Kashgar China

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August 7th 2010
Published: November 25th 2010
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7/6/10: We got up around 7:00am, we packed up checked out and caught a bus to the bus station. We bought tickets to Kashgar and left at 12:00 midday. The bus was a sleeper bus, I don't know why they call them a sleeper buses, just because they have beds doesn't mean you sleep, in fact, in all the sleeper bus we have been in we have not slept once. What made it worse was they didn't turn the AC on because they were to much of a tight arse. All the bus companies are owned by tight Chinese bosses that don't want to fork out extra fuel for air conditioning. It ended up being 35C in a bus that didn’t have any opening windows because the AC was supposed to be on at ll times. I got the shit's but couldn't do anything about it because I couldn't speak the language. The bus driver was fine, he had a window that blew a nice stream of air in his face. He use this stream to blow cigarette smoke through the rest of the bus. By the time it was 4:00am in the morning I started to feel tired enough to sleep. I was then awaken around 8:00am, light just started to show on the horizon outside, the whole of China works on one time zone and we were as far west as you could get. Jacinta tapped me on the shoulder but I chose to ignore it. One minute went by and she violently tapped me on the shoulder, this time it was quiet hard. She had just shit herself, she had a pants full of poo and she had massive stomach pains. There was nothing she could do to hold it back, it was exactly like one of those India stomach bugs. I had to rush up to the driver grabbing a roll of toilet paper so he knew what I meant. He stopped straight away, I think maybe he had seen the repercussions of not stopping from prior journeys. Jacinta shot out the bus door and ran out into a flat desert with not one tree, stone, bush, hill or dirt bank to hide from. I yelled at her to come back and squat next to the bus. She whipped of her pants and let loose, I felt so bad for her, I have been in that position but always had been close to a toilet. She cleaned herself up with wet wipes and left her undies on the roadside. She was upset but recovered well; all she wanted to do was have a shower. We later traced her bad food to some pastries that contained lamb, I scoffed my down straight away but Jacinta didn't eat hers until 5-6hrs later when they had been brewing in the 35C heat of the bus.
The bus stopped only 10min later at a road side toilet block. It was basically a rectangular building in the middle of a desert that never gets cleaned; you could imagine the horror of it all. Behind the toilet was the healthiest crop of sunflowers I have seen yet, I only needed to go for a No1 choosing not to rub kneecaps with my fellow passengers while I squatted over a drain fill with shit, I would have rather done my business in a field of sunflowers.
8/6/10: We didn't arrive in Kashgar until 12:00midday completing a 24hr bus trip. The sky was hazy from a sand storm and the weather was warm. We were inundated by taxi drivers that didn't want to use the taxi meter so we walked away, they kept dropping the price but by then we had lost our patience. We haled another cab on the street outside, we showed him the hostel business card and he nodded, we asked how much and he said 10yuan. We hoped in arriving 5min later outside a mosque. We paid and he drove off. We then started showing people the business card hoping they would point the right way to the hostel. After showing six people we wondered where we actually were. We asked a security guard at the front entrance of the mosque and he point way over the other side of town. The f#$%n taxi driver took us to the wrong mosque so we then had to get another taxi to take us to the correct one costing us more than what tout taxi drivers wanted at the bus stop. Once at the correct mosque called Edgar mosque we walked the streets trying to find our hostel. The streets were lined with donkey driven carts, freshly picked produce from real hand worked farms, skilled handy crafts that have been passed down from generation to generation and at the heart of all this was the local people called Uighur, pronounced wigger. Even though this is China it felt like a whole different country. The Uighur people spoke, ate, smelt, looked and acted totally different to the Chinese. The language sounded more like a Russian/Arabic than Chinese. There faces looked more Turkish or Kazakhstan. They ate lots and lots of lamb and they had terrible bad breath but they were the nicest people we have met since Lao. Walking around we had such a hard time trying to find the hostel because the map on the back of the card was so vague; not even a directional north. We showed the business card locals hoping to show the way, they all kept pointing in the direction of the mosque, they didn't read the address, just look at the picture of the mosque. We eventfully gave up and rang the hostel for directions; they came and got us instead. Our hostel was Kashgar Old City Youth Hostel we paid 35yuan each for one night’s accommodation. The room was an eight bed dorm with the hardest beds in the world, strangely enough we both sleep well that night. Jacinta had a shower and clean herself up after her little mishap in the bus; she came out with a smile and felt clean like a woman again. As soon as we checked in we hurried to the Sunday Bazaar markets.
