Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Chinese Democracy


We took a full day to get to Kashgar in China after crossing the Touragart Pass, picking up our guide for the Chinese leg of the journey and travelling a 100ks of no-mans-land, before crossing through the Chinese boarder and entering Kashgar.

The Road to Kashgar


It was nice to be eating good Chinese food after the limited fair in Central Asia and have a couple of big nights out with a bit of clubbing thrown in.
I have to say Kashgar is a lovely city and definitely the highlight of China.

Xinjiang province is a mix of Uyghur People and Han Chinese. The Uyghur people, being the original residents, are related to the tribes of Central Asia. Subsequently Kashgar is a mix of Uyghur and modern Chinese architecture giving the town a diverse feel.

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Photos of Kashgar

Xinjiang province has had many problems in recent months, primarily in Urumqi (North of Kashgar), where riots have recently occurred with fighting between the Uyghurs and the Han Chinese. The Han make up 90% of the countries population and have been shipped in wholesale to the province by the government in an attempt water down the Uyghur majority, similar to the situation in Tibet. With government backing the Han have been taking the best jobs despite sometimes being less qualified than the Uyghurs, creating great tension which ended with the rioting.
The government army then stepped in to quash the uprising culminating a large loss of life. In true Chinese style a media blackout was enforced with the shutting down of internet access and all international phone calls.

While, on our China leg we visited a desert resort in the Taklamakan Desert (the second largest after the Sahara), a moutain resort and a lake resort at Kara Kul.

Travelling Towards Tashkurgan

All were sanitised versions of potentially great beauty spots. With constant charges, people trying to fleece money from us and the restrictions given by ’our guide’ (government spy/nanny) it was becoming apparent that the group were becoming increasingly frustrated.
The guide was next to useless, giving very little information about the area and things seen. When asked a question the answer was usually just made up on the spot.
The final straw came when they tried to charge us for a national park entry fee which was essentially a 50 yard stretch around a litter strew lake just off the main Karakoram Highway. Enough was enough and the group decided to push on to Tashkurgan and exit china a day earlier than expected.

The Road to Pakistan

I must admit I found the people consistently rude and unfriendly. I'm sure there are nice people in China and it would probably be better if you have the freedom of movement to go where you want.

It’s definitely a cultural thing, maybe driven by a government that has created bureaucracy that renders it’s people inflexible and incapable of making decsions for themselves through fear of getting in trouble.

No where is this more prevalent than in the officials (police and boarder guards).
On exit from China we had a sit in at customs where we refused to pay 10 times over the normal price for disinfecting our vehicles. This had already been done on entry but they insisted on disinfecting again as we didn’t have the reciept from the disinfection process on entry! They then decided the cost was for checking the vehicles, a fairly transparent attempt to lighten our wallets. Eventually they let us leave 4 hours after entering customs but without their baksheesh (bride).
The Pakistan side could not be more different with welcoming smiles and friendly handshakes all around we breezed into Pakistan.

Good riddens China, hello friendly Pakistan…….

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