Saturday, Sep 4 — Flying
SFO I board United Airlines flight 927 and we take off from SFO San Francisco at 10:35pm. We arrive to LAX Los Angeles at 11:55pm. What a day!
Sunday, Sep 5 — Flying
LAX I board Air China flight 984; the plane is the rare Boeing 747-400M Combi variety, with a tail number of B-2469. We take off at 1:40am on a smooth flight. I have the entire three-seat window row to myself and am able to sleep much of the flight. We land at PEK Beijing at 5:20am on the Se 6, having crossed the international dateline.
Monday, Sep 6 — Ürümqi
Beijing After clearing immigration and customs, I do a quick layover and transfer to to Air China flight 1293 on a Boeing 737-800 with the tail number B-5341. We take off at 7:40 am. After four hours flying, and a simple meal of tea and chocolate biscuits, we land in URC Ürümqi Diwopu International Airport at 11:45am (Beijing time) but it really is more like 8:45am. It was a long trip. I grab all my gear, somehow manage to find a taxi, and head over to the Xinjiang Mai Tian International Youth Hostel. I check into a single room, drop my gear, take a quick shower, ponder sleep, but instead decide to head out on the town for late morning walk.
Wednesday, Sep 8 — Kashgar
I head to URC Airport and board China Southern flight CZ6886 on Boeing 757. We take off at 2:10pm, fly for an hour, and land at KHG Kashgar Airport around 3:45pm (Beijing time). I grab a taxi and head to the Qini Bagh hotel, a rather massive complex. The reception is quite rude and for a moment I think they won’t honor my ticket, but eventually I am placed in a room up a few floors. The are many Han Chinese staying at this hotel, but the don’t seem like tourists, rather just living in the hotel full time. I figure they must be some type of reserve corps just waiting in case tension escalates in the region, as the end of Ramadan and Eid are just a day away. Luckily it is very calm while I am here. My Tripadvisor review: This aged place really isn't all that. It does have a decent location, but they made me re-check in everyday. The staff was pushy and really didn’t care. I learned that either some army men, or long-term Chinese informants where staying here because whole floors where filled with men in rooms that were packed with Chinese packaged foods, bikes, etc. Stay at the Tarim instead because it's newer, cheaper, higher rated (in terms of Chinese stars) and they are much nicer. Have fun in Kashgar, it's a trippy place for sure!
In the afternoon I walk around town and meet some Canadian Uyghurs who are also in town visiting. They get me to try some street Uyghur ice cream, locally called maruxna. The color is yellow and the flavor is a bit like sweetened buttermilk with some grit. Sadly, some hours later my stomach disagrees with me and spend some time in toilet. Nonetheless, it was worth the experience.
Thursday, Sep 9 — Kashgar
Walk around the old town, visit Tomb of Apak Hoja at dusk. Fubar hotel in the evening. Met the wild Brit with the mustache who had just come from Tajikistan. He reckoned I do the Southern silk route. The only other two fellows at the bar worked there and continuously played pool and wore down the green on the pool table from extensive use.
Interestingly, everyone here seems to know Seamus. I name-dropped him a few times and everyone knows him.
Friday, Sep 10 — Kashgar
Prayers during Eid ul-Fitrn, Id Kah Mosque, tour the food market, eat some incredible polo. In the afternoon I take an epic walk around town and to some historic parts of town
Quick note about the food they eat here. (I’ve seen a lot of weird foods, but this tops it.) The food here is really odd, for example, they eat boiled goat heads to the bone. I was two feet from a local lady peeling the check skin off the goat skull and stuffing it in her mouth with all the goop, connective tissue, everything but the bone. She then went for the ear sockets, pushing out the eye. Then she dove into the tongue and the ligament around the tongue, everything. Of course the brain was already eaten (she did the easiest stuff first.) She was shoving bits and pieces into her husbands mouth. A baby is asleep on her lap. Poor kid.
