Our first stop in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is Turpan. There are in total 5 autonomous regions in China (Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Ningxia, Xinjiang). The other rest are called provinces, such as Gansu province which we traveled for the past few days. An autonomous region has its own local government, but has more legislative rights. Autonomous Region is a minority entity which has higher population of a particular minority ethnic group.
Maxirap le Grand Large Hotel at Turpan
As mentioned from my earlier post that, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has very tight security. Before we enter the hotel, there is a security scan which you need to go through. Before we check in, the counter staff took photos of our passport documents and photos of us. It is a tedious process.
Central Asia & Chinese Fusion Deco
The lobby is decorated with mixture of Central Asia and Chinese style. The architecture here is deeply influenced by Islamic culture and has its unique regional and ethnic characteristics.
Smoking Ban is not working in China rural area!
I was quite surprised to find people smoking freely at the lobby inside the hotel in Turpan. It is quite common to see people smoking in indoor public spaces, especially in rural areas. China has introduce smoking ban but there is no penalties for those who don’t follow the rules. However the hotel in big cities such as Shanghai, the ‘smoking freely’ situation is better. People are more educated and cultured and they do follow the non smoking rules in the hotel lobby.
Hotel Room Review
Expect very simple facilities in Maxirap le Grand Large Hotel. The air-conditioned is working in my room.
The basic thing such as TV, kettle, dryer are provided in each room.
The tableware in the hotel room look different from the Chinese tableware, it is more towards Turkish style I find
Bathroom Toilet Review
You have all the basic thing but the shower water does not run smoothly.
Decoration in the room
View from the window
The whole hotel is surrounded by vineyard.
Shopping Stores in the Hotel
There are few stores inside the hotel that are selling local Uyghur products.
Hotel Dinner – Uyghur Style
Our dinner was served at Maxirap le Grand Large Hotel and we have a big feast of Xinjiang including one of the iconic dish in Xinjiang.
Roasted Whole Lamb /烤全羊
The key word here is “whole”. This is one of the most famous dishes in Xinjiang. Just like in Beijing, you eat Beijing duck but in Xinjiang, you cannot miss “Roasted Whole Lamb”.
Oldest Guy Get to Taste the First Bite
Two Uyghur ladies pushed in the whole roasted lamb into our room and asked who is the oldest guy as he get to come up to taste the first bite of the roasted lamb.
One of the eldest guy get invited to go out by two Uyghur ladies who then feed him and dance with him. Obviously you can see he was very happy being feed 🙂 The Uyghur ladies also later invited more men out to dance with them but all the men from our group were very shy and not willing to dance with them. Don’t be surprised the Uyghur ladies asked for tipping when the dance ended. Tipping is not compulsory and really up to you. I tipped them RMB 10.00 (SGD2.00 / USD 1.5) for their good effort making our crowd happy.
Roasted Lamb served on table.
Uyghur Polo – Pilaf – 抓饭 (zhua fan)
This is a common dish in Xinjiang, similar to fried rice but raisin, carrots & apricot is added in the rice plus some meat. You can never find “pork” in this dish. In Chinese it is named as zhua fan/抓饭 because people eat this dish with hands formerly.
Fried Naan with Onion
One of my favorite dish is the fried naan with onion.
Naan or flatbread is a staple for many ethnic groups in Xinjiang. You see naan sold everywhere in this region. A big naan cost about RMB 10.00 (USD 1.5) each. There are the many type of naan with different type of topping, sesame seed ( my favorite ), onions, eggs or butter. Naan is good to bring along for a long journey due to its dryness and it doesn’t turn bad fast.
Travel tip in Xinjiang : If you are doing a road trip in Xinjiang, it is wise to buy some naan to standby in case you get lost in the desert and can’t anything to eat. You still have naan!
Big Plate Chicken (Chinese Da Pan Ji) /大盘鸡
Da Pan Ji or Big Plate Chicken is another Xinjiang’s famous dishes. The chicken usually served in a very HUGE plate ( The size of the plate is a lot bigger than the usual plates used for other dishes) . The whole chicken including head and feet is cooked with potatoes, green onion, pepper and some spice. The taste is spicy and sometimes the dish is serve with noodles and some without. I prefer the Da Pan Ji that is served with fat hand pulled noodles. The noodles get really tasty after being soaked and cooked with the sauces from Da Pan Ji. Alternatively, you can also dip the Uyghur bread/naan into the red sauce of Dan Pan Ji.
Chinese Yam 山药 & Black Fungus
This is not a Uyghur dish but more of a Chinese dish. Chinese Yam has few names, such as Shan Yao/山药 or Huai shan /淮山. Chinese Yam usually served in herbal soup and believed to have plenty of benefits. You can see the Chinese Yam appeared in every meal too, just like the black fungus.
Tomatoes Egg /西红柿炒鸡蛋
This is a classic Chinese well-loved dish for every Chinese, especially kids.
Round Table Settings
Chinese usually dine on a big round table if you have large group. One feature you will see on the round table is “Lazy Susan” turntable at the center of the big table. “Lazy Susan” is circular rotating tray which facilitate passing of serving dishes. Sharing the food on the table and chatting over the meals has always been cultural tradition in China!
Xinjiang Beer – Wusu
Wusu is a local Xinjiang beer, our table was served with 2 bottles. The beer named after a small town called ‘Wusu’ located in Northern Xinjiang and west of Urumqi.
Our breakfast was served in a private room in the morning. It was a very simple breakfast served in round tables.
I find that Black Fungus is used in every meal during my Silk Road tour, even in the morning breakfast! Chinese believe that black fungus has a chemical that inhibits blood clotting, and because heart attacks, strokes and blood vessel diseases are linked to clotting, this fungus may improve circulation.
Uyghur Tea Setting
Vineyard Outside the hotel.
Final thoughts :
Maxirap le Grand Large Hotel is located outskirt of Turpan City. There is no interesting shops to visit if you want to walk around at night as the hotel is only surrounded by big vineyards. The facilities of the hotel is moderate and not luxury, be mentally prepared. The Uyghur dinner at the hotel was delicious and interesting especially the moment the whole roasted lamb was pushed into our room by the Uyghur ladies. But many kids from our group did not dare to eat after seeing the whole lamb.
The one thing I find very disturbing is smokers are free to smoke in the hotel, including lobby. I hope more education and rules to implement and ban smokers from smoking indoor in China rural areas.