Things to do in Urumqi when you're dead
June 19, 2012 1:53 PM   Subscribe

What is there to do in Urumqi in the next few days on a restricted budget and with limited local language skills?

My son is in Urumqi for a few days between trains (he departs for Shanghai on Saturday I believe). This is his first experience of traveling alone and his first time in China; he just arrived from Kazakhstan yesterday. He has a hotel room and can speak a little Mandarin (he just finished his second semester), so he's safe and can communicate about the bare necessities of life. But he's alone and bored, and though he's friendly he's not very outgoing (he's definitely not one of those people who can just wander into a bar and come out a few hours later having made a bunch of new friends). I've tried looking online, but the place is somewhat off the beaten track and I'm not coming up with much for him (I found the 2nd Asia-Europe Auto Exhibition, but it's really not his sort of thing), so ideas from those familiar with the places would be much appreciated.

Any good places to go where he might find some English speakers? Things to do that would be fun by yourself? Places to go that don't require good language skills? A good place for Wifi (he has an iPod touch with him)? Any other relevant tips and tricks?

Difficulty factor: I can only text him unless and until he can get online somewhere, so ideally your suggestions should be easily expressible in 140 characters or less.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin to Travel & Transportation around Wulumuqi, China (4 answers total)
I dunno if your son is on Couchsurfing, but there are 114 people listed in Urumqi. CS folks tend to be awesome for get-togethers of a spontaneous and informal nature, although I would advise him to get busting on sending the e-mails, because people are not always quick to reply.
posted by mykescipark at 2:17 PM on June 19, 2012

Cool places to go:
1. The museum with the mummies. It's the Xinjiang Uyghur Regional Museum, I think.
2. Hongshan. It's the mountain in the middle of the city. He could wander around if he wanted to.
3. He could go to the big bazaar in town, if he's into slightly overwhelming cultural experiences. Most of the Uyghurs can speak some Chinese so he'd be ok.

There are a lot of foreigners in Urumqi by the way. In case he gets lost, there's a fair chance he could just walk up to a random foreigner and they could help him out.

Here are some links that I found digging around. I haven't been in a long time, so I can't vouch for the accuracy of the information: Cafes (the Tex-Mex place is probably your best bet to finding a crowd of foreigners, as far as I can remember), Parks, general overview. There are other websites that came up as well when I googled cafes in Urumqi.
posted by kingfishers catch fire at 2:59 PM on June 19, 2012

Xinjiang is awesome! I'm jealous. As mentioned definitely check out the museum with the Tarim mummies. He should also not miss out on the excellent Uyghur food to be had, both street food and at proper sit down restaurants. At the very least he should try lamb kebabs, laghman(Uyghur hand pulled noodles, served both whole and chopped up - both are delicious), pilaf (called "polo" in Uyghur), and of course naan ("nang") bread. Fresh watermelon and the local peaches (squashed and flat like saucers) are also delicious. And samsas(baked meat filled buns) and homemade yoghurt and the iced watery yoghurt ("doogh")...

If he has time it is also possible to make a day trip to "Tian Chi" a lake high up in the Tianshan mountains which is quite beautiful (although very heavily touristed).
posted by pravit at 3:47 PM on June 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas, I'll send them on.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:37 PM on June 19, 2012

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