Urumqi, China | 31 July, 2006 | $11.63 USD
When I first arrived in Urumqi I was traveling with the Taiwanese woman I met in Jiayuguan. The first hotel that we tried was full and calling around it seemed that most of the tourist-grade hotels were booked. We took suggestions from a few European travelers we met in the lobby who knew of a cheap hotel. Since my friend spoke fluent Mandarin I let her lead the way across the city. It was nice to finally let my guard down and follow someone else’s lead which allowed me to stand back and watch the way locals reacted to her. Everyone we passed on the street or on the bus couldn’t stop staring at her. For the first time in China I felt ignored.
We ended up near the train station but got lost. When she called the hotel for directions we were directed right into the path of a man in military uniform who questioned my friend’s intentions. He decided that she was a foreigner and would not be allowed to stay in the hotel we were looking for. The Chinese government has loosened most of its restrictions for foreigners except in Tibet and Xinjiang Province. It is still impossible to stay at a hotel that hasn’t been cleared for foreigners and I was often asked to show a passport before using the internet .
We ended up at a high rise hotel next to the train station which was much more expensive than we were used to but, quite frankly, I was in need of a rest. After 104° heat in Turpan and a stomach bug that left me incapacitated for a day I was ready to stay somewhere with a shower and TV while I applied for my Kyrgyz visa.