Next to her, many locals were eating sheep lung. The lung was puffed up and filled with dough and egg, and surrounding the lungs were intestines stuffed with rice and minced meat; probably the most normal food around. And the famed Uyghur kebabs, much to my dismay, consisted only of liver and intestine; I couldn't find a normal meat kebab for the life of me, except in the restaurants. This led me to understand that Uyghur cuisine across China was Sinicized, tailored to suit the milder palates of the majority, a paradox given the wide-ranging culinary adventurousness of the Chinese.
Saturday, Sep 11 — Kashgar
Day tour of the Karakoram Highway
Sunday, Sep 12 — Kashgar
I got kicked out of the hotel today for no reason. I tried to stay at the Home Inns, but they would not allow foreigners to stay there. I complained to the hotel, so the found me a room at the Barony Tarim Petroleum Hotel, which included breakfast. Ironically, this room was cheaper and much nice than the hotel I stayed in the last few nights, with nice staff as well. After checking in, I visited the famous livestock market. Have a nice tea in the afternoon at the cafe overlooking the square and Id Kah Mosque.
Monday, Sep 13 — Turpan
I head to KHG Kashgar Airport and board Hainan Airlines flight HU7748, seat 1F. Our Boeing 737-800, tail number B-5483 takes off at 11:00am. The domestic first class service is wonderful and the flight attendant even gives me a green tea tasting. I don’t want the flight to end, but we still land and hour later at URC Ürümqi Diwopu International Airport. I reluctantly leave the plane, grab my bags, find a taxi and head over to the bus station to find transport to fabled Turpan. I find some random top-end dive hotel near the bus station, complete with fake, nice furniture, etc... 90rmb a night. What a deal! It’s the grape harvest in Turpan now (best grapes in China) so it should be interesting. Being an Islamic place, the don’t make wine, but I’m sure that will change soon. In the afternoon I tour Emin Minaret.
Tuesday, Sep 14 — Sleeper bus
Visit Grape Valley, Tuyoq Mosque, the Flaming Mountains (Gaochang Mountains), Jiaohe Ruins. In the evening I board the sleeper bus.
Wednesday, Sep 15 — Dunhuang
We are stuck all day in traffic, but finally arrive to Dunhuang at 6:00pm. I find a nice hotel, opt for a high floor with a view, and find that there is not enough water pressure so I have no shower, after the long bus ride. Ugh. A yelling match ensues with the hotel staff.
Thursday, Sep 16 — Dunhuang
I tour the Mogao Caves; no photos allowed. Frustrated.
Friday, Sep 17 — Jiayuguan
I tour the famous dunes in the morning as well and climb Mingsha Shan sand dune. Later I walk in the sand to Crescent Lake, aka Yuèyá Quán 月牙泉. In the afternoon I head to the Dūnhuáng train station and grab a hard-seat train to Jiāyùguān. We arrive early evening.
Saturday, Sep 18 — Jiayuguan
What a hole! Cool China, circa 1990s complete with everyone staring, spitting, white tiles, etc. I tour Jiāyùguān fort, the restored gate of the Ming Great Wall, the red clay Great Wall. In the evening I have a nice noodle bowl at the night market.
Sunday, Sep 19 — Lanzhou
I somehow get to Lanzhou, don’t really remember how, but I book on CTRIP for a room at the the Legend Hotel, Deluxe Standard Room, floor 26 with city view, CNY 450
Monday, Sep 20 — Night Train
I buy a hard-sleeper, middle berth scalper ticket for the all night train from Lanzhou to Chongqing
Tuesday, Sep 21 — Chongqing
Zhou Zhou meets me at the train station and I celebrate Mid-Autumn festival with her family. We tour Chongqing and eat some great food! Chongqing is sort of a mix between New York, Vancouver and Hong Kong, if that makes any sense. Tons and tons of tall buildings everywhere. We have great lunch. In the afternoon, we chill in the high-rise condo and eat mooncakes in honor of the Mid-Autumn festival. In the evening Zhou Zhou’s parents drive me around view points of Chongqing. Their driving skills are superb in dealing with the massive traffic. This was the particular evening of the massive left turn, where the moment the light changes green, and row of three cars wide guns it altogether for a left turn, cutting off the oncoming traffic. I’ve never seen anything like it since.
