A Travellerspoint blog

The slow life Urumqi style

"It is necessary to relax your muscles when you can. Relaxing your brain is fatal." Stirling Moss


It’s been 11 days since I arrived in Urumqi and it’s been 11 days of relaxing bliss. It’s been good for me I think. I’d been riding pretty hard for the last week ever since I got Urumqi in my sights.

The impressive state buildings near the hostel and park

It’s also been great to spend sometime in a hostel environment and meet lots of really interesting people all on their different paths. I do like riding my bike alone but at the same time your own company can become rather, how should I say…..boring? As is often the case you run into people following the same route as you and this was the case with the Swiss couple Simone and Andrew who I’d previously met on the street in Zhangye.


I’ve met many people from various corners of the world over the last few days and got to know them as well as anyone can in such a short period of time. It’s nice to be able to swap stories, visit some places together and most importantly not dine alone all the time.

Urumqi is the gateway for many people to begin their trips into central Asia in particular Kyrgyzstan and in my case Kazakhstan. Both countries have embassies located here and hence you find many people in the same situation as me, stranded in limbo in Urumqi waiting for their visas.


I say stranded but I could certainly think of worse places to be stranded. After riding for so long Urumqi has come as welcome relief to me. The weather is great, especially for someone coming from the UK; May seems to be a nice season where the weather has yet to reach the heights of summer.


The first couple of days here were spent literally doing nothing. Its funny how you become almost programmed riding the bike; up early, cook breakfast, ride, eat and finally sleep. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to simply do nothing.


The really fantastic news is that today is that I was issued with my 60 day double entry visa for Kazakhstan. It’s such a relief as it means it gives me the chance to cross the country. I will spend the first 30 days in and around the Almaty region sorting out my Russian visa. Then I will have to leave the country and probably head into either of the neighbouring countries Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan in order to re-enter Kazakhstan and the second 30 days of the visa.

The all important document which means the dream is still alive

It’s the first visa I’ve had to secure and I’m so happy to have gotten it. It’s now a question of applying for the Russian visa which requires a letter of invitation from the Russian government. Acquiring this letter takes around a week and then it can be anything up to 2 weeks for the visa itself. Like many people travelling in this part of the world it’s about playing the waiting game.


I’ve found out that Almaty is in the top 50 expensive cities in the world so not really the kind of place a bicycle tourist wants to be for 3 weeks. I’ve been doing my research and I’ve managed to locate some places of a ‘budget’ nature; perhaps I could spend my time writing a short book on how to stay in Almaty on a shoestring budget. We shall see.

In terms of things to see in Urumqi I’ve seen most of what it has to offer. The International Bazaar In the Muslim quarter is one of the highlights of being here and I also visited the Museum with its eerie display of mummies. In addition the city has plenty of parks which are nice to stroll around.

The two greatest things for me here though have been the weather which has been amazing since I arrived and the food; never before have I eaten so much lamb and Naan bread!

Just a couple of the really nice people I've met here; Einan from Israel and Malin from Sweden. Good luck on your bike heading East.

I’ll perhaps try and write something again before I leave. I’m now 645km away from the border so I’m either going to set off on Wednesday or Thursday to get there for the 22nd. Since getting my visa today my mind has switched from relaxed to switched on and thinking about the next stage; it’s very exciting.

It’s late so I’m off to bed……..until next time.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 17:39 Archived in China

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Hi Paul, it is so nice to see you again. My memory of White Birch Hostel in fall of 2008 wake up. Go ahead and good luck.

by Oliver Lee

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