"A man is not of his own feather." ~ my English teacher, Mr. Widodo.
11.08.2012 - 02.09.2012 34 °C
Kashgar, August 20th 2012
The queue for ticket booking at Kashgar Railway Station was very long. Worse than that, the ticket locket was closed due to lunch time. No thinking twice, I gave up booking a ticket for Kashgar - Hotan. May there be a booking office somewhere near my hotel.
There were plenty of taxis at the station. As usual, I presented a small piece of paper with my hotel's name and address both in Mandarin characters and in Latin. One of the drivers held my paper in his hand and asked, "Where's this?"
What? The address is written so clearly there and he asks where it is?
His friend grabbed the paper from his hand. Bla, bla, bla... he said, and gave my piece of paper to another driver. I couldn't guess anything, because they all were speaking in Uyghur. I began to get worried. What's wrong?
Another driver took a look at my piece of paper. Bla, bla, bla... he said to his friend, and then signaled me to follow him.
"Děng yīxià. Duōshǎo qián?" Having learned by experience, I wanted to make sure in advance how much the fare was.
"Èrshí kuài...bla, bla, bla... wǒ shì gōngzuò...bla, bla, bla..." I only understood that he wanted 20 yuan and couldn't accept my bargain of 10 yuan, because he was working. Of course you are working, I thought. Why would you be here if not for work?
(When I told this story to Mom, she said that maybe he meant that the car was not his. That makes sense.)
Since the other drivers had rejected my little piece of paper, I thought I had no choice. 20 yuan, be it.
The driver didn't take any other passenger along with me. So 20 yuan was for a private ride. It turned out also that the railway station was rather in the outskirts of Kashgar.
I'm always in a thrill whenever I arrive in a new place and drive out from the station or airport. So was it now. The streets were wider than in Aksu, similar to Korla, but as dusty as Aksu. All the way from the railway station to downtown, the desert-atmosphere could be felt. You know, when you drive through a fisherman village in tropical countries, and then see coconut trees behind the houses, you can imagine that the seashore lies behind the houses. So was it here. It was like that desert was the neighborhood's backyard.
As we entered downtown, my driver slowed down. He looked left and right. "There it is." He pointed to a hotel across the street.
I looked at the sign. There was nothing like "Xinde" either in Mandarin or in Latin. There were Arabic characters, of course. I forwarded my little piece of paper again and pointed on the hotel's name. He looked at it and the looked at the hotel with a look that neither insisted he was right nor realized he was wrong. "It's not?" he asked. Suddenly it occurred to me that he couldn't read! Just like my taxi driver in Aksu. Aye!
Same like in Aksu, I called Xinde Business Hotel with my cellphone and then handed it to my driver. At the next few blocks, he pulled over. Yeah! Now that's right! Bla, bla, bla... he said. Understanding a Chinese daily conversation is still a challenge for me. But when it comes from an Uyghur, the challenge becomes greater.
Xinde Business Hotel has been the first hotel in my traveling experience that requires a passport copy, but doesn't have their own copy machine. Thus a staff brought my passport outside to have it copied. I waited and waited. What are they doing with my passport? The staffs spoke no word of English. I only understood from their Mandarin that my passport was being copied next door. I went next door but saw none of one carrying my passport. Five minutes later a hotel staff appeared with several passports in her hand. One of them was mine. Aaarghhh.
After putting my luggage in the room and using the toilet, I was already out again on the street. I had a list of things to do. Let's see.
- Book train ticket.
- Pay Imam for next trip to Karakul.
- Buy AMS medicine.
- City exploration.
- Taking pictures.
- Taking pictures.
- Taking pictures.
This is the road near my hotel. I put off consulting my hotel's staff for a train-ticket-booking office. If they, or I, cannot understand where my passport is being copied, I won't understand whatever the explanation where a the train-ticket-booking office is. I also won't ask for a laundry, because even if they understand me, they would most likely tell me to use their laundry service which is expensive. Hotel's laundry services are always expensive, aren't they?
