Hajj Revisited: 11 Zulhijjah in Masjid al-Haram

After completing first Jamrat-stoning yesterday hence allowed to remove ihram garments and wear usual clothings, I was supposed to do the next step, Tawaf Ifada, which is circling the Kaabah in the Masjid al-Haram. However, I happened to fall into the groups not allowed to perform Tawaf, prayers and enter the mosque (menstruating women, for example) so I have to wait until later. In the meantime, while waiting for my parents to do their Tawaf, I kill the time by watching people outside. There’s nothing like being lost in (hundreds of) thousands people here, in the mosque yard. And I just have to go up the neighboring building (inside D-Saji restaurant to be precise – was the only Malaysian restaurant here) to watch the entire scene from above! And it’s the most appropriate time to film the prayer time outside the mosque. When the yard is full, imagine how is it like inside!

Despite the shaky filming, my camcorder’s zoom capacity is rather amusing :)

Karakul Lake – Part 1

How to get there: Take bus from South Bus Station in Kashgar, 36 yuan. Bus departs 8am Beijing time (10am local time, double check with ticket counter person). Buying ticket one day in advance is advisable. Bus takes around 4 hours to reach the lake, including a stop for breakfast in the middle for half an hour.

We woke up in the morning to the biggest shock that we didnt charge all our devices (camera, camcorder, phone) last night, thanks to full day walking around Kashgar until late plus eating like mad at the night market before went to shop for some bowl instant noodle for tomorrow, and returned to hostel totally flat. Now all we can do is to wish there’s some village in the mountains where power sockets are available, although it’s hard to think the possibility.

We have to check-out from hostel since we’re planning to overnight in the lake, and thankfully the hostel manager is nice enough to let us leave our big luggage in the management office while we’re away. We dont bring any stuff other than (wearing) extra layers of clothings, gadgets and chargers, instant noodle, some Milo and Nescafe, and tripod.

We run quickly to the main road and catch a town bus for Southern Bus Station (luckily we already learned the route yesterday) and it doesnt take us long to reach the station on time, and we’re taken to a mini bus which is going to Tashkurgan. Here we are, to our ultimate destination! :) The bus leaves a little after 8am, and it’s almost full. After like half an hour when we’re somewhere outside the city, the bus stops to fetch a few more people, and now it’s full. Those people do not look like they’re going to the lake, and I guess they’re possibly heading to Tashkurgan.

We’re stopped after 1 hour at a small restaurant by the roadside for breakfast. We share a plate of polo rice and some manta (steamed bun). The stop is for around 30minutes so it’s an appropriate chance to find a restroom. While I am not sure how and whom to ask, I randomly approach one of the bus passengers, and she’s a well dressed lady. She doesnt know “toilet”, or “bathroom”, or “restroom”.. and I instantly remember universal sign “WC” (at least in China), and gotcha, she then walks us to the back of the restaurant around 100 meters, and there you go, the toilet!

We’re amazed to have finally come across this type of toilet :D It reminds me alot to the toilet one in the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire, where it’s practically a hole and you can directly see the entire view of poops underneath. And Az has to take a photo of it!

Continue the ride, the bus stops to get some fuel, and you can notice the fuel price and somehow compare the fuel price back home. Sitting next to us are some curious Uyghur men who look like “they want to talk to us but dont know what language to use”. Body language works, though, and I somehow manage to let them know we’re going to Karakul Lake by showing the bus tickets.

A few hours gone, and the view start turning into a deserted mountains with no houses and trees in sight. Attempted to take more photos but have to save the (50%!) battery for the real destination. There’s a few small lakes we pass by and the more we anticipate to see the majestic Karakul Lake for real. And suddenly the bus stopped and the driver shouts to us, “Karakul! Karakul!” and in the midst of surprise, we get down the bus to the middle of nowhere. And even more surprising, the bus drops only US there, and nobody else!

