Train T197 Depart Lanzhou 11:00. Arrive Urumqi 07:35 (actual arriving 9:30 – 2 hours late! Total 22.5 hours). Distance: 1892km
Hard sleeper bottom 390 RMB
Hard sleeper upper 365 RMB
The second train. Before we come to China, we had in mind that it’s too much to ride 2 long journey trains in a row for 3 days.. I thought we would suffer bored and got nothing to do. I even wanted to bring 3 books to read in train, plus LOMA notes that I was going to take exam in May. But we have come to rather enjoy the train ride (of course, there’s boring times too) and it does feel like faster than we thought. I am not even reading books (except checking Lonely Planet PDF chapter). We’re almost there! :) I mean, it’s survivable.
We took rather long time to decide to leave our luggage at the railway luggage center. As we only have less than 2 hours to do some walks nearby and paying 20yuan for each bag sounds so expensive. Az wants to carry his bag while I dont find it a good idea to keep these huge luggage on our backs for 2 hours. Anyhow, when thinking, we find ourselves crossing the street already. So yes, we’ll carry the luggage for one hour.
Many years ago, I used to whine over USM Engineering Campus being so remote from things and places I can call a habitat. I would always refer Nibong Tebal as a deserted place. I know that was only me being so emotionally unadventurous. Until I really came to stay for an isolated place you can’t even see people around. Like, VERY isolated. And I’ve know got a new picture to define that.
Karakul Lake, located 5 hours south of Kashgar by bus. In reality, it can hardly be recognized as a place mentioned in Lonely Planet for its inhabitant, empty look. Not even any signboard saying the name. When we got down from the bus (only Az and I!) in the middle of the mountains, the first in my mind was, “OMG, this. Place. Is. So. EMPTY!” Although, I had never expected a busy supermarket here either. But, we had never imagined that only two of us would come to this place at this time.
Maybe it was not yet the season. Middle of April. And yes, it’s cold. But the amazing thing was, you have all the lake and mountains for yourself. This is the view we had in our left.
Nobody, really. I had thought that Kyrgyz locals would set up their yurts around the lake, but that’s in summer. They actually live in a village 10 minutes by bike from here (so does our yurt owner). The Muztagh Ata mountain, sitting peacefully at our right.
And at the back, the one and only yurt at this point of time. Where we spent a freezing night with a traditional burner that failed around 3am >.< and far at the corner.. yes, you spot it right.. is the outdoor toilet. A literally open toilet, the only toilet I have used where you can see the most beautiful views (the first 2 pictures) while doing the business.
Depart Chengdu 12:05, Arrive Lanzhou 09:15. Duration: 21 hr 10min. Distance: 1172km
Hard sleeper upper 256 RMB
Hard sleeper bottom 274 RMB
Our very first China train. 1 of 4. First impression of the hard sleeper class: not as hard as they’re called. We got one upper berth and one lower berth, and in different compartment. The arrangement is done automatically by the online system and as Derek says, we can find possibility to ask for changing berth with anyone who dont mind. Communication is hard being the only foreigners on board and nobody can speak English, but sign and body language makes everything possible here. Within a few hours, we managed to negotiate with a man to switch berth so Az and I could at least be in the same compartment and row. One of us gets the upper ticket and another gets the lower berth ticket. It’s okay since we can both sit together in lower berth during the day, and for sleep at night, Az would climb up to sleep at upper berth.
Rewind to 24 hour earlier: Az just arrived in KL from KB at midnight and I have been mad at him since 2 days for cancelling flight ticket I had booked for him to come back 2 days earlier (for packing!). Now we barely have half day to pack for our China trip. I mean, I havent started yet! (My policy is I never do the packing alone while he’s away. No way!). But we end up too tired and sleepy to start packing at 1am (after work somemore) and decided to get up early morning to get started. It’s already insane to do last minute packing when you’re heading for 18 days trip overseas and you have to leave the house before 2pm to catch airport bus, still, we managed to wake up late that morning and hence a rush packing (ugh!). With a quick stop at McDonalds for brunch, 1 hour+ bus to airport, we almost had to kiss our trip goodbye when the luggage check-in counter was nearly closing! We were the last! I was gonna have a heart attack! End of rant.
Now. We arrived around 11pm in Chengdu Airport, and the moment we got worried that we couldnt get through Derek’s phone when using mobile phone belongs to a girl in the same flight, Derek was right at the arrival hall, smiling and waving at us. (Read here how we get to know Derek from CS). We immediately followed him to his car, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly a BMW 3-series, and had a ride directly to his house. And the first thing we noticed when we landed in China other than Chengdu being so cold (brr!!), all the signboards and building signage are in Chinese and we hardly see anything English!