We woke up in Jiayuguan (嘉峪關) that day, had breakfast and made our way back to Hami, otherwise known as Kumul (哈密) in XinJiang province. Once again, we only stopped for meals and washroom breaks, travelling 611 kilometers over ten hours. Hami was a much bigger city than the others we've been to in our previous days. It actually had a modern four star hotel! Although it was more than double the price of the previous hotels we stayed in, Kel and I decided to stay a night and enjoy a long, hot shower. After all, it was still ridiculously cheap compared to North American standards. The only complaint we had was once again, because its a newer hotel, it was central air. This meant we didn't have absolute control over the temperature in the room and it was warmer than we'd prefer.
We spent the day in Hami. After breakfast, we headed out to the Devil City (哈密魔鬼城). There weren't actually any devils there, but more like rock formations in the Gobi desert. The reason it was dubbed as the Devil City was the howling sounds that can be heard in the dead of the night. The Devil City is about 5-10 kilometers in width and has a span of 400 kilometers from the Camel Peak to the Wubao Shaer Lake. Because it is so vast, we had to pay an entry fee and then drive in as opposed to walking. We found rock formations within that took the likings of a turtle, a chess piece, and the ruins of an ancient castle.
The giant sea turtle.
The knight chess piece.
Below: We hiked up the fortress ruins for more photo ops! The view at the top was stunning.
On the way back, we did a quick stop to take pictures at the Border Mound Beacon by Shibaohua (史保華). There really wasn't much there, but this beacon, so we quickly took some pictures and left.
Next, we headed up to Balikun (巴里坤) to see it's famous grasslands (巴里坤草原), the White Stone Scenic Spot (白石頭風景區) and the Balikun Lake. Siubo wasn't too enthusiastic about taking us up to Balikun because it was 142 kilometres north of Hami, which is a good three and a half hours to get there. We were staying the night in Hami, which meant it adds another seven hours of commute time! He assured us there wasn't anything worth seeing up there. However, Flora found a picture of the Balikun Lake in one of the travel brochures at the hotel the night before and we were convinced to find it. In the picture, there was the grasslands around the clear turquoise lake, and in the backdrop there were green trees and snow capped mountains peeking through.
On the way up we stopped at the side of the road for pictures, as we were approaching the mountains and there was a creek running alongside. It was all too beautiful!
And this is when we got up to the Balikun grasslands (巴里坤草原). Siubo said it was still too early in the season as it will get much greener in another month of so time. It was such a nice day and on the right there, you can see the little trees they've planted in the field.
We didn't end up taking any pictures, nor did we stop at the White Stone Scenic Spot (白石頭風景區) because it's become highly commercialized with resorts and such. Siubo agreed that the commercialization of the scenic spot has caused such an eyesore that it's no longer worth going. On passing by we could only agree, as once again, mankind has destroyed what was once so beautiful purely for the sake of trying to make a few bucks. Similarly, we never did find the Balikun Lake as framed in the picture. We saw the Balikun Lake, but it's backdrop was not what was in the brochure. It's neighbouring lake had that snow capped mountain backdrop, but lacked the grasslands. We, along with Siubo, was convinced that someone must have photoshopped the two into one picture to use for marketing purposes. Siubo goes up there many times a year, and says he has never seen all of those characteristics by one lake.
We went the rest of the way up to the Balikun town, but there wasn't much to see there. It was all very touristy, and not at all what we were looking for. There was an old wall at one end that was supposed to be a good picture spot. However, when we approached, a lady tried to sell us counterfeit entry tickets, which left a sour taste in our mouths. We talked her price down and sent Flora up the wall to see if it was even worth the time or the money for the rest of us to go up. She reported back saying the pictures seen in the marketing brochures must have been taken from the other side of the wall. There was no way down the other side unless you scaled it, and it was just barren desert land there. All in all, we admitted to Siubo, we felt pretty fooled and the few pictures we did take was definitely not worth the seven hour drive.