Ruins in Turpan

Dating from the 1st century, Gāochāng rose to power during the Tang dynasty in the 7th century. Also known as Khocho, or sometimes Karakhoja, Gāochāng became the Uyghur capital in AD 850 and was a major staging post on the Silk Road until it burnt in the 14th century. Though the earthen city walls, once 12m thick, are clearly visible, not much else is left standing other than a large Buddhist monastery in the southwest. Its 30km from Turpan.

To the north, adjacent to an adobe pagoda, is a two-storey structure (half underground), purportedly the ancient palace. There is good signage in English in front of each structure, and the sheer scale of the place is incredible. Indeed, due to its size Gāochāng is best covered on bike (¥20), though after the building of a brand new ticket office and visitor area some distance from the site itself is complete, management plan to have people visiting on electric buggies.