I walked along the road to find what might look like a laundry or ticket-booking office. None of them did. However, I love this pedestrian path. In my hometown, this would be a luxury if not a dream.
The shop signs reminded me a lot of Brunei, the place I haven't finished writing about and explore.
Until I reached the crossroad, I found no laundry, no ticket-booking office. It was a wide cross road although not as wide as what I saw in Wuhan. Hmmm, let me try the underground bridge. I've met several underground bridges like this in China. But so far, this one was the most confusing for me, because it had several intersections and my sense of direction is close to bad. I wanted to go straight across the street, but I didn't look what the name of the street was. So now, which way goes straight across, diagonally across, across left?? The next time I got in here, I made sure to know the name of the street I was heading to, so I could follow the street sign written on the wall. However, if you are completely illiterate to Chinese characters like me to Arabic characters (They look all the same to me!), you have a problem.
I can't imagine how the Chinese grow old on this land. Cars are not as frequent as in my hometown. Many, many, simply walks, regardless of age. When it comes to crossing the street, one mustn't be too old to be able to half run in order to get to the other side of the street before the next green light. If one cannot run, then one can use the underground bridge. Nevertheless, one must have healthy joints on his knee in order to hold him down and up the stairs. If one has something to carry along with, that will be another challenge. There's no escalator, elevator, let alone a slide for a wheelchair. When it comes to doing business in quotation marks, the requirement gets tougher. One mustn't be too old that his feet, knees, hip, backbone work in good harmony to support him squatting until the business is done. If one has rheumatics, that will be another challenge, in winter -- which is severe.
So? Just enjoy life.
I was like 'wow!' when I saw people sitting on grass by the side of a busy street in a big city like this. In my home city, the grass would be a luxury, but the relaxation would be insane.
Actually what I want to tell about is the men playing chess. Don't you think it's unique? Was that cement block made by purpose for playing chess? How come the size of the mat fits into the size of the cement block?
The Han Chinese obviously has a different game.
After walking along the street from crossroad to crossroad finding no laundry nor ticket-booking office, I hurried back to the hotel. Imam from Xinjiang Travel had text messaged me requiring to meet with his nephew at my hotel for a payment of tomorrow's trip to Karakul Lake and beyond. He also needed a copy of my passport to arrange a permit at the border, he said.
On the way back, I felt like I needed something rather Western and would like to know what fast food in Xinjiang was like. So I stopped by at one. There was long queue and only one counter. The cashier had a typical Middle Eastern look. She spoke Uyghur with Uyghur customers and Chinese with Chinese customers. Oh, how I envy that. She's not Chinese but can speak Chinese so fluently.
This was a temptation I failed to conquer. Yes, it was the color. Only 5 yuan. Not too bad. There were only two left. I use to see people in the train using plastic pouches like this to keep face towel, toothbrush, soap, etc. They used to hang the pouch on the hook on the train's wall after use.
Tudajim, Imam's nephew, had a surprisingly good English. It seemed like ages since I last heard someone speaking good English. For awhile I forgot I was in China.
"Do you need a receipt?" asked Tudajim.
What a receipt. I just had to trust I wasn't being cheated.
"Do you know if there's a laundry somewhere nearby?" I asked.
"Just ask the hotel."
"No, it would be expensive."
"Well, there should be one somewhere here. We'll take a look later."
"Is that alright? Didn't Imam say you must go to the airport?"
"It's alright. I still have time."
"And do you know a train-ticket-booking office somewhere here?"
"There's one at the bus station. It's about two kilometers from here. You can take a taxi."
"Which way from here?"
"You just follow this street to the right. Do you have a map?
"I don't have one of Kashgar in particular."
Tudajim got up and walked to the front desk with my passport in his hand. It was the Chinese who was in charge at time. Tudajim spoke to her in Mandarin. Wow! I was totally impressed. Uyghur, English, Chinese... what language else does this man speak?
