The Wild, Wild West

From the 26th of May until the 3rd of June, I have been traveling with friends in Xinjiang. China’s northwest is dominated by Xinjiang, excuse me for the informality, by the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Xinjiang is a majority minority district. According to the 2000 census, 59.4% of Xinjiang’s 18.5 million people are non-Han. Han have been moving to Xinjiang in droves in response to subsidies offered by the central government, most conspicuously involving the Bing Tuan or the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, is majority Han. It feels, looks, and smells like a mid-tier Chinese city. It’s like Jinan or Xi’an. Well, it’s Xi’an with the terra cotta soldiers replaced by a neighborhood or two of Uighurs.

Our basic itinerary looked like this:

May 26
Fly to Urumqi from Beijing (a 3.5-4 hour flight)
Spend 6 hours in Urumqi
Fly to Kashgar late that night

May 27
Explore Kashgar’s Sunday Bazaar

May 28
Drive south on the Karakoram Highway to Karakul Lake in the shadow of Mount Muztagata
Continue south to Taxkorgan

May 29
Travel to the China-Pakistan border at the Khunjerab Pass
Return to Kashgar

May 30
Enjoy Kashgar
Return to Urumqi (10pm flight – not at 8pm as we thought)

May 31-June 2
Urumqi

June 3
Return to Beijing

For Jess and I who were coming from much time in Beijing, Urumqi was too similar to ‘the China we know’ to be much of an adventure. The city and natural wonders of Kashgaria, on the other hand, were awe-inspiring.

Details and insights to come.

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