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Asia » China » Xinjiang » Kashgar August 17th 2018

The last stage of the journey had all the hallmarks that define the Karakoram Highway – it required patience, involved the unexpected and had spectacular scenery. After leaving the hostel and walking to the bus station, we passed through the security scanner at the gate and saw Calvin. An Indonesian he has just finished doing a Masters degree in Beijing and is travelling around China for a couple of months before finding his next job or going home. We’d spend much of the evening before talking to him at the hostel and knew he was also planning to take the bus to Kashgar. We were pointed towards where 4 shared taxis were parked on an empty lot. We wanted the bus but weren’t concerned as it was parked just past us. Marie was left with the ... read more
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Asia » China » Xinjiang » Kashgar August 16th 2018

Tashkurgan is totally different to Pakistan. Dominated by big concrete buildings, many behind barricades, and while only a small town it’s main road is a big 4 lane highway. There was barely anything on it as we walked down the side, we wondered where all the life was. The only other foreigner on the border bus was a Korean woman, also heading to K2 hostel (which is where all the travellers in Tashkurgan go), we had said we could head there together. There was no sign of any form of transport we could take and everything we had read said the town was walkable. The map we had didn’t extend as far as the immigration office so we asked a couple of young Pakistani guys on our bus, who are studying in China to become doctors ... read more
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Asia » China » Xinjiang » Kashgar August 15th 2018

Crossing the Pakistan/China border is a long and interesting process. We arrived at the bus ticket office 9am sharp as instructed. After a 10 minute wait one of the bus guys walked us down to Pakistan’s customs/immigration. There we waited outside a small hall for 20 minutes before being invited in to take a seat. We watched for another 10 minutes as 2 guys exporting carpets unpacked them 1 by 1 and the customs guys poked a huge number of holes in them before they were placed individually on the floor and had a sniffer dog ran over them. Finally they were painstakingly allowed to repack them in their original bags. When we were invited to the counter our bags got a cursory glance and our passports checked. We were then told to leave our bags ... read more
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Asia » China » Xinjiang » Minfing March 10th 2018

We are now at Ruoqiang; it is probably fair to say that we are no longer in a position to savour the cultural aspects of this trip, as bureaucracy has moved from a peripheral to an overwhelming level. This is disappointing, since every aspect of our trip was agreed in detail and submitted to the Chinese authorities before we were issued with our visas. After two nights in (very attractive) Ruoqiang we move on to Dunhuang, which may be less taxing. Woke up in Qiemo to a brilliand sunny, cloudless day. No breakfast but Yudu Hotel courtesy car had us at the bus station by 08.45 am, Maghnus managed the tickets rather well and we left the smart, modern bus station in a very comfortable bus at 10.00 as scheduled, £7.50 each (61 yuan). Driver was ... read more
On the road at full pace
Sand stabilisation
Tea at Youlan Hotel

Asia » China » Xinjiang » Minfing March 10th 2018

A good breakfast in the very stylish dining room of the Youlan Hotel; everything in the hotel seems top-hole with the possible exception of our bedroom corridor rooms, which seem a bit faded. Perhaps our section is simply the most popular one? At 10.00 an official arrived and met Maghnus; thankfully our onward travel plan to Dunhuang is now approved (saving us a detour of over 1000 km!). This means that we can stick to the itinerary that was agreed with the Chinese embassy in London; we plan an early start, 6am, having had dire warnings of the length and hazards of the journey, including travel at high altitude. It seems that we will be met at the most testing part by a 4WD vehicle from Dunhuang, whose driver will be familiar with the terrain. We ... read more
Breakfast Room, Youlan Hotel
House timbers, Ruoqiang Museum
Christa and 11 yr old Ruoqiang student

