In the Ili Valley, the best boardwalk around for 1,550 miles

As far from any ocean as you can possibly get (really), a pretty decent beach.Coming down from the Tian Shan range to this little riverside town near the Kazakh border, we expected the ethnic mix of Kazakhs, Uighers, Chinese, and some Russians. We were aware that this area had historically been traded between the Chinese and Russian empires, and we actually weren’t surprised (although we were in awe) to find ourselves talking to a young blonde lady, a full-blooded Slav, who looked as if she’d just parachuted out of a passing Tupolev–and hearing the first words out of her mouth confirm that she was definitely a native speaker of Chinese (both sets of her grandparents had moved here after 1917 to escape the Bolsheviks, and she was, indeed, a Chinese citizen). What we didn’t expect to find–and how could we, out here in this corner of Central Asia–was provably the best beach/boardwalk scene in all of China. We shouldn’t have been that surprised–what minority ethnic group wouldn’t enjoy some summer barbeque, midway games and rides after a cool dip in the Ili River? These 美族 sure did.

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2 Comments

Filed under Foreign-er Travel, Journey to the West

2 responses to “In the Ili Valley, the best boardwalk around for 1,550 miles

  1. Wow! That sounded like quite an amazing experience to meet that person. I would love to travel to that area of China someday. I have traveled around eastern and southern China in the past, not in the west/northwest. Reading posts like yours makes me glad to live abroad and be able to travel a little bit. You can meet people from all over and gain a better understanding of the world in which we live.

    • Yeah, the far west of China is a pretty interesting area to explore. And with new rail lines and highways going up everywhere (and still mostly empty), it’s now very convenient to get around. A few areas are still off-limits to foreigners, but unlike Tibet currently, most places can be reached without any special permits. Worth experiencing if you have the chance!

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