If you’re thinking about going to Xinjiang, Josh Summers’ new book Xinjiang: A Traveler’s Guide to Far West China is your must-have travel companion.
With almost 500 pages of exquisite detail, this book is the most authoritative and comprehensive guide available on China’s north-western region – home to the Silk Road and a mix of Muslim and Chinese ethnicities and beliefs.
The book starts with 10 fascinating things you probably wouldn’t know about Xinjiang. It’s a nice opener to pique the reader’s interest.
While we won’t ruin the surprise, let’s just say American billionaire Bill Gates has an interesting connection to the area!
What makes this book so impressive is the extensive travel guide provided for each city and area within Xinjiang. Most guides on the region just cover a select few cities.
Whether you’re staying for a few nights or for a number of years (like Summers has), there is an excellent and in-depth look at what to do, where to stay and where to eat in each place. There’s also the obligatory getting around section so you don’t get too far off the beaten track.
When it comes to the region’s biggest city and capital, Urumqi, Summers’ honesty is refreshing. He concedes that there are only two things worth doing there – shopping at the International Grand Bazaar and visiting the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum.
Turpan is highlighted as one of the best places to tour in Xinjiang. Not only does it offer an immersion into the region’s unique Uyghur culture, it’s only one hour from Urumqi on the high-speed train.
Uyghur man in Xinjiang, western China.
Handy tips are plentiful throughout the book, including a great one on train travel.
Readers are advised to download the China Train Booking mobile app, which allows you to find up-to-the minute information on train schedules and available tickets.
You can even purchase tickets through the app and have them delivered right to your door. This is particularly helpful if the thought of going to a booking office sends chills down your spine!
Another tip is to be wary of ‘black taxis’ – private cars that act like taxis but without the meter. They’re prevalent in Xinjiang and China in general.
Black taxis are technically an illegal form of transportation, but if you’re desperate for a ride and can’t find a registered taxi you might need to call on one. Just make sure you’ve agreed on the price before you jump in!
There are numerous references throughout the book to staying in a ‘yurt’, though an explanation is not provided.
In case you’re wondering, a yurt is a tent-like dwelling covered with skins or felt and traditionally used by nomads in central Asia. Summers recommends staying a night in one.
Xinjiang’s isolation and untamed natural beauty is one of the things that make it so special. Although there are no dedicated campgrounds or trail guides to take in this beauty, there are still camping and hiking opportunities available.
Summers points out that some parts of Xinjiang are so isolated that you may hike for days without seeing another human being.
Xinjiang’s untamed natural beauty.
Cycling and snow skiing are some of the other activities you can do while in Xinjiang, and Summers brings in two expert contributors to provide insight on this. This gives the book even more authority.
Fancy buying some souvenirs? You can pick up a Yengisar knife for less than 100 renminbi.
Originally handcrafted by the Uyghur people near the town of Yengisar in western Xinjiang, these knifes are now mass-produced in factories. A vendor will typically carry between 100 and 500 different versions of these knifes, so there are plenty of options.
If you’re keen on taking one back to your home country, make sure you get it shipped by the vendor to avoid any hassles at the airport.
If you’re not already convinced that this book is a winner, then consider some of the extra bonuses like the full-resolution maps and discounts with local travel companies (if you do decide to make the trek over). All you need to do is register your details online.
This book truly is the traveler’s bible for Xinjiang.