The markets are held once a week and they are one of the main things to see in Kashgar. We had to catch a 15min bus outside of town only costing 1yuan. As soon as we got off there were Uighur people, sheep, donkeys and food everywhere and we weren’t even in the market area yet. We followed a local farmer herding his sheep, we eventually arrived at a huge animal market. The market was like stepping back in time. They slaughtered sheep, hung them up and butchered them on the spot. Where there were butchered sheep there was a fire and where there was a fire there was food and where there was food there was us. The restaurants were open air with trampolined roofs, plastic seats and dirt floor. The smell of barbecued lamb hung in the air making us hungrier and hungrier. We scanned the tables with our hungry eyes waiting for the perfect dish to appear. A big fat jolly Uighur chef yelled at us to come and has some food in his restaurant, we accepted with a big smile from both of us. As we walked in Jacinta received a massive slap on her back from the jolly chef, it shook her to the bone, she wasn't sure why he done it and gave her a fright. We sat down and held up two fingers indicating we wanted two meals. He served us two meals and then slapped me on the back. The weight of his arm coming down on my shoulder almost broke my collarbone. He then did the same thing to Jacinta, she let out a little yelp from the blow and gave me a frightful look. The jolly chef maintained a cheerful smile the whole time, he came over again and gave Jacinta a good poke in her ribs, she yelled "ouch". We were eventually relieved when we found out that he was just joking around with us. We latter learned that this is a Uighur custom and getting slapped on the back means you are a friend and you are welcome; this would have been handy to know first up. We both had a noodle dish with tomatoes and capsicum; it was almost like lamb pasta without Parmesan cheese, it was really nice. We walked around the market and watch as the farmer bargained with the buyer of his sheep. There were sheep everywhere and the occasional cow. Donkeys were pulling carts that substituted for a family car and there were roadside stalls selling handmade products. There was even a local blacksmith that hammered away repairing a broken plow. Roadside barbers cut and shaved peoples hair in the heat of the sun. One barber suggest that I have a shave, Jacinta urged me to have a go but I feared any guy that held a razor to my throat. I eventually overcome my fear and sat in his seat. First he lathered up my face with soap and massaged my beard; he massaged for five minutes and my guess was to open up the pours. He showed me a new razor blade fresh from the packet, he then tilted my head back and held the razor in his right hand. The sun gleamed through my tightly shut eyes as he started to shave my face. It didn't feel that bad, actually it felt kind of good. He made short work of my one week growth and in no time he was going over my whole face for a 2nd and 3rd time. A guy I met earlier said that I wouldn't need a shave for three days as it was such a close shave. The next day I had two day growth and a rash to go with it. We headed back to the hostel, the lack of sleep started to catch up with us. The atmosphere at the hostel was good, and the internet speed even better. We had not had fast internet for awhile so we took advantage of this for the rest of the day.
9/8/10: Today was a day to do nothing. Even though we managed to sleep on a plank of wood we were still lethargic. We anonymously voted to waste a whole day on the internet. It wasn’t a hard decision with the amount blog that I was behind in writing. After an hour we had a crowd of westerns around our table that insisted we be part of the conversation. Not that I don't like talking, I like talking very much, but today was a day for catchup or what we call an admin day. By the end of the day the same crowd was still there along with my untouched blog. We all went out for dinner that night and filled up on yummy barbecued lamb kebab sticks. The kebabs sticks were our favorite, we savored the meat as we had been lacking in pure meat for such a long time.
9/8/10: Our travellers fatigue still wasn't any better, we felt so lazy, if it wasn't for the fact that we got hungry every now and then we would not have gone outside at all. When we did finally come out to see the very thing we travelled 33hrs by train and 24hrs by bus it was worth it. For breakfast we had bread, this was another one of those foods that we haven’t had a lot of. We decided to walk through the old Wigger town. We were unaware that it was going to cost us 30yuan each for the privilege. We had an American tagging along with us and if he wasn't with us I would not have bothered to pay. Jacinta got upset with me for being such a tight arse so we coughed up 60yuan or the equivalent of $10Aus. It ended up being such a waste of time and money, there was nothing interesting and this is probably why the Chinese are currently bulldozing everything down to build new homes. We latter found several entrances that weren’t manned by guards, we could have gotten in for free. I made sure I reminded Jacinta for the rest of the day that we wasted our money, just to be a prick. Back to the hostel for internet and beer.
