11.08.2012 - 02.09.2012
Tashkorgan, August 21st 2012
My driver dropped my tour guide off here. According to my understanding, he had some arrangement to do regarding a guest who had trouble crossing from Pakistan into China. I don't really understand where this was. Is this the office border between China and Pakistan? I thought it was. But when I checked up in the dictionary the meaning of the words written on this building, I became uncertain. I couldn't get the meaning of the second and third character. Whatsoever, unlike the Ghez Checkpoint (I haven't told you about that yet), this office border was eerily quiet. No busy crowd, no queue, no vendors, no soldiers...which on the contrary made me feel that at every inch behind the gate wall, a soldier was kneeling with a gun ready in hand, that once I step out of the car, faces would emerge from behind the gate. I didn't dare to roll down my car window even a bit.
Look at the watchtower! How daunting! Standing in the middle of nowhere facing to all directions of the desert. Who are they behind those window glasses? Once I roll down this window while pointing my camera out, a rubber bullet will flash into my forehead, and then soldiers will emerge from behind the gate, march to my car, drag my body, and throw me into the desert from that tower. Eeewww... I can imagine that...
This is just another blurry view, of a watchtower in the middle of a desert.
Nevertheless, the other side of this daunting building was balanced with summer beauty: a vast bed of flowers. Let me see, how many borderlands have I crossed? Vietnam - China, Singapore - Malaysia, Malaysia - Thailand, Vietnam - Cambodia, Cambodia - Thailand, and the Ghez Checkpoint if that can be counted as China - Tajikistan, none of them was surrounded with beautiful nature like this.
At this point, I hadn't been to Silk Road Castle Square yet. I was fascinated when I saw women wearing scarfs but with round shapes on their heads, because I had never seen women wearing scarfs in that style.
After I finished with Silk Road Castle Square, my driver said, "Let me take you to the market. You can take pictures there."
It was like looking at another side of a coin here.
Here's where I met the gentleman who smiled at me, errr at my camera.
I discovered that the most common item in this market is wool thread. Most of them were the thick ones and in many bright colors.
The fondness of wool items was confirmed by a lady knitting in this public area. Well, I just can't imagine knitting like her in the middle of a market in my hometown. Too bad, I couldn't get a shot of this lady knitting. As I pointed my camera, this guy in the cart pulled over, and exchanged conversations with the two ladies. I even had the feeling he noticed my camera. Thus, I slowly walked away.
Another common item in this market were coats and boots. The temptation to buy a new coat here was close. Window shopping in this area, I hardly could believe it was summer still. At first I thought they might be 'for sale' stuffs. But no label or sign that suggested so were seen on the coats and boots. The way they were displayed in the shop also didn't suggest 'for sale'. Eeewww... in this town where the average altitude is to be said 4000 meters, how cold is cold, in summer?
This is the main road -- seems so. It's very different from the streets behind the market just now. I saw a hostel nearby, and a restaurant with English menu. Seriously, I'm thinking of staying overnight in Tashkorgan, one day. There's something about Tashkorgan, which I can't describe.
My tour guide, in that red jacket, was back. He asked me why I didn't take a picture of the eagle statue. It sounded more like an order. He explained that legend has it, one day an eagle brought food between its beak for their Tajik ancestor during severe starvation. Thus, their ancestor survived. Since then an eagle was honored highly.
I looked up at the eagle statue and got a creepy feeling. However, here's a photo from Wikipedia, if you'd like to get a closer look on the icon of Tashkorgan.
From this guide I learned about the believes of the Uyghur people. I learned why there were so few mosques in Xinjiang in spite of the majority being Moslem and that the Islam branch which Uyghur people believe in is different than the Islam branch of the Tajiks. I also learned that Uyghur people speak Uyghur but write in Arabic.
"But then being in China, you also have to speak Mandarin??" I asked. This was just beyond my comprehension. How thankful I am not to be born in Xinjiang. Can you imagine speaking in one language, writing in another, while the official language is totally a different language, and let alone the characters?? What if you are born in Xinjiang with a dumb right brain?
Since then, my admiration increased for sales girls, waiters, bellboys, street vendors, who obviously are Uyghur and yet served their customers in fluent Mandarin. When I placed an order in a fast food restaurant and stood in front of the cashier, I felt like I was standing in front of a professor. I mean it! Is it that simple to master Mandarin?
Tashkorgan, I'm enchanted by you.