Back to China

Coming back to China was a nice reunion with some friends from our previous visit last year. Our plan is to go to Kyrgyzstan via the Silk Road route but first we need our Kyrgyz visa, so hence the reason for being in Beijing.

The road that we propose to take will take us through mountain passes, deserts, and some obscure border crossings. Getting the visa was easy, although finding the Kyrgyz embassy was another matter but due to some helpful Chinese hotel staff and Sabeen's fast thinking got on the right path. Luckily we didn't need a Letter of Invitation (LOI) and instead just wrote ours in front of the staff person and were told to come in a few days to pick up our visa.  The route that we have laid out is the following:

Beijing to Lanzhou by train = 17 hours
Lanzhou to Urumqi by train = 29 hours
Urumqi to Kashgar = 24 hours (sleeper bus)
Kashgar to Osh = 24 hours (sleeper bus)

The first part of the journey was comfortable but the second part, we could only get a standing ticket and even the train guard thought we were crazy. We did however have a seat if you can call sharing a sleeping bunk with a family of two and one very loud crying kid.  The train was crowded, full of smoking Chinese, and crying babies but despite it, we had a great time.  Sabeen even befriended a little Chinese girl, who called her "Gigi", meaning big sister. After a short stay in snowy Urumqi to rest, it was off to Kashgar.

The highlights of Kashgar were the old mud brick homes and the Sunday livestock market with more animals than people, consisting of sheep, donkeys, cows, goats, horses, and a lone camel. With visas securely in hand, we left Kashgar by another sleeper bus (really not enjoyable) because the beds were dirty, the bus made a lot of stops for the driver to smoke and eat, and us being hungry because we didn't pack enough food. 

We left for the city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan by way of the Irkesham Pass, one of the highest roads in the world with many peaks over 4,000 meters.  We drove past stunning mountain scenery following the path of the Silk Road looking at grazing horses and desert scenery. 

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