10/8/10: Today we made sure we got off our arse. We walked around the old part of town looking at all the musical instruments. We wanted to buy some sort of instrument but had no idea of the price so we hunted around a couple of hours. We met a lot of Uighur people that had exceptional skills in playing their local instruments. When someone play’s a musical instrument well it’s the best form of marketing you could have. I wanted to buy so many but money always limits us. We chose not to buy anything this day and hoped to fall on a bargain the next.
11/8/10: Rest day today
12/8/10: Rest day today, we did do stuff but I couldn’t be bothered to write about it.
13/8/10: Today we had planned to go to the local markets. It was a 4km walk, three quarter's of the way there we decided to go on a Ferris wheel ride. It was our first ever ride on one and it only cost us 10yuan each. The height gave us magnificent views of the surrounding city and the hills beyond. After this we crossed a park that led over a bridge and into the markets. We could not spend a lot of time in the market as the day was getting late. What ever we had brought would have to be posted that same day as we had to catch a bus in the morning to Uramuqi. We walked around and got pestered by shop owners want us to look at there shop. We brought a nice Uighur style bronze tea pot with lovely hand carved decorations. We then found a musical instrument shop that had the exact Uighur instruments we wanted. We entered pretending we didn't want anything, we showed interest in two instruments a Mirawap which sounds like a banjo.
We kept pretended that we weren’t interested in anything until we were sure if we actually wanted the instruments. One advantage of shopkeepers not knowing English is that Jacinta and I were allowed to freely discuss what we wanted and how much to pay. Usually we had to rely on body language and eye movements to talk while the shopkeeper followed us around trying to sell us half the store in one go. If we were looking around a particular shop and spotted something we liked we would give a very discreet poke, usually it was in the arse, we leave our arms dangle low and protrude one finger bumping into the other accidentally as we walked past the item. This gave us a chance to then whisper what item we were interested in without actually picking it up. The other person would glance over the item discreetly, if they didn't like it we would scrunch up our face and move on, if we did like it we would widen our eyes and raise our eyebrows, Jacinta always added to this by sticky out her bottom lip at the same time. This meant we could approvingly pick up item knowing that the shopkeeper was going to try and sell it straight away. It all gets to complicated to explain on paper from here, we basically make the shopkeeper think we don't want it, he then offers a price, we then half it putting the item back on the shelf and proceed to walk out. The shopkeeper desperately struggles to keep us in the shop, he wants us to make him a more reasonable offer. We decline to make another offer and walk out of the shop. We usually get around three meters away before they yell out ok ok ok. The sale is confirmed by me saying the price followed by ok. This is how we got two Uighur instruments from 1800yuan down to 950yuan. He got the better of me when he wanted me to make one more offer, I reluctantly punched in an extra 50yuan on the calculator. He confirmed the sale in true Uighur fashion, he held up my hand and slapped it hard with the other, the clap that followed was like a hammer dropping hitting the bench of the auctioneers table. The only problem we had from there was I didn't have enough money. What followed was a trip to visit three different ATM’s, they all declined to give me money, then a taxi ride 10 minutes up the road and back. I walked back into the shop half an hour later to a worried wife. We paid him the money. I liked one more instrument, Jacinta said I should get it. I didn't want to pay more than 300yuan so I secretly took the rest of the money out of my wallet leaving only 300yuan. I picked the small cello like instrument up and looked at it, straight away he wanted me to buy it. He gave me a price of 700yuan, I shook my head and said no at the same time and proceeded to walk out knowing he would call me back. He wanted me to make an offer but I conveniently only had 300yuan opening my wallet in front of him at the same time. He suggested we go for another ride in the taxi and from the strong reaction Jacinta gave he knew this wasn't going to happen. He kept on lowering the price and we kept walking out and getting called back. Three hundred was all I wanted to pay and all I supposedly had so we walked out for the last time. We must have gotten five meters down the road before he called us back. Saying ok ok with a solemn look on his face he picked up my hand and slapped it with the other sealing the deal. We had to rush back to the post office before it closed so we caught a taxi. The day was getting late and we had to send everything we brought today because we were leaving the following morning.
