Urumqi is the capital and largest city of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The region is the largest in China and makes up 16% of China’s land area. Xinjiang’s population is still predominantly Han Chinese, though in Urumqi city itself the indigenous people are greatly outnumbered by Han immigrants.
Urumqi’s new airport, completed only last year offers flights to most provincial and regional capitals, strangely absent being Hong Kong.
There are also regular connecting flights to the other ‘stans, and even Dubai, Islamabad, and Moscow. Aside from this there are regular flights to most of Xinjiang’s smaller cities spread across the region.
In Urumqi itself it is possible to get both Kazak and Kyrgyz visas, which normally take 3 days to process. However if you want to go to Pakistan you will need to plan in advance, or make the long trip back to Beijing or Hong Kong to apply.
Urumqi is also on the main train line linking it to the rest of the country, and a new line stretches all the way to Kashgar, in the far Southwest. In the future it is expected that the train line will extend to Hotan, then on to Golmud in Qinghai.
The city proper, with a population of approx 2 million, runs on a North-South axis. While Urumqi itself is 90% Han, the South (Particularly the area around the bazaar) has a significant Uyghur majority, while in the rest of the city Han Chinese predominate.
There are no particularly up-market or green areas of the city, and while the vast majority of people live in apartment complexes, there are a few separate “mansion-style” houses being built, with price tags starting at about 1.5 million RMB.
The expat population is scattered throughout the city, with the largest concentrations probable being the foreign students residency at Xinjiang University. The total population of Western expats in Urumqi is probably in the region of 200 at any one time.
Information provided by Fubar