Urumqi, Turpan and Dunhuang: Three cities on the "Silk Road" which I got to see because one of the teachers leading a tenth grade "cultural immersion" trip go injured. They needed a last minute replacement. Who was I to say no? I did forget that taking care of teenagers is sometimes like herding cats.
I suggest you research each of the three cities to learn more of the vast culture of China. I figured all of China had that chinese look. Not to be. The area of Umumqi is the home of the Uyghur (weeger) people, who have a mongolian heritage and have a Turkish look: Dark, swarthy complexsion, sharp angular features and little did I know: a Muslim area.
A very busy five days with a lot of time traveling, including an overnight in a hard sleeper car: 30 bunks arranged in cubes of six with 3 bunks (lower, middle, upper) on the sides of each cube. You're right: I now know what sleeping in a submarine must have been like. Wish I could have taken pics of people getting in and out of the top bunk!!!
What the kids and I got to do during the five days:
Uigur Singing and Dancing Workshop
Erdaoqiao Market Shopping
Buffet Dinner with Uiger Singing and Dancing
Xinjian History Museum (With a host of mummies)
KFC: Yah..I didn't figure how this was a cultural experience. On 2nd thought it was and not a pleasant one. Umm...you don't want to know what the chicken looked like. Then again..it wasn't mutton.
Turpan Chinese Dinner
Karez Irrigation System (Look it up. Fascinating)
Jiaohe Ancient City
Overnight Train Trip
Sand Dunes: The fun part. Believe it or not many of these internationally traveled kids had never seen a camel up close and personal.
Magoa Caves (Incredible 90 feet Bhuddas carved out of stone. Only took 29 years)
A great trip in spite of about a seven hour delay on China Southern airlines. Gee, I felt just like I was flying in or out of Chicago!!!