Wednesday, Sep 22 — Chongqing
Today is the Moon Festival / Mid-Autumn. We tour around town today and visit the Luóhàn Temple and other sites. For dinner we have a wonderful group hot pot with lotus, wood ear mushrooms, beef balls, bamboo, seaweed, mushrooms, lamb, beef, bitter melon and an assortment of greens. The chaps at the table to the right of us order an entire crate of beer and just sit there drinking it. I don’t know how the three of them aren’t falling over drunk, but they maintain their composure and keep on drinking.
Wednesday, Sep 23 — Shanghai
I get a ride to the airport CKG Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport and board Sichuan Airlines flight 3U8973. Our Airbus A321 takes off at 2:30pm and after a two hour flight we land in PVG Shanghai Pudong International Airport. I follow Jeremy’s instructions on how to get to his place: So take the subway to my home, but first you will take the Maglev to the last stop, or just fuck it and take a taxi from that last Maglev stop OK? Subway will confuse the fuck out of you. There are like 13 lines now. Take Maglev to the last stop then take a taxi to Wu3 ning2 lu4 and dong1 xin1 lu4 东新路88弄35号 靠近武宁路. Can you have the girl you are staying with write this down? Have her write that "CLEARLY" on a piece of paper to show the taxi driver. My guess is 85 RMB from the Maglev stop. The subway will be too much of a mess. Just pay the taxi fee once you get here and I can show you the subway stop and how to use it, but I say make sure she writes CLEARLY because Chinese have a tendency to write directions you need too quickly and the cab driver may barely be able to read it.
Thursday, Sep 24 — Shanghai
Tour around Shanghai. In the neighborhood I find what becomes my favorite spot. Ever half hour of so a queue forms for a chef who releases a fresh batch of steaming and crispy shengjian bao 生煎包。 You buy about five or ten for a few renminbi. The chef wraps the dumplings in cone made of newspaper and off you go, enjoying the best dumplings on earth. I have tried and tried and tried again to find these made half as good anywhere else in the world and have never succeeded. You have to be in Shanghai to have these, and they have to be made fresh and served where there is demand enough for the batch to run out only moments after it is made. If these sit around for more than five minutes, then forget it.
Friday, Sep 25 — Shanghai
Sunday, Sep 26 — Shanghai
Today I take an epic city hike, walking all the way from Jeremy’s place (passed the train station) down to People’s Park, down Nanjing Lu (the main neon shopping area), to the Bund, up the Bund, north of the Bund to the Subway and back home.
Monday, Sep 27 — Shanghai
We visit the Shanghai Expo 2010. It rains a bit which keeps the crowds down. People are trying to queue to buy tickets, but there is a queue police apprehending the queue violators; thank goodness for progress!
Tuesday, Sep 28 — Shanghai
Wednesday, Sep 29 — Shanghai
Walk around town with Luke. We eat rou jia mo 肉夹馍 at a Shaanxi-style restaurant in the neighborhood. I also bargain for a nice Longines watch on the street and am complimented for my bargaining acumen by the kind lady selling the watches.
Thursday, Sep 30 — Shanghai
Shanghai Expo with Luke, Jeremy, Seamus. We hit up some of the bars, one in Malta, one in Lithuania, one in Angola. We also visit many pavilions including the Montenegro Pavilion where the attendants know Tijo. Drink in the evening at the cool mixology bars
Friday, October 1 — Shanghai
Tour around town, evening at the Sichuan restaurant, evening walk on the Bund
Saturday, October 2 — Flight to Bangkok
I go to PVG Shanghai Pudong International Airport and board SriLankan Airlines flight UL887. Our Airbus A330-200 takes off at 2:15pm and after a four hour flight we land at BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport.