Uighur Culture and Lakeside Charm
If experiencing China’s natural beauty is your priority, then Heavenly Lake (Tianchi) is a must. Heavenly Lake – located within close proximity to Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital city – is surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Heavenly Mountain. Xinjiang is a remote province rich in Silk Road history. The customs and language (Uighur) of Xinjiang’s people are far removed from anything one sees or hears in Beijing, so this destination is ideal for exploring a different aspect of China’s many cultural traditions. Beautiful Buddhist temples and pagodas are scattered across the mountain so that both children and parents can relish fresh air (and delicious Uighur kebabs!) while trekking from one historical gem to another.
The Travelers: American Anne Wilbur and her daughters, Zoe and Lucy Morrison, traveled to Heavenly Lake in 2005 with Ian and Fiona Key and their kids, Jake and Tallulah. At the time, the children ranged in age from 6-12 years old.
Horsing Around: The families rode horses through the woodlands to the south side of the lake – an area with yurts set up by the semi-nomadic Kazak people. In this remote and beautiful area, the families enjoyed walking around the lake’s paths and even went swimming. The horses returned the next day to take them back for the return trip.
The Lake: Heavenly Lake’s crystal clear, glacier-fed waters lie 1,910 meters above sea level and are surrounded by mountains and glacial forests. In summer, the lake turns into an alpine wonderland with fishing and boating on the water against the backdrop of lush spruce woodlands, abundant wildflowers and blue skies.
Yurt Life: Anne and her fellow travelers stayed in yurts, which were cheap and basic, much like camping except you snuggle indoors under warm quilts. Local breakfast was an interesting experience of garlicky noodle soup, so bringing your own cornflakes is suggested to accommodate pickier eaters. Some Mandarin is needed to communicate. Anne recommends avoiding the cement yurts set up for tourists when you first arrive – they are not nearly as charming.
Tips: Take warm clothing, even in summer. Anne suggests making sure you have everything you need in regards to food and medicine, as local supplies are few and far between. Reservations aren’t necessary, says Anne – just go! People are very friendly and used to dealing with foreigners, so organizing something when you arrive should be easy.