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Published: March 10th 2018
A good breakfast in the very stylish dining room of the Youlan Hotel; everything in the hotel seems top-hole with the possible exception of our bedroom corridor rooms, which seem a bit faded. Perhaps our section is simply the most popular one? At 10.00 an official arrived and met Maghnus; thankfully our onward travel plan to Dunhuang is now approved (saving us a detour of over 1000 km!). This means that we can stick to the itinerary that was agreed with the Chinese embassy in London; we plan an early start, 6am, having had dire warnings of the length and hazards of the journey, including travel at high altitude. It seems that we will be met at the most testing part by a 4WD vehicle from Dunhuang, whose driver will be familiar with the terrain. We have been given a telephone number of the Ruoqiang police to contact if in any difficulty; it is only fair to stress that all officials have been very correct and courteous, although the system does not work well with independent travellers. This is a pity, since this is a truly fascinating area which has to be seen to be believed; the government has devoted enormous
Breakfast Room, Youlan Hotel
All of those chafing dishes contain different tempting items, nan bread, noodles, dumplings, cauliflower, boiled eggs etc. etc.
resources to development – this rather small city has magnificent boulevards, wonderful architecture, more amenity ground than one can imagine in terms of parks and play areas, and (the highlight of our day) a splendid modern museum of epic proportion. Yet, as recently as the millennium, it was impossible to reach Ruoqiang except across very rugged terrain by four-wheel drive; a complete backwater which is now lively and rich in amenity.
Entry to the museum was a little delayed as the gate-attendant had to get two officers from the nearest police station to give approval, but it was well worth it. In the basement area there are various human remains recovered from communities long-since abandoned to the encroaching desert. These have been mummified by the dessicating conditions, and many gravegoods and other artifacts have survived in almost perfect condition. Timber parts of houses (often beautifully carved), furniture, spinning and weaving equipment and, almost incredibly, textiles including a type of linen, hessian, woollen garments and silk; patterns of which were reminiscent of Paisley design. The ground floor and first floor covered the periods from the Neolithic to the Iron Age and included special displays on silk production and
(I think) paper. The museum is aimed at all ages and all levels of interest, including audio-visual displays, 3D models, simulated domestic scenes and a fascinating display of contemporary photographs to cover the controversial archaeological plundering at the turn of the 19th
centuries. The labels tended to be very brief, in rather small font, and written only in Uighir and Chinese; it would be nice if a simple guide could be purchased in a range of foreign languages since this museum is so very good and quite rightly a matter of local pride.
It is now almost 7.30pm, we hope to have dinner shortly and an early night, to be up at 5am, so am posting this before the day is quite done! If anything extraordinary happens I can add it tomorrow.
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