag. Of course my cellphone was there. I checked, and aye! There had been a message informing that my balance is now 55 yuan something.
"Is it this?" I asked the shopkeeper while showing him my cellphone's screen.
"Duì, duì! See! It's done." Instead of looking impatient, he looked very relieved.
I thanked him and walked out of his shop feeling so stupid. How on earth could I think his cellphone was my cellphone?
But on the other hand, I felt proud of myself. Yay, I've successfully topped up my SIM Card without even a word of English and without nobody being my interpreter. Yay! Congratulations!
I continued exploring the vicinity, crossing cross roads when my feet felt so. I only relied on my compass to remember the direction back to my hotel. I am now already several blocks away from the market place. This area looks like a shopping center. There were modern shops along the street. But... except some restaurants, they were all closed. Uggghhh, that's sad. Oh yeah, today is Sunday. Plus, it's exactly on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr Festival.
I found a mini-market that was on business. I bought one bottle of ice mineral water, green tea, and instant noodle. The whole mineral water bottle I drank at one sitting. The heat of Aksu seemed to have dried up all the liquid in my body. Huahhh.
The sky began to turned dark when I realized that I had been walking pretty far and if I walk back, it would really be dark. I decided to take a taxi. However, everyone seemed to be looking for a taxi and there was no particular queue. I merely had compete on strategy and luck.
Finally I got a taxi. As usual, I showed the driver a piece of paper with my hotel's address written both in Mandarin characters and in Latin alphabet. He looked at it and then bla, bla, bla.
"You don't know this place?"
Bla, bla, bla.
I thought, how come he doesn't know this place? However far I've been walking, it mustn't be that far to be unrecognized.
"Let me call the hotel, okay?" I dialed and then handed my cellphone to him.
It was just a short conversation and then he returned my cellphone while nodding many times.
"You know it now?"
"Yes, I do. I do. Hahaha... I just couldn't read... hahaha... "