I’ve been in Urumuqi (capitol of Xinjiang province) since Friday afternoon, and it’s turned out to be a much more exotic place than I had expected. I’ve traveled all over China to dozens of cities, but I haven’t been to many that have set themselves apart from the others as much as Urumuqi. Nested in NW China, it’s a space shared by dozens of minorities – Kazaks, Uzbeks, Uigers, Russians, and even a few Han Chinese. People here are much bigger than in the rest of China. I’m not really unusually large anymore, because I’m constantly face to face with guys that have linebacker physiques. Anyone who’s been to China can tell you that there are very few people in mainland China that meet that meet that physical criteria. And it makes sense, because none of the big people up here are really full-blooded Chinese. Everyone is muslim and the women look Iranian and Russian more than Chinese.
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten this much meat, either. Maybe the drastically different diet (spicy in the west, sweet in the east, ungodly portions of meat in the NW) explain the obvious differences in body types. On Friday I met a local girl (named Candy – I swear, not a prostitute) who took me around and showed me some places in town yesterday. We went to a Uiger (pronounced ‘wee-gur’) market which seemed to specialize in rugs, traditional Russian-looking fur hats, and decorative (but probably still fully functional) daggers, knives,¬†and swords. I bought the smallest knife I’ve ever seen. It’s a retractable switchblade-type knife with a 2″ blade that comes out of the handle. We went with Tangzon (the Carlsberg promoter in Chengdu who booked me) to a traditional Xinjiang restaurant where I hung out outside in the cold with the cooks for a few minutes and took some photos. The food (meat) is prepared outside in¬†a giant barbeque pit and brought inside to the restaurant where we were served by a young muslim boy who didn’t speak any Chinese. Some kind of Uiger text is all over the place as well; menus, taxis, buses, street signs. It looks just like Arabic. I was also taken to the local foreigner bar, a place called Fubar. It actually means Buddah Bar (Tangzon owns and manages a bar in Chengdu called Buddah Bar); fu meaning Buddah in Chinese. But to me it just means fucked up beyond recognition. It was like a western sports bar with projection tv’s playing soccer. I played pool with a Scottish guy who was a competitive pool player. It went pretty well, I think I sank four balls before he finished the game in three turns. I didn’t want to play him, but everyone insisted that we stage a caucasian billiards showdown.
I leave tonight at 9pm.