The post office was one of the worst post offices we had been to. It was a large building with more than thirty employees. The first argument we had was when they complained about the length of the traditional guitar like instrument, saying it was 2 meters long so they could not send it. This was a massive over estimate as it would have lucky to 1.4 meters long. They kept arguing, saying it would not fit in there postal bags and customs would not send it if it wasn't in the bag. She held the bag up, we slid the wood guitar into the bag with loads of room to spare. They still argued that it wasn't going to fit even though we had practical conformation. I started to lose my temper and yelled "it fits, it fits, look, it fits". They finally accepted that it may fit. The next drama was they had no large boxes only little square boxes, they then argued that they didn't have the correct box we needed so we couldn't send it. Thinking outside the square wasn't one of their strong points so we had to tape together a series of boxes end on end until we made up the required length. This wasn’t too difficult, it just took a lot of time. I then asked for some packing material like bubble wrap or something, they had nothing, or they had some out the back but didn't want to me to have it. I lost my temper again, a post office without boxes, packing material and staff that are not in the best interest of trying to help you send a package to another country is not a post office, although they didn't understand any of this because none of them could speak English and I could not speak Uighur. I remembered seeing a shop that sold only washed sheep's wool. I ran back to the shop and returned 10 minutes later with a huge bag of wool for 30yuan, the bag must have contained wool from three sheep it was so huge. Jacinta laughed when I brought the massive bag into the post office. They made everything hard for us but we always found a way around it, we weren’t going to let them brake us. We pack the long guitar in first as it was the longest then the the small traditional cello and finally the traditional banjo, they fit beautifully when we packed wool around them, the last item was the bronze tea pot, this was a funny shape so we needed to make minor adjustments. Once it all fit we used up the very last bit of the wool to protect the ends, this surprised me a lot, the bag was so big and I thought for sure we would only use half, it is amazing how far wool will compact. We sealed the ends of the box with tape and waited patiently to be served. The head lady supervisor came out to met us, she spoke very little English, unlike the other staff she showed some interest in trying to help us with the final stages of postage. What looked like a stacked cardboard leggo box slide into the canvas bag, it was a clean fit but not to their liking, there wasn't enough material gathered on the end for it to be tied and sealed for customs. This was not a problem, the square shape of the box was stopping the side of the bag to be pulled up, there was just enough room to cut the corners off and re-tape them allowing the bag to be sealed. I looked at one of the postal ladies in particular that would have been all to happy to tell us that it still wasn't good enough to send even though it was perfect. We paid for the seven boxes costing 8yuan each, we then weighed the box, filled the paper work out and paid for the postage all with the help of the supervisor; she was the only one with a brain. We said our many thanks to her for helping us towards the end. We were about the walk out when the lady that so desperately wanted us to fail from the start said we had to pay for two rolls of sello tape costing 10yuan. Jacinta and I could not believe what she had just said, we were lucky to use a quarter of a roll. I was pissed off again, she tried to have the last dig at us. I’m was sure she didn’t like us for using our brains. With backup from Jacinta we said to the boss that there is no way in the world we used two rolls, we only used a quarter! The bitter lady again said we used two rolls, Jacinta was pissed off and I was seeing red, I had had enough of this lady giving us a hard time and I didn't care who knew it. I rushed up to the desk and called the lady at the top of my voice a liar and a thief, I waved my finger at her face in disgust! She sat down and buried her head into some paperwork, this pissed me off even more because she didn't even have the decency to lie looking at me in the eyes. I said it again, we did not use two rolls we only used half, you are a liar and a thief! I rushed back over to the boss like a man on the edge. We are only paying 3yuan, that's it, she is lying. The boss looked over at the bitch behind the desk and said something in Uighur. She looked up quickly holding up two fingers at the same time and said two dropping her eyes back down to her desk. I handed to 3yuan over and said that's all I’m paying, I walked back to the bitch and called her a liar and a thief one more time, I was too riled up to give a crap what anyone thought. I walked out of the post office with a smile on my face. Jacinta thought it was unnecessary to abuse her for a second time but I figure that since there was two of us she deserve it twice. The whole ordeal took 1.5 hours rivaling India’s post office in Udaipur.
Later that night we hit the streets for some food. Ramadan had started and they didn't serve lamb until sundown and this was 11:00 at night because all of China uses Beijing time and we were last western city in China. We past the cart for sheep feet, liver kebabs, sheep testicles and barbecued sheep fat, I was willing to try a boiled sheep head, it looked to contain a lot of meat but Jacinta declined. I’m sure they would have been tasty but they looked like something out of a special FX horror movie. As I walked pasted, a Uighur man dinning on a juicy head dug out a sheep’s eyeball, sucked the insides out and popped the remainder it into his mouth chewing for what seemed like a good minute. I have a strong stomach when it comes to stuff like that, Jacinta said it wasn't a good idea to eat a sheep’s head, after seeing that I secretly agreed. Jacinta ended getting a bread roll filled with mutton, I got a bag full of mutton meat complete with fat and crunching skin mmmm.

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