Silk Road day 5: Kashgar – Yarkand

wow.. already day 5 of this little adventure! so much has happened and yet, we’re only halfway through the trip. It was really nice being back in Kashgar for the night after the frozen tundra that was Tashkurgan.. a decent hotel room and hot shower! Had quite a bit on our plate for the day including shipping a few things over to Beijing, getting spare batteries, finding breakfast and finally grabbing a bus to Yarkand (also known as Shache).

WE met Abdul for a final goodbye and to settle our bill then proceeded to move on. Shipped the hats, whip and my newly acquired jade tea-set over to the office then went for a quick breakfast at the Pakistan Cafe! It was still early by Kashgar standards, even though we’re talking 11:00 a.m. Beijing time. but there was a bit of action already and vendors chopping meat, cocking Nan etc.. just outside the Hotel. you can see the bed-looking thingies where customers sit to enjoy their tea and momo:

But no tea or Momo for us that day, the Pakistan cafe is where it’s at! Man, I so want to take this little place and move it over to my neighborhood in Beijing. 2 rmb coffee, 5 rmb omelette etc… K was a bit disappointed at the lack of chicken but it was just too early in the day and the only meaty dish available was a mutton kurma that was exquisite, at least to me.. still all smiles on board:

Believe it or not, after 3 days in Kashgar, we still didn’t a chance to go around the hotel or check it out in detail. We took advantage of the opportunity to look around and snap a few shots. The Seman Hotel used to be the Russian consulate in Kashgar and has been around for a while. It’s beautifully exotic:

The courtyard right outside our building:

I guess we’ve fulfilled the mission as spelled out by this billboard/add:

Front of our building.. it was just really amazing with all the falling leaves around:

Finally, it was time to bid Kashgar goodbye and head over to the bus station. We made it there quite quickly and were lucky enough to get on the next bus departing within the following 10mn.. I was hoping for a bit more of a comfortable trip there but we were face with a proper chicken bus (minus the poultry). At least, the collection of headgear was interesting:

As we exited Kasgar, we came across a giant body of water that I have yet to identify on a map. I’m assuming right now that it is somehow linked to the kunlun mountains but I can’t be sure yet!

The ride was a bumpy 4 hours through deserts and oasis alike, most of it looking desperate and torrid.. we crossed about 3 main towns and stopped countless times to take on new passengers and drop transiting ones. Finally we entered green Yarkand. It was a relief to see some color around after 4 hours of dust, sand and mud:

By the time we got to Yarkand, we were a bit hungry and worn out. Tempers were also getting a bit testy on all sides after 5 days of being stuck together. We realized that we would not make it to Khotan on that same day as the last bus was departing within 2 hours and that was not enough time to check anything out. So we headed over to the Wang Hou hotel on the advice of Abdul. Got rooms and decided to grab bite.
Yarkand turned out to be a strange animal in many ways! locals spoke almost no Mandarin and we found ourselves relying on the hotel’s bell boy for information as even taxi drivers had no idea.. I mean it was a full on failure to communicate. Luckily, everything was within walking distance of Wang Hou on one main street. We tried to make it to the Golden mosque which we did but it was around prayer time and too late to check anything out: I got to use my new tripod and got some amazing night time shots of the place:

At this point, we weren’t really sure of what was what because we were literally too busy being freaked out by locals following us everywhere… I’ve lived in China for almost 5 years now and can’t recall being stared at so much ever.. after about 30mn at the square, we walked back as I was starting to freeze and needed my jacket. K decided to take a break for the night and chill in the hotel room. S and myself soldiered on trying to find the Old Town ( Gu Cheng). Taxi drivers were pretty useless yet again and we found ourselves back at the hotel dealing with the bell boy who pointed us in the right direction, yet again within walking distance! after about 1/2 hour of wondering around, we found it! we strolled around the streets for a while taking in the sounds and colors then backtracked towards our temporary home.

I had read online about a lady spending a night in Yarkand that was dragged to a restaurant with live music, dancing and wine. I suggested to S that we try looking for it and she agreed. To make a long story short, with the help of a trio of local lovely ladies that were coming out of dinner, we managed to find one such place: The Caravan Cafe.

To say that this place was surreal after the 5 days we’ve been through would be an understatement. There had been no nightlife around other than the night market and UNO games at the hotel. There had also not been a single place that sold alcohol with meals and I was craving a glass of red wine outside of the hotel. This place offered it all.

The headliner tonights were the amazing tonganika trio with their famous tonganika hit titled nights of tonganika ( as if ou could tell the difference 😛 )

The place was jammed packed with customers seated around tables filled banquet style. With each song, they stood up, headed to the dance floor and did their thing then went back to their seats. After an intermission of 3mn or so, it started all over again. There was not a single song where the dance floor remained empty… and this was no disco! this was really a family affair with Children, wives, daughters and the such in the mix shaking what their mama gave them to the rhythms of Uighur music.

We enjoyed a decent little bottle of Suntime Manas dry red and some watermelons then proceeded to walk back to the hotel… just a great little evening and exactly what i had been seeking for a while. S and myself started appreciating Yarkand quite a bit more after our little trek to Karwan.