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Khotan made a pleasant change, as with being on the edge of the desert is quite warm, and laid back. Not a lot to do in the town so just stayed for a couple of days before heading for Kashgar. Which, as I didn’t get up early enough, I had to get the 3.30pm bus, arriving there at 1.15am. Not the best time to arrive in any city yet alone one where there are two languages used (Chinese and Uighur) little English and having no hotel booked, but got sorted out with the hotel I wanted to stay in. Nice place to relax before setting forth into Central Asia, but not much to do so it was onwards to Kasghar after a couple of days.
Got to Dunhuang ok, and went to the Magao Caves – a series of grotto’s cut into a mountainside up to 1,500 years ago by traders wishing or thanking the Gods for a safe journey, and apparently if you say some nice things to the Buddhist statues everything turns out fine for your journey, so I said how much we look alike and could be mistaken for being brothers which I think went down well. So what can go wrong now? Spoke too soon. Walking through town decided against crossing the road so turned to continue up the street, BANG straight into a tree. I had a lump for ages, but at the time I hoped nobody noticed, but I was wrong and when one Chinese person stops and stares you can bet 400 will stop and stare, and so they did. I pretended it didn’t hurt, but still they stared like something out of the Twilight Zone and then they started to mock me. But when I demonstrated the healing powers of my Dr Who Sonic Screwdriver they were stunned and amazed. Departed rather sharply after that as I didn’t want a que forming for the newly open surgery. The sleeper bus to Urumqi was a nightmare, I have never felt so uncomfortable and squashed into such a small space as on that bus. For 13 very long hours I was confined to a bed that was 5’8″ long, 18″ wide and 2’6″ high, a complete nightmare! Watching me try and stand up after that that was probably like watching man evolve.
Although Kashgar is quite a large town it is laid back and easy to walk around. The most direct route into Kyrgyzstan for me would have been the Tourgart Pass, but this results in a lot of hassle and about $150 just to get to the border! So decided to take the bus to Osh instead and then travel from there to Naryn, via Bishkek. So ticket sorted wandered around Kashgar for a few days. The old town is definately like stepping back in time. Adobe houses that seem to defy gravity and remain standing, metalworkers tapping away and shaping bowls and trays, blacksmiths banging away in their furnaces, leatherworkers stitching shoes together on ancient sewing machines and all done in workshops no bigger than a small shed. Children playing hopscotch on the chalked grids on the road, kebab stalls smoking areas out and ladies sat on the floor selling boiled eggs. Just so cool. Met a Uighur women called Buayxem (pronounced Bay Shem) who has shown me some of the sites which has been insightful.