As our night train rolled in from Urumqi today (24 hour sleeper train), we came upon a very Chinese station platform. Although I had not awoken to the rolling sand dunes of the Great Taklamakan that I had dreamed of, there was an ocean of a desert that spread as far as the eye could see. We found a driver to take us into town and found a nice hostel in Old Town near the local Mosque.
Xinjiang province was predominantly Uighur until the last 5-10 years as Han Chinese were integrated into the region. The Uighur are a combination of Central Asian Kazak, Tajik, Uzbek, and Mongolian – they are also a Islamic culture. The 2500 + kilometers of desert preceding, slowly faded into a lush desert oasis tucked away in between the Taklamakan Desert and the Himalayas.
We walked around the surrounding alleys leading to the centralized Mosque for hours taking several great pictures. The 500 year old city wall, which used to surround Kashgar is literally a 3 minute walk from where we are. It is amazing that anyone could send an army out here to conquer anything, but Russia and China have throughout the past. In the next few days we will take a camel tour into the Taklamakan Desert and take a bus up the Karakorum Highway.
If you are interested in staying here:
233 Wusitangboyi Road – it is very difficult to find, but most taxi drivers know the street and you just have to find the random unnamed alley ways to this destination. It is near the Edgar Mosque and West Renmin Road and has two large red doors with a very small “Youth Hostel” sign on the doorway. I will update later with more information if I can.