Hello fellow steemians! Welcome back to another post from China! Actually this is going to be our last China post before we head into another country! In the last post we crossed 1,400 km of desert by hitchhiking to reach our last destination in China, Kashgar.
Arriving in Kashgar in the early afternoon we managed to find the hostel where we would be staying, Kashgar Old Town Youth Hostel. This turned out to be the place to meet other travellers, something we had lacked during our time in China. Don't get us wrong, we love hitchhiking and meeting local people on the way but due to the language barrier our conversations with people were generally very limited, so as you can imagine staying at this hostel was a really nice experience. This felt like the crossroads for many travellers. There were 'round-the-world-cyclists', hitchhikers and just generally alternative or more adventurous people. We happened to meet Misha and Yin-Bin, a couple from the Ukraine and Taiwan who were actually doing a very similar trip as us! Incredible. We also met a young Irish guy called Brian who was doing an over-landing expedition from Ireland to Pakistan, amazing!
Together we all went out to explore the local market and grab some street food whilst out. Spending time in Kashgar was rather interesting. In some places it feels as if you are back in the ancient silk road times and then in other parts you could be in any Chinese city. There is also the area where the old mud brick buildings are being demolished and other places where they are being renovated so that domestic tourists can come and ogle at the local way of life.
Whilst out we found the local market area and ordered a bowl of cold noodles which were absolutely delicious as well as a lamb kebab stick and freshly baked bread. In one stall BBQ'd eggs were being served and you could add different spices to them, also very tasty!
We had a great time wandering around the old part of the city soaking up the atmosphere and taking pictures with some of the locals. It was also great to meet up with other alternative travellers and hear their stories from the road.
Other than the old city there is another famous thing that should be checked out in Kashgar. It is the famous Livestock Market. We had read about this being one of the highlights of the city and it some ways it was but we had a bit of a bad feeling after visiting. The way some of the animals were being treated was difficult to watch at times. However, if you can just accept it for what it is, an ancient livestock market that has been taking place for hundreds of years and probably hasn't changed much in that time, then you would definitely enjoy it.
It was also incredibly nice to finally see real Uyghur traditions and people without the control of the local police forces. Throughout our stay in Kashgar we were very sad to see such a strong police presence and even a curfew at midnight. So being able to visit this livestock market felt as close to authentic Uyghur culture as we would be able to get. In the last year and a half the situation has deteriorated dramatically and you can read about it in most social media streams and in the news quite frequently.
Here are some pictures (some taken from our video so the quality might not be great) of the livestock market on the outskirts of the city.
The following day it was time to leave China and head towards the border of Kyrgyzstan. The border crossing process is a whole day's event! We started early by getting a bus to the bus station and then trying to find a shared taxi for a decent price to the town where the immigration office is located, and get a taxi to it. By this point we had met our new friend from Japan who was also doing the border crossing and together we waited to have our passports stamped and bags scanned before being let through to the other side.
Here came the interesting part that we had read about in blog posts prior to undertaking this journey. The immigration officer wouldn't give us our passports back until we had arranged our taxi to the actual border (a 2 hour drive away). We managed to negotiate an OK price and we left on what would be a spectacular drive through the desert mountains that lead to the Kyrgyz border.
To get an idea of the dramatic landscape we were witnessing take a look at the pictures!
The Irkeshtam border crossing is one of the most remote border crossings in the world sitting at 3000 metres above sea level. It is a surreal place and before being allowed to cross into the Kyrgyz side we had to wait for their two hour lunch break to finish. We spent the time chatting with our friends Misha and Yin Bin who didn't quite make it to the border before the lunch break and had to wait as well.
In the next post we will describe the amazing experience of entering Kyrgyzstan through this border post and the stunning scenery that we saw. It was an incredible experience that none of us will ever forget!
If you would like to see our video from this part of our trip you can find it below.
Here is a map of our whole route from Thailand to Spain: If you are interested in our route you can find it here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1dKeTjIFM0cgSP2Wefp8L3ZvOgTE&usp=sharing
Thanks as always for reading and if you managed to make it all the way to the end of this then a big thumbs up to you, it was a long read! If you have any questions please feel free to ask!
Alex and Malin