2005.11.17 Urumqi, China
Urumqi High School Students at Bus Stop
Urumqi High School
Students at Bus Stop

The only place where discounted airfares make less sense than the U.S. must be here in China. No matter where, it's a game I love to play, though. If lucky, I'll leave Urumqi next week on a cross-country flight to Beijing for a mere $60 U.S..

Hainan Airlines has a ridiculously cheap rate for the flexible traveler: 80% off the published fare. I've never seen another fare that has such strange rules and regulations, even refusing to guarantee that a ticket will actually be issued after payment. To be sure of making the trip, I could instead buy their second cheapest ticket: a 75% discount. That would at least guarantee a seat, though still wouldn't fix a departure date until the day before I fly.

I'm going to take a chance on the lowest fare. It will mean prepaying, then following up with a daily phone call to check whether seats are available. I figure I have the time now. A bit of uncertainty will be worth it to save a few yuan. If the air ticket doesn't come through within a week, the airline will refund my money. I'd instead take the train to Beijing. By rail it's a 45-hour journey which would actually cost more than the cut-rate airfare.

Since being booted out of my apartment I've been getting everything in order to leave Urumqi for the winter. I've been meeting up with friends over dinner, sorting through which belongings to leave behind, and shopping for gifts and other things to bring back to the U.S..

Anti-war Message in Broken English
Mavluda and Shamsiya
The cost of most goods is so much cheaper in China that I've found myself buying an assortment of mundane items, knowing that I would balk at paying ten-times as much for the same thing while in the U.S.. Razor blades, shaving cream, and watch batteries are some of the items I've picked up recently for a few cents each. Another bargain is the low price of DVD's. They're usually an exact duplicate of the disc issued by the movie studios, with the added option of Chinese subtitles. Those go for 85¢ apiece at Urumqi's DVD bazaar.

I have to remember to visit the barbershop before leaving China, as well. The times I've had my hair cut at nicer salons in Beijing or Urumqi, the price is usually around $2.50.

Over dinner a couple nights ago I met Shamsiya's younger sister for the first time. She's visiting from Ghulja, perhaps moving to Urumqi later next year. She was nice enough, but what most intrigued me about meeting her was the text on her sweatshirt. I'm a fan of the mangled English on T-shirts worn around this country. I'd never seen an anti-war message before. Her shirt declared:

It doesn't need to the earth though the bomb is indispensable for the war.
The Bomb!! is not needed to this earth.