Walking through northern Xinjiang, China (part 2)


(continued from part 1) I arrived in Black Lake by horse, this was my home for the night, in a traditional yurt with a small group of Chinese tourists and some local Kazahks including a horseman called Hu-An, who sang and danced a little bit for us during dinner (I had prepared my own food of plain dried fruits, nuts and cereal bar). After dinner we all started drinking Xinjiang alcohol which was made of corn, it was very tasty and I really enjoyed it.

surrounding around Black Lake
yurt and my home in Black Lake, Altay, Xinjiang (it was very cold inside at night)
Black Lake
surrounding of snow capped mountains around Black Lake
horses and camels of our horseman in Black Lake
the beautiful scenery of Black Lake
perfect shot, Black Lake
Hu-an, the Kazakh horseman drinking and singing for us during dinner

Xinjiang alcohol – the alcohol we had looked like this

inside the yurt with the Chinese tourists and Kazakhs
breakfast with traditional milk tea and baursak- a Kazakh fried puffy bread
next morning saying goodbye to the friendly Kazakh hosts
the scenery just after leaving Kanas Lake
field of horses on my way walking to my next destination- Kanas
now going downhill through a forest towards Kanas
finally arriving at Kanas Lake

After walking for 6 hours from Black Lake I arrived at Kanas village where I spent two full days getting to know the place all on foot. One of the benefit from trekking is that no guards were around for point checking and I didn’t have to pay the ticket (I can’t remember how much it was, around CNY 200) getting into Kanas Lake.

Here, I met some very friendly local Kazakhs,Tuvans and Miao Chinese. I noticed how most of the Han chinese who immigrated here (many from previous generations moved here by government incentives) were more focused on business prospects, even though everyone in this area depend their living on tourism as well.

A very small ethnic minority group I had no knowledge of were the Tuvan people– ancient hunters and nomads that could be traced back to the Tang Dynasty. They have gone through control by China (independence from China in 1912), and in 1944 Tuva was included into Soviet Russia. Today Tuvans live in Xinjiang (total population of around 2500 mainly in Kanas, Hemu and Baihaba villages), outer Mongolia and Republic of Tuva. They have their own unique language, history, and music. I met a young Tuvan boy in Kanas who showed me the fascinating Khoomei (Tuvan throat singing) and his hometown in Burqin in a small village called “snakes village” by the locals. There were many snakes in the grasslands when he was growing up, but they all disappeared after time from the housing development by the Chinese government to attract more tourists. He said his family’s home may also be moved away soon.

One of the most well known Tuvan songs that I fell in love with is Aa-shuu-dekei-oo (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QysxkYkRsYw) by the group Huun-huur-tu who gained worldwide popularity. “Aa-shuu-dekei-oo” actually doesn’t mean anything, it’s just scat singing. The song is about fast horses, a pretty girl, and the free people of Tuva.

Sadly the ancient Tuvan skills are in danger of extinction as modernity approaches and the government imposing rules failing to integrate the mixed cultures of ethnic minorities with the Chinese. Like various social medias, WordPress is also blocked in China.

Along the walks in empty grasslands I noticed some construction sites in process, sponsored by the government of course, of fake touristic attractions that resemble the ancient buildings and mongolian yurts, all to develop further tourism and profit.

Finally, it’s the combination of beautiful landscape, mountains, diversity of warm people and constant pursuit for freedom that made this trip very special to me. The Uyghur, Kazakh, and Tuvan people are definitely the most open-minded and tolerant people I have met in my life, despite little knowledge and exposure they have to the outside world.

continued walking inside Kanas town
somewhere inside Kanas village
sunset in Kanas
a local Tuvan in Kanas village showed me inside the guest house they use for tourists. Decorated with traditional handmade textile, foods, and a portrait of the great Genghis Khan.
inside the Tuvan guest house, Kanas
the local tuvan man showing me the traditional skis made with horse-hair skin
playing traditional tuvan instrument
back in Burqin town where a stand is selling yogurt drink, one of my favourites

One day, I would love to go back and visit the southern area of Xinjiang.

Thank you for the special locals who made this experience so memorable for me: Gai-la, Nandeng, 加那尓, Melikizat.

Interesting insights into the old traditions of Kazakh and Tuva people of China:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2582812/This-REAL-way-ski-Amazing-pictures-original-skiiers-using-one-pole-horse-hide-skis-career-Chinese-mountain.html (contains beautiful photos by Norwegian photojournalist Jonas Bendiksen)

Analysis of current situation of Tuva people in China:  https://www.tuva.asia/journal/issue_21/6984-hou.html

Xinjiang food:


 A paper on Kazahks in China about immigration and their strong cultural identity:


Human rights watch:




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