We decided since we got sidetracked in Dunhuang that we had to at least travel to Turpan during our extended layover in Urumqi. It is unfortunate that it’s the worst time to visit the “Death Valley” of China but we’re here and not sure if we will be in this part of the world anytime soon.
Bus to China’s Death Valley
The bus from the long distance bus terminal in Nianzigou easiest and cheapest way to get to Turpan. Public bus No. 51 drops off passengers in front of the station and across the street from the Urumqi Water Park. The public bus costs 1 RMB and you pay when you get off. A one way ticket to Turpan is currently 20 RMB per person. The VIP is in name only. The buses have some miles on them, the seats are a little rickedy and there’s a bucket sitting in the middle of the aisle which I gathered was for trash? At least the ticket is cheap and the ride isn’t really that long. Travelers should get an early start to secure a front seat on a direct bus that takes about 2 1/2 – 3 hours. Tickets are assigned to a seat number, and if someone is sitting in yours don’t hesitate to politely give them the boot.
Desert Transition from China to Central Asia
Turpan is officially in China but has more of a Central Asian feel to it. The landscape, the street food, and the diversity of the local people are just a few of the first things that can be seen just a few steps from the bus terminal. The haggling for everything from hotel room price to the cost of a car for the day begins here. Bargain hard.
Turpan is second lowest depression in the world and holds the title of being China’s furthest point away from any ocean. During the end of July, standing outside in the middle of the day in Turpan pretty much feels as if I am standing in front of an open convection oven. So yes, it’s HOT and probably the most uncomfortable time to be here. The one advantage we have is lesser amounts of package tour hordes to deal with at the sites themselves. The sites are slowly being reconstructed by the Chinese Government making less authentic and turning into more like theme park attractions. There is still much to see, but they work fast here. So, there is no doubt that what remains somewhat authentic today could be literally gone tomorrow.
To Book a Room Ahead or not?
Turpan is a sort of town where getting a room on arrival is doable. The town can easily be visited in a couple of days depending on the person. The rates are negotiable upon arrival. Booking on the spot will lower the higher rack rate and it’s always good to see the room before making a commitment.
We had a hit list of options and started with the best option location wise. Our first choice was the Transportation Hotel located in the bus station. It gets good reviews on Trip Advisor and is new. The hotel is nice, but I would probably try out the Turpan Hotel. John’s Cafe on the property serves great food under a grapevine terrace, cold beer, wi-fi is available and the staff are very friendly. The hotel is a bit dated, but other travelers we met said they were happy with the hotel. Despite what the LP Guide says, John’s Cafe does provide travelers with travel information and can arrange car services to the area sites.