Disney English, and pretty much every school in China is off for the festivities of China's National Day, equivalent to our 4th of July. Well…More along the lines of the anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, only moreso. October 1st, 1949, Chairman Mao pronounced the founding of the People's Republic of China, heralding the final defeat of the Chinese Nationalist Party with Chiang-Kai Shek and associates fleeing to Taiwan for good. With Japan and meddling European powers out of the way four years earlier at the end of World War II, China was able to "settle" it's internal strife (note the quotation marks, please..) and finally begin to regenerate and become a nation of consequence in the world once again.
So, where to go? On the one hand, I want to stay in China. My RMB will go plenty far here, and domestic flights aren't overly expensive. My plan has been Xinjiang Province for quite some time (since I've been in China), as it's about as not-China as you can get without going to Tibet, and frankly I just don't feel up to dealing with all that red tape bureauocracy. To say nothing of the expense of the ordeal, or the fact that you have to travel with pre-approved agencies, not simply backpack it. Read: expense. On a minorly hilarious note, Ajahn Chandako, abbot of Vimutti Buddhist Monastery….Wait, let me try again. 6'4" white as snow Ajahn Chandako, then a 20-something John Reynolds, snuck into Tibet in the 70's with a forged visa that he handwrote himself and had a friend translate into Chinese. Calling himself a botany student, and having official permission to collect rare herbs. He made it all the way to Lhasa from Guangzhou on that via train and BIKE and back again. All those kids who think being counter-establishment means buying a T-shirt with some explicit band lyrics and dying your hair? Try forging a government document and sneaking into a militarily occupied territory within a foreign country whose language you don't speak with it. That's about as counter-establishment as you can get…And utterly impossible in this day and age. But then, one might have said that it was impossibe then, too…
Ah, but I digress. Xinjiang is so tempting and fulfills all my wishes for culture, history, some divergence from China, and pricing. I'm a little miffed that the ticket price DOUBLES for the National Day week, as I could go to Japan or Indonesia for the price I'd have to pay, but half that any other week, but 3,500 RMB is not THAT bad. Also, it's pretty much on the opposite side of China, which makes for a long-ass flight (China is more or less the same width as the United States, so I'd be approximately in Central North Carolina, looking to fly to the Idaho-Nevada Border). But it's Turkic-Muslim culture really intrigues me, as does its beautiful scenery. Three major mountain ranges with a view of at least one framing most of the cities in Xinjiang…The Takalaman, the world's most inhospitable desert. Which, by the way, depending on the language (some fusion of Uighur and Arabic) means Place of Death/Abandon/No Return.
Worth a visit, I'd say!
Also, I kinda want to ride a camel. Just to say I've done it. And buy some Turkic clothing! And try Xinjiang grapes and wine and buy a handmade knife and a handwoven carpet and visit some mosques and have beer with a Uighur or sleep in a Kyrgz yurt and see the stars again and oooh, I really want to see Xinjiang! But its so damn huge I have to limit my search.
I really want to see Kashgar AND Hotan but I think I'll have to settle for Kashgar. Hotan is just too far and it would cost a pretty penny and a lot of time to make it happen. Hotan is 10 hours by bus and the airport only flies to Urumqi. So I'd fly from Shanghai, Northeast to Kashgar…Bus east to Hotan, then either bus for ANOTHER 10 hours back to Kashgar (also known as Kashi) or fly domestic to Urumqi to return to Shanghai. Looking into it, its only 330RMB from Hotan to Urumqi (also known as Wulumuqi, apparently..Makes arranging flights mildly worrying). Might work. I really REALLY want to see the Hotan Cultural Museum. I first read an accounting of it in "Shadows of the Silk Road." There are mummies from the Tarim basin there, with Indo-European features and DNA, like red hair and possibly blue eyes, over 1,500 years old. Naturally, Beijing assures us it's proof of the CHINESE cultural heritage of the Uighur people; the book above mentions there's a sign at the exhibit that pretty much says the exact opposite of what an Indo-European mummy would indicate about Xinjiang and the Uighurs, but…Politics remain politics. =.=