Surrounded by good food in Kashgar!
Reaching Kashgar from the vast desert is like you just enter the gate of heaven after crossing into 500km of hell. There were police roadblocks everywhere just before Kashgar, making me thinks like you are passing through angels guarding the gate of heaven from the realm of hell. By the time I reached Kashgar, I was weak and exhausted, since it was too hot, the headwind never gave up slowing me down and cars and trucks were honking at me non stop whenever they passed by me, my ears were so painful by it. But good thing was, I smell the aroma of all kinds of food all over the street of Kashgar and my empty stomach was making all kind of sounds… cheering.. celebrating. I tasted the best melon in Kashgar for a start, before drinking water like a thirsty camel before finally found a good hostel to stay for a few days. “I have reached the heaven!”, I told myself.
Finally I got myself under a shade, got myself a nice clean room and took a good shower, which is like a ritual for me, the first thing I will do whenever I get myself in a hostel. I stayed in a nice cheap youth hostel inside the old town of Kashgar. Walking around the old town to find food feels like walking in Damascus or even Baghdad rather than any other town in China. The surroundings here… the smell, the sound of people talking, the buildings, it feels like Middle East. Looking at the map, Kashgar is so closed to Tashkent, Bukhara, Kabul, Peshawar, Dushanbe and even Tehran compared to Beijing. The population here is not only Uighurs, but I also seen some Tajiks, men wearing Kyrgyz kolpak, some Afghan with their turban and even Uzbeks. While I was riding finding the hostel in the old town, these people were watching me while talking among themselves, probably discussing trying to guess where Im coming from, since I look so weird with my brown skin, that might suggests that Im from the southeast Asia, but the way I wrapped my turban is North African style, the Tuareg style of wrapping that I learned from the Libyans.
When I was walking around the food market, I was smiling and tried almost everything. There was one day I overeat, I got a plate of lamb beriani rice, 9 kebabs and 5 ice creams, put all of it inside my mouth. The result… I spent the whole night inside the toilet, I guess I went to the toilet like every 20 minutes from midnight all the way to dawn. I got sick the following day, couldn’t get up from my bed like a zombie, didn’t eat anything and continue spending my precious time inside the heavenly toilet. After the horrible day passed, I finally felt better and started to eat again, but I was afraid to eat a lot, so I ate very little and kept feeling hungry. So I decided to stay longer in Kashgar until Im back to normal before hitting the road again.
Saw a few cyclists who stopped by at the same hostel, mostly Chinese citizens cycling towards Tibet, some French, Spanish and Italian. It was good to have some cyclist friends here in Kashgar. I also went to Id Kah Mosque, the biggest attraction here in Kashgar. There was a counter at the entrance door and the guy behind the counter shouted at me when I entered, asking me to pay. He then let me go after I told him I’m going in for prayer. It feels funny whenever I gave them the Islamic greeting but they never reply it, since they doubt that Im a Muslim since Im a foreign man, making me think that there must be something wrong with this as well. Overall people here are friendly, and so far this is the only town since I was in China, that people never ask me anything about the missing Malaysian Airlines plane when they know that Im a Malaysian. Once they know Im a Malaysian, they will offer me to buy the Malaysian made energy drink again as usual. And they will spent some 20 minutes discussing among themselves, and I always hear they kept repeating the word Malaysia in the discussion, must be discussing about me and my home country.
I have received news that the Irkeshtam border crossing, which is the gate into Kyrgyzstan from China is closed at the moment due to some political problem that is happening in Kyrgyzstan now. And crossing Kyrgyzstan via Torugart Pass is a hassle and expensive, so I guess I will wait. I will cycle some parts of the Karakoram Highway on China side between Kashgar and Tashkorgan. So its either I cycle from Kashgar to Tashkorgan and take the bus back to Kashgar, or take the bus to Tashkorgan and cycle back to Kashgar. The wind seems to blow from the north, but the difference of altitude between Kashgar and Tashkorgan is 2000 meters. Tashkorgan sits at 3200m and Kashgar is only about 1000m. So I might take the bus to Tashkorgan and cycle back to Kashgar the enjoy the beautiful road of the Karakoram. Since I can stay in China until July, I might be riding slowly, try not to concentrate too much on the road, but rather enjoy the mountains here in China for the last time, before I leave this country.