2015年10月2日 星期五

Karamay or Kelamayi (卡拉瑪伊)

Some 60 years ago Karamay 卡拉瑪伊 didn’t exist. In 2012, it became the richest city per capita in the whole of China, overtaking even Shanghai. BMW, VW , Honda have all got showrooms in this little town. The reason? Oil was discovered here in 1955. For quite some time, an old man on a mule had been selling an oily black oil liquid for use as fuel to villagers at the local fair. But he kept the source of his income a closely guarded secret. Then those with a nose for money paid other villagers to discreetly track him around and eventually discovered the second largest oil reserve in China. This happened in 1955. When the oil drillers first came, they had to live in tents and travel around on the back of camels. Experts say that its proven oil reserve stand at around 3 billion barrels. China National Petroleum Corporation and other oil companies in the region are now producing some 290,000 barrels a day. This year, Xinjiang-Uyghur is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the autonomous region.  So is Karamay three quarters whose population are either Uyghurs or Hui and the rest Hans. 

And in August this year, some 20 agreements worth USD 1.6 billion had been signed here between Pakistan and China and the two countries made a joint "Karamay Manifesto" on building a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major project in China's Belt and Road Initiative, with promises of continued co-operation in industrial, health, educational and regional  co-operation, especially on energy.
The CPEC will link Gwadar Port, Pakistan, with Xinjiang through a network of highways, railways as well as pipelines. It is among the six economic corridors crucial to China's Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. But what matters to our tour group has got nothing to do with such grand projects.

What interest me more are the flowers growing outside our hotel are cockscomb flower ( Celosia cristata)(雞冠花, 雞冠頭花、雞冠莧雞花、雞冠頭、雞髻花、雞公花、雞米花、雞骨子花、雞角槍、白雞冠花、紅雞冠花、 紅雞冠、大雞公莧、海冠花、家雞冠花、塔黑彥-色其格-其其格、老來少)

The yellow torreador alone

or as part of a collection

 How felt-like they look 

in red

 or in orange

We had to travel several hours from Urumchi (Urumqi) to visit the Karamay. An interesting sign above the urinoir on our piss stop there: "Face is given to the new generation good man by his boy"

This one says: "Brothers can compete for anything but not their piss"

The first time I saw "swallows"  on the outer wall of a public toilet

and wooden posts on ice

and pink flowers outside too!

a sign adverstising that it's the biggest website for second-hand cars in Xinjiang

Before long, we saw signs of chemical plants

Thanks to the toll system, China now has well-preserved toll road all over the place.

The young toll booth operator concentrating on his work

Xinjiang is famous for its grapes which because of the dry weather are very sweet.

A power plant, fueled by gas or oil

Below the power cable towers are rows and rows of cotton plants

 miles and miles of cotton fields

It the first time that I saw cotton plants. I never expected them to be so low.

Suddenly, all traffic stopped and people moved out from their cars. As in China, we had no idea why it happened.

Cotton fleece on the rubble at the side of the highway. 

After half an hour or so, our coach could start to move again and overtook this lorry carrying a badly mauled remains of a car. I'm positive its driver could not have survived. 

We passed more cotton fields

and other fields growing a kind of small football size melon with a hard yellow skin called "打瓜" which literally translate into Cantonese as "beaten to death"! 

 Nowadays, many farmers had the help of small tractors

Cotton, rushes, sheep, birch, poplars and pines are what we'll be seeing everyday for the next 10 days. 

We were told that to combat desertification, the local government has launched an active programme of tree planting wherever they can do so.

my first view of a small oil drill

Xinjiang is largely desert country: less the 5% of its land is fit for human habitation, although in terms of area, it represents one sixth of the size of China.

 More signs of larger oil drills.

and power plant. 

We're approaching the city now.

 Plenty of building works going on 

The small town looks relatively clean and its buildings new.

The China Petroleum Company's office block

Silver fire!

The office of the Xinjiang Oil-field Corporation

We are told by our tour guide that this river is entirely man made, with water diverted from the canal system supplying water from some far away dammed rivers. 

Our lunch restaurant: serving Hunan dishes

Trees and sky on the wind screen of a parked car

Sauteed cauliflower with spring onion and red chilis

bean curd in meat soup

sauteed lotus roots and sliced beef

wind dried pork slices in red and green chilis and fried rice cakes

 noodles in clear vegetable soup

Two "Special Menu" at reduced price every day of the week

spiced shrimps at $138 RMB, beefsteak at $69, barbecued mutton ribs at $6 per stick, and fried ribs at $120 per kilo.

Menu for the "nourishing breakfasts" from $1.5 - $5  RMB

The Lunch Menu : fried rice with minced meat at $15 RMB, soupless noodles at $12 RMB and mutton fried rice at $25 BMB.

By Chinese standards, the wages for ordinary workers are not high but not low either. According to official figures for 2014, the average wages of an urban worker was $4670 RMB per month . Here, a chef can earn up to $6,500 a month and cleaners and waiters $2,900 to $3,900 RMB  a month and a cashier up to $3,900 RMB a month but a kitchen assistant will start with $2,700 up to a maximum of $3,500 RMB per month.

The "All -mutton Restaurant", the designated restaurant for the staff of a movie called  "North by North-West"

The 7th primary School for this town of 450,000. We were told that on December 8, 1994, a fire at Friendship Theatre (友谊馆) of this town killed 288 school children and  some 40 teachers because when the fire broke out, the relevant officials did not give any order that the students were to be evacuated first: all the students were told to wait for the relevant orders and in consequence were burned alive. But the officials simply ran for their own lives. A number of such local officials had since been charged with dereliction of their duties and some received sentences of up to 5 years.

a commercial-residential complex along the main street

 a shopping mall

a new 4 storey-house residential development we passed by

The canal serving the town

The low hill of sedimentary rocks has three different color-layers. a foretaste of what we'd find in a national park in the area. 

(To be cont'd)