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China: Yotkan ruins

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Yotkan ruins | China | Asia

[Visited: July 2010]

After having seen the fantastic Sunday Market of Hotan, we were ready to leave town and see somewhere more quiet, something with history. The area is supposed to be scattered with old ruins, and those closest to the city should only be 10k away. This sounded like a distance that could easily be biked, so we set out to find two bikes. At first, people seemed to indicate that there were no bikes for rental in Hotan. Then, people could not read the Chinese booklet we used. Next, we found places with bikes - but only new ones, for sale. Finally, though, we found a stall which also had some used bikes. The owner seemed willing to rent them to us, and decided that the girl could only have a folding bike while I could have a model for woman. Alas, no matter how much we tried to bargain, his conditions were not good enough for us. Moreover, we realized that as the day was drawing to a close, we probably did not have time to find the ruins in the first place. We had someone write down the name in Uygur, so it would be easier to ask for directions. Someone offered his brother for help, but he could only look up the place on Google Earth - but it was unknown even to those mighty maps. The only information we found, was that the ruins of Yotkan lay submerged in a marshy terrain west of Hotan.

Picture of Yotkan ruins (China): Agricultural landscape in a desert area: near the Yotkan ruins

The next morning, we decided to just rent a taxi, and showed the text that someone had written for us the previous day. The driver seemed pretty smart, called one of his friends on his phone, and off we went. We seemed to be going in the right direction, and after driving the last stretch through a tunnel of vines, we stopped at a parking lot where a tour bus and several cars were already parked. We were surprised: had the ruins been unearthed? But the sign over the entrance said, Walnut Grove, so we asked the girl behind the counter. What followed was a search by taxi in which our driver patiently asked every passer by we saw for directions. And indeed - after a while, we found a stone sign erected next to a crossroads: Yotkan Ruins. We were getting close! We took the sidestreet, but after a few hundred metres, a farmer pointed us back to where we came from. Confused, we drove back to the sign at the crossroads and got out. Now, we got it. For the locals, the sign WAS the Yotkan ruins - and nothing else.

Picture of Yotkan ruins (China): Yotkan ruins announced, but impossible to see

Now that we were here, we decided to go for a walk. Secretly, of course, we hoped to find a shred of evidence of this pre-Islamic settlement, but no matter how hard we looked in the marshland, under the trees, on the fields, we only saw a very green, very fertile land. In fact, considering that the Taklamakan desert is close to where we were, the landscape was incredibly green with an abundance of vegetation. We could well imagine how farmers would not be willing to give up their precious lands for archeologists to go digging in the earth, in a search for the remains of Yotkan. Even though we would never see the slightest piece of the Yotkan ruins, we were happy we came. We had a walk in a beautiful area, and the idea that we were walking right above the remains of an ancient city, gave us a special feeling.

Picture of Yotkan ruins (China): Yotkan ruins covered by marsh and trees
Picture of Yotkan ruins (China): Landscape near the Yotkan ruins
Picture of Yotkan ruins (China): The mysterious Yotkan ruins could be hidden under these trees
Picture of Yotkan ruins (China): Trees covering the area of the Yotkan ruins
Picture of Yotkan ruins (China): House with vegetation in the Yotkan area
Picture of Yotkan ruins (China): Trees probably growing right on top of the Yotkan ruins
Picture of Yotkan ruins (China): One of the tree-lined roads in the vicinity of Yotkan

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