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A Disappointment on the Old Road

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Hetian, August 24th 2012

Writing about a journey is like taking the journey itself. In a journey, there are parts that we wish we could skip. So is it when it comes to writing about it. However, if I skip this part, the thread would be broken. This is a story of disappointment.

At the entrance to Taklamakan Desert, I waited. The plan was to do camel trekking and spend the night camping on the desert. That was one of the reasons I thought taking Old Road Tours would be interesting -- in spite of the high cost.

This was the car that had a huge crack on the front right window. Ughhh... why didn't I take a picture of the front part? It could have been a standing proof. At that time I just thought it was too ugly to put into a frame. I smeared myself with thick sunscreen, hoping that the camel won't come before I'm done. When I was done, the camel had not yet come. I was ready to load down my backpack. So I continued waiting.

Like the ones above, I tinted this on purpose. This is a tone of disappointment. Half an hour went by. I looked into the sky. It was getting dark but also cloudy. The sunshine was covered beneath. The desert scene shots which I had imagined I could make, vanished away, frame by frame. Then they were replaced by scenes of the day. Mostly with Abdul the Tour Guide as main character. In one scene, Abdul the Tour Guide stood near the door to the carpet workshop.

"Don't you speak to me!" I could hear him again. That was when I tried to explain that when I asked how old girls there start to weave a carpet, I didn't mean that the girls are old.

And then another scene flashed in. That was at the jade factory. Abdul the Tour Guide looked terribly fearsome when he said, "How would I know for sure?! This is just an old thing!" I almost thought he was paying me to come along with him.

When I complained to Abdul Wahab through mobile text message about the guide and said that it's almost like I was going with just a driver, Abdul Wahab replied that for safety sake it's better to have a guide. Oh, safety!? On the contrary, I felt very much insecure. I was very much more secure during the previous trips when I was just with a driver. Three is not always better than two, and neither two is always better than one. It all depends on who the other one is.

Suddenly I shuddered. What if he, Abdul the Tour Guide, turns fierce again tonight? He seems alright now, though. I would be alone in the middle of the desert darkness. What if...?? Oh, no!

I texted Abdul Wahab. I didn't tell him my fear. I told him that it was getting dark and I didn't see any point of taking pictures in the dark. I required to end the tour, bring me back to downtown, find me a hotel, and return to me 2000 yuan.

Soon after Abdul the Tour Guide's phone rang. I reckoned it must be Abdul Wahab. Correct. When Abdul the Tour Guide hung up, he asked me to wait for another 10 minutes. If the camel man still doesn't show up, he would return to me 2000 yuan and bring me back to downtown. But he also asked to continue the tour the next day.

This time I prayed that the camel man wouldn't come. Being alone in a hotel's room just looked far safer than together with this man in the middle of nowhere. The camel didn't come.

Actually I so wanted to end everything with Old Road Tours. I wanted to start the next day in Hetian, afresh. I thought I would call Cory, hire a car + driver, and continue my exploration on Hetian on my own, like I had done many times before. Nevertheless, I had been too naif. I accepted Abdul Wahab's apology as sincere. I thought it would be bad not to give someone another chance. Moreover, my heart broke when I saw how much meat, vegetable, and fruit, Abdul the Tour Guide had bought for our meal on the desert. I felt so sorry for that.

"Please let me know if there's anything I can do for you," said Abdul Wahab for the second or even third time.

"Please tell Abdul the Tour Guide to find out about the rose winery so tomorrow he would have something to share with me."

Abdul Wahab agreed.

  • ****

My room in the hotel chosen for me was smaller than the one I had booked for myself the previous night, and yet 12 yuan more expensive. (That's after I bargained with Abudl the Tour Guide.) The room light was dim. But the WiFi was working fine.

Originally I booked 2 nights with Jinsanjiao Hotel. But when I decided to join Old Road Tours, I cancelled one night. If only I hadn't cancelled it...ah.

Maybe this hotel is more expensive, because the location is more strategic. Contrary to the previous night, the darker day turned, the livelier the streets became. Fascinating views lined along the street. I forgot about my disappointment.

Do you remember the ice cream vendor I told you about this morning? Similar to that, now, was a grape juice vendor. He had a microphone attached to his mouth. While he delivered cup by cup to his coming customers, he delivered his speech. People surrounded his vending cart, drinking, while listening to his speech. I bought one cup, and I was the only female.

Several meters away, a watermelon vendor was doing the same. Hmmm, it looks like this way of selling is customary in Hetian. Very, very interesting.

Not far from the watermelon vendor was an egg vendor. I reckon it must be duck egg, because the shell looked bluish. This vendor didn't make any speech. Guests didn't stand but sat on a long wooden bench surrounding the cart. Most of the cart was filled with hot charcoal. Guests bury their egg in the charcoal, pick it up, break the shell, and eat the egg with a spoon. My mouth watered. I had zero confidence to sit among the men, being a rose among the thorns while enjoying egg meal together.

I felt relieved when I saw two ladies at a noodle vendor. I kind felt like I was the only female wandering the street at night. Well, the night looks so young here. Why should I cram myself in a dim room?

If you are a man, a street food lover, and a street photographer, believe me, this is, your paradise. Right here.

  • ****

There were two mini markets near my hotel. One was much bigger than the other. I went inside and found...
this!! Vinacafe, Vietnam coffee!! When I saw one sachet at the street market this morning, I thought it was a coincidence. No, no! It wasn't!

See? They have many!

A salesgirl came to my side. She said nothing. But I could feel curiosity in the air. Before I started taking pictures, I had been roaming the mart for quite awhile and was left completely to myself. Aha. Vietnam coffee, Vietnam coffee!! I bought my favorite cappuccino. Ooops, I forgot to take the picture.

I still couldn't find the Chinese Nescafe I bought in Wuhan. Anyhow, these look interesting. Who knows Crown is better than Nescafe. I bought 2 of each type. My verdict? Nescafe rules. But Vietnam coffee is number one.

Posted by automidori 18:59 Archived in China Tagged vietnam china coffee xinjiang taklamakan_desert hetian old_road_tours abdul_wahab_tours

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