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November 2012

Savoring Hetian

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Hetian, August 24th 2012

Due to Ramadhan vacation, many big restaurants are still closed, said Abdul the Tour Guide. That made me rather worried. So am I not going to have lunch?

Yummy! I enjoyed every bite of this menu Abdul the Tour Guide had chosen for me. We had lunch together with our driver. The restaurant wasn't small anyway. It was crowded, but not too crowded.

It was a Friday. Abdul the Tour Guide said that he would have to go to the mosque to pray. Okay... I'm kind of used to this custom anyway.

This is the mosque.

The road in front of the mosque was closed. After the Friday prayer time was over, this road became crowded with cars and motorbikes.

The end of the road was filled with motorbikes. Reminding myself of work, huh?

Near the crossroad of the main street I had seen something like a department store. I thought I would find a cafe there, sit down with a cup of hopefully, coffee, or tea, and my book, while waiting for Abdul the Tour Guide finish his Friday prayer. However, I ended up never touching my book, because various vendors lined up along the road. It was interesting.

One big surprise for me was among all. Yup! You are right! That Vietnamese coffee! I couldn't believe that Vietnamese coffee existed until this part of the world. "There's Vietnamese coffee here!" I told Abdul the Tour Guide later. Like when I was excited about the word 'rahmat', this time also, Abdul the Tour Guide just looked at me and said nothing. "This is Vietnamese coffee!" I tried harder while pointing on the sachet. Still, Abdul the Tour Guide appeared emotionless.

These squash figures are actually kind of Hetian's icon. But I didn't know until the next day. And that, would be another thing I would have to thank Cory, from China Expedition Tours, for. That's another story.

I could here the excitement from meters away. What's going on? So many people gathering around...?
Only ice cream? What kind of ice cream? That white stuff like in Turpan and Kashgar? I bought one cup.

Just like the one in Kashgar was different than the one in Turpan, this one was another different thing. To me, the one in Turpan is still number one. No wonder that article I read said 'when in Turpan' don't forget to try Uyghur ice cream. The author didn't say 'when in Xinjiang'. Probably because Turpan's is the best.

Nevertheless, none of the ice cream vendor in Turpan nor Kashgar was as impassioned as this ice cream vendor in Hetian. Look, he has a microphone attached to his mouth! Too bad, I couldn't understand what he was saying. It was interesting how people gathered around him listening to his speech while enjoying their ice cream. In my hometown, it's the traditional street pharmacist who use to do this kind of thing and then people will gather around him. Although my hometown is also hot, no one would pay this much attention to 'just ice cream'. Hmmm...

Another thing too bad was that despite my petite figure, this ice cream vendor seemed to be well aware every time I tried to film him. He would slow his voice down and even stop talking. I tried several times. Walked away, he began shouting again. I came back, tried again, bought an ice cream, tried again... all in vain. Hmmm... By the way, isn't this prayer time already? Why are these men still outside? Hmmm...

I continued venturing the other sides of the road. For an Indonesian who understands Japanese, 'Jama Lu' might sound funny.

Some teenage girls were having fun on the swing. I could feel their excitement. Are that blue jeans dresses uniforms? I like it. And then that sneakers with yellow lace, that's cool!

In spite of being a prayer time, the main street was filled with hustle and bustle. While in Hetian I had no courage to get on and off city buses as I used to do, because I didn't see fixed bus stops with clear bus routes attached on. Apparently passengers can get on and off anywhere, just like in my hometown. That's difficult. I wouldn't be able to trace my way back by counting the number of bus stops I had passed. If there's a bus stop, at least I can copy or take a picture of the name of the bus stop. And then I can show that to the driver, so he would know where I want to get off, like I had done in Jiayuguan and Chengdu. So... by, bye, bus...

Nevertheless, motor-carts like these seemed to be the most common public transportation still. The motor-cart on the left seemed to be waiting for passengers and not leaving until it's fully occupied -- just like in my hometown. Ngetem, we would say.

Motor-carts are in many other cities in Xinjiang. Do you remember the donkey cart in Gaochang Ancient City? It impresses me how this mode of transportation revolves. From donkey to motor, and yet in nearly the same way.

At the other side of the road was another mosque. It was a surprise for me, because it was my only time in Xinjiang that I saw two mosques so close together. Even this one seemed closed. According to Abdul the Tour Guide, everyone goes to the Grand Mosque (the one shown above) for Friday prayer. But for daily prayer, some go to this mosque also.

This is the entrance to the Hetian's Grand Bazaar. After the prayer time, Abdul the Tour Guide brought me here again. It was more crowded at that time. There were many costume vendors. I didn't mind to go in for the second time, because I thought Abdul the Tour Guide would have something to tell me. He said nothing.

Come, let me show you some more about fooooooddd.
I was too shy to have a try of that pyramid dumpling wrapped with bamboo leaf, which in my home country is called 'bacang'. I was curious, because it was served in a way I had never seen. The vendor would unwrap the dumpling -- which was smaller than the regular size of 'bacang', place it on a saucer, and pour (seemed like) coconut milk over it.

I tell you, Hetian is a kingdom of street food. Aha, and that toilet paper! It's funny that there's toilet paper here, but never in the toilet. Oh yeah, where was it that I read or heard, it was China who invented toilet paper? Well, maybe that (Chinese) inventor had no intention to put his invention in the toilet. He had meant it for wiping hands after (or before?) eating street food. But the Westerners had placed his wonderful invention in the toilet and called it 'toilet paper' ever since. What a disgrace. Aha.

This one is kind of a communal meal. The rice and side dishes are put altogether in one big pan.

To convince you that you are entering Central Asia World, communal meal is one thing. But camel meat is another. I'm wondering, was there camel meat on my lunch just now? If so, it must be good.

Livestock business is just one more thing to give an emphasis on the Central Asian world.
In a summer like this, Hetian feels as hot and as dusty as my hometown. But I'm impressed on how the livestock's fur. They look clean and shining. Such a different thing compared to the goats on sale during Idul Adha in my hometown.

Speaking of dust, it actually differs from the kind of dust in my hometown. The dust here is of sand. Taklamakan Desert is only several kilometers away. Everywhere you walk, you can see a thin light brownish layer on the ground. Just a gentle wind can be bothersome to the eyes and nose.

The Friday service is over.

Posted by automidori 02:45 Archived in China Tagged market china xinjiang hetian old_road_tours abdul_wahab_tours Comments (0)

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