Josh at Far West China reminded me of part of my journey through Xinjiang in 2006. On my first summer holiday in China, my parents visited. I planned to take them to Xinjiang for the sole purpose of meeting Jia--I had no idea what there was to see and do at that time.
After our trips through the bazaar, provincial museum (still one of the best museums I saw in China), and Heavenly Lake, Jia took us to walk up Hongshan (红山) or Red Mountain. She told us that anyone who visits Urumqi has climb the mountain, which was more of a hill.
Like most parks in China, there was a bit of a cheesy carnival atmosphere by the entrance. Visitors could rent boats to go around the man-made lake, pay to have their photos taken in front of fake rocks that are next to real rocks, and even play carnival like games (but not whack-a-mole).
We first hiked up the steps to the tower at the top of Hongshan to take in the beautiful views of Urumqi on a bright August day with the much larger mountains in the background.
Wandering around other parts of the park, we came to temple. Unlike any other Buddhist temple I've been to, this one was surrounded by small, noisey carnival rides. It was hard to imagine finding inner piece with all that racket outside the temple walls, but I suppose it was good practice for the monks. When we entered, a woman tried to sell us incense, telling Jia that if she got her "tour group" to buy it at an inflated price she would kick back a few kuai (this was a common theme on our trip through Xinjiang).
We followed up our little hike with dinner on the street near our hotel--there was a line of restaurants to sit in or to pick up some barbecue and walk along. It was a great way to spend our last day in Xinjiang before heading to Chengdu and the hottest weather I have ever encountered.