Asia » China » Xinjiang » Minfing March 8th 2018

Actually not Minfeng, but Qiemo is not yet listed. We had decided to go by car (700 Rmb plus gratuity), so as to travel in daylight, possibly faster than the 20mph achieved by the bus, partly to avoid delay to other passengers at administrative controls, and largely so as to arrive before (possibly 4am). Our driver turned up on time at 10.00 and everything went well; at the mid-point of the route (about 13.30hrs) we stopped at a rather gruesome WC halt amongst the sand dunes, and were transferred to another car, a taxi that had come out from Qiemo; we reached our hotel, the excellent Yudo Hotel, at 5.30 pm, having averaged 27mph across 315km. We were unable to communicate with either driver verbally or in writing; fortunately it did not matter, the first one ... read more
A sand-dune in the desert
More sand-dunes
Midway across 315 km of desert

Asia » China » Xinjiang » Minfing March 8th 2018

We are at Qiemo, about to move on tomorrow (by bus?) to Ruoqiang. An excellent breakfast, after which we decided to explore. Oddly enough we noticed that the reception staff, so helpful last night, were the opposite today – very nearly rude, and unwilling to divulge such information as the way to the bus station (1000 metres straight along the road!). Anyway, we set off and I may say that we received information about tomorrow’s bus (sadly wrong, but given in good faith), although for various reasons we were unable to go to the bus station ourselves. Those who know me will forgive a slightly gnomic account of this day’s events and doubtless read amongst the horizontals; suffice perhaps to say that it was a fascinating day, hugely interesting in every way, and that the very ... read more
Fire wood
A filligree-canopied row of shops.
Chinese traditional lion

Asia » China » Xinjiang » Minfing March 7th 2018

lBreakfast at Minfeng Dihuang International Hotel starts at 9.00 Beijing time and we decided on a long-lie so arrived at 9.30 (i.e. 7.30 local time) to discover it had all been eaten! After salvaging something from the remains, Christa and Maghnus went off to discover bus times for tomorrow, Minfeng to Qiemo. It transpires that the bus leaves here at 7pm, and we know from experience that it averages 20 mph due to the administrative arrangements en route, so might well reach Qiemo about 4 am, possibly rather later. So, the next stage is to be by hired car, 700 yuan (about £90). Whilst investigating the small but neat, friendly and relatively rural town, C and M found themselves in the middle of a "Dad's Army" scenario and were ushered into a wee fruit shop until ... read more
Set lunch, Uighire restaurant Minfeng
Al Fresco pudding consumption
Nan bread oven

Asia » China » Xinjiang » Minfing March 6th 2018

After a good breakfast at Hetian (Hotan) we were at the bus station by 10.30 for the 11.00 bus to Minfeng, E.T.A. 4pm, Beijing time. The bus was fairly modern, and in good condition; the road is good, 176 miles along a flat, level surface with light traffic. Unfortunately, for the second day running, visibility was poor - about half a km and briefly about 400 metres, at which stretch a rudimentary convoy system was in operation. Probably just as well, because the road is a single carriageway with no central reservation and quite a high proportion of the drivers can point and steer well enough but lack conventional road sense; various grisly wrecks displayed on plinths beside the road bear witness to the difficulty of assessing closing speed on a straight road in poor visibility. ... read more
Visibility here is about 400 metres
Scrubland to the south of the Minfeng road
Dinner in an Uighir restaurant

Asia » China » Xinjiang » Hotan March 5th 2018

This was yesterday, a Sunday, so to be leisurely. We strolled to the neighbouring open People's plaza, passing about 30 employees of a neighbouring shop, limbering up on the pavement outside to lively music and working on the corporate bonding and zeal for a day's trading. The very large plaza was colourful with bright lights and a fringe of floats, many of which had been sponsored by local businesses; the area was dominated by a large statue of Chairman Mao and a local Uighir male (with full beard and moustache), holding hands. The symbolism reminded one of a recent re-enactment between USA and a representative of the UK. Beyond the plaza we indulged in coffee and cakes, explored some more and then set out to find the bus station. We had carefully armed ourselves with a ... read more
Chairman Mao and a Uighir representative
Street sweeping, Sysiphus-style
Typical traditional doors




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