"Oh well, I'll just take a picture and see if it's okay," suddenly I heard him talking in English again. Apparently he had asked to copy my passport at the front desk.
"They don't have a copy machine or a scanner. Just now they had to bring my passport outside and it took so long that made me worried," I told him. Curhat.
"It's funny that a hotel like this doesn't have a copy machine," said Tudajim.
Tudajim took a picture of my passport and zoomed on the screen. "It's fine." Then he turned to the front desk staff again. His eyes widen a bit and seemed happy. He lowered his head, looked outside.
"Ah, there! That's the laundry!" Tudajim pointed to a small shop across my hotel. I immediately recognized one of the Chinese characters that meant "to wash". Aye! I had been walking so far, down and up the underground bridge, looking for a laundry, whereas the laundry was just across my hotel. Not across the main street, but across the lane next to my hotel which is at a corner. The laundry was at the other corner of the lane.
Just now while I walked further and further in search for a laundry, I was bewildered. Do I really expect to meet a laundry now? If I do find one here, I would have to walk back to the hotel to get my laundry, walk back here, and the walk back to the hotel. The day after tomorrow I would have to walk here again to get the laundry. It turned out I had worried for nothing.
Tudajim got a map of Kashgar from the front desk staff. He circled Xinde Business Hotel and drew a line towards the bus station. It looked simple. Two kilometers? How far can that be? Let me walk.
Voila! I got it! Peng Li, look! 你看！
While in Korla, Peng Li had strongly misdoubted my train schedules I printed on a piece of paper. She didn't say that to me, but to Peng Lung. Although this ticket wasn't the first ticket in China I had booked on my own, having been looked down by Peng Li, this ticket was the one I was most proud of.
However, I have to admit that if it weren't for Tudajim, I wouldn't know this ticket-booking office either. After all, as my English teacher said, "A man is not of his own feather. For every success we gain, there are others around us who take credit in it. They form each of our feather that make our wings, until we eventually fly."
I continued exploring the city and it's people.
Uyghur ice cream! Good. But I like the one in Turpan, which had a sandy texture, better.
I walked back to my hotel and had dinner at the same fast food restaurant, but different menu. I thought I took a picture of the meal, but can't find it in my memory card. So here's a collage of the street view. The colorful flowers in full bloom was something I would consider also a luxury if not a fantasy, in my home town. The clean and smooth streets was another thing.
Nothing. It's just my surname written there.
One thing left to do: Buying Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) medicine. I saw two drugstores near my hotel. But, what is Acute Mountain Sickness in Chinese? The first time I bought such medicine was in Chengdu, from my hostel, Lazy Bones. All the staffs spoke English which made everything super easy for me but left me stupid. Now that I have to purchase the medicine on my own, I can't do it. Oh, Cory, please come to my rescue, again!
I text-messaged Cory asking him what AMS is in Chinese. Cory replied with a full sentence (using Chinese characters) which I just needed to show to the physician or pharmacist.
At the first drugstore, they had two kinds of medicine, but both were a box of large quantity. Hence, I had to add to Cory's sentence on my cellphone with my own. Luckily I could do it. Aha. I asked for a smaller one. Well, that's easy.
No smaller one, said the pharmacist. And then the rest she said, I did not understand.
I tried the other drugstore. A friendly physician welcomed me. I showed him my cellphone, he read it, looked at me, and paused. Yeah, yeah, I know. You must be wondering, am I a Japanese or Korean or simply an alien.
I think he concluded I was Chinese (but dumb), because he continued speaking in Mandarin to me without slowing down even a bit. Every time I replied (of course in Mandarin), he stared at me. Maybe he got really confused: "You speak Chinese, but why do you have to write on your cellphone?"
Voila again! Thanks to Cory.
This medicine is exactly the same like the one from the first drugstore. 46 yuan. They had no other. It's too much for just one night in Karakul. But, who knows this is a sign that I would be in the majestic of high altitude again, in the near future.
How majestic is majestic? See you in my next post!