Suddenly some five men in motorbikes approach us, they seem to be owners of yurts and houses nearby and asking if we need yurt, each of them busy making their offers, “50 yuan only, with 3 lunch”.. what, 3 lunch.?? Okay, I think he meant 3 meals. And another, “Come to house, yurt very cold! House not cold”.. It’s so much a tense of offering and bargaining for us being their only targets for that day. To be fair, Az asks if we can go to see the house and yurt first, and we’ll decide later. So Az jumps on the yurt owner’s bike, while I am on the house owner’s bike, along with 4 other their friends we’re convoying along the quiet road to see the house first, then then back to the lake to see the yurt. And the wind is so cold that I have to cover my face altogether!

We decided to choose the yurt over the brick house, being the house located a little farther from the lake. Although we have to be prepared when the house owner warns that it will be colder at night when staying in yurt. We pay 100 yuan for two persons staying 1 night, and it’s understood that it includes meals. The yurt owner is a Kyrgyz, who has a weird name too difficult to pronouce, we end up calling him “Mr Same Price” for some funny reason. He says that there’s a German lady who arrived earlier from Tashkurgan to stay here too, so it’s quite a relief that we’ll have a companion. But to our disappointment, he says there’s no power socket in the yurt, and no place to charge our camera in the village, although we silently wonder how he manages to own a mobile phone. Mr Same Price then goes back to his house (located in a village 10 minutes away) leaving us alone in this empty place.

After securing our luggage inside the yurt, we walk to the lake, and this is the view of the yurt from the lake! And see the outdoor toilet far to the left? It’s an epic! It may not be season yet, as I guess during summer, there should be alot more yurts set up in this large area to accomodate more tourists.

Until then, we have all the lakes for ourselves!! :D Isn’t this exciting?? The view just looks so amazing that somehow I couldnt believe it’s real. And we’re here!

The iconic Muztagh Ata mountain. Some hard core travelers would hike around it during summer. The summer starts very late in here being in high altitude, and it’s late April now and the lake is totally frozen! Imagine the cold wind!

We borrow some bigger jackets from the yurt and start taking photos. But we look fat in them, so forget it =.=

Centered view of Muztagh Ata….

Which is perfect for jumping photos! :D

And my turn!

Our favorite moments, trying to step onto the frozen lake. It may look frozen, but you can never sure how thick it is, the moment it breaks will straight away dumps you into the cold water! With extra precaution, Az steps and settles his position first, while I set the camera timer (thanks to bringing tripod, where else you can put your camera in this deserted, empty place?).

Okay, looking alright. Step further to get my space, and be calm. Next shot, yay, we’re on the lake!! :D

We wander around for a couple of hours, and it’s getting too cold so we go back into the yurt to curl ourselves in thick blankets, and somehow fall asleep for a short nap.

Hajj Revisited: 10 Zulhijjah

Thanks to laptop housekeeping and backup, suddenly zillions of treasures having been left forgotten for ages now resurface and instantly get attention more than the laptop backup itself does ^_^

The videos subsequent from Nov 2010 post on Eidul-Adha in Mina, where we spent 10 Zulhijjah in Mina doing the jamrat stoning. The Hajj ritual by dates (Hijri calendar) are as follows:

8-Zulhijjah/9-Zulhijjah: Preparation, going to Arafat.

9-Zulhijjah evening: Off to Muzdalifah to pick small stones (to be used for Jamrat stoning). After midnight, off to Mina camp.

10-Zulhijjah: The Eidul-Adha festival all over the world, but here in Mina, people preparing for Jamrat stoning. Some would be fast enough to do in the morning and be able to go to Masjidil Haram in Makkah for Eid prayer. But for common people, mostly who come with groups, prefer to do it at night to avoid congestion. People are supposed to come back to stay in Mina camp after stoning, because you have to do it the 2nd round before 13-Zulhijjah. We, on the other hand, chose to go to Jamrat bringing our small luggage, wait until midnight in Mina, before going back to Makkah (all the way for hotel bed rather than sleeping in camp!). It’s on your own expense and risk, and you have to be back to Mina again to do the 2nd round of stoning.

Until next chapter.

City of Kashgar

Despite the dusty, aging ancient buildings we have seen in the old part of Kashgar, the other side of the city is surprisingly very modern. We take a walk towards the Southern Bus Station to get a hand of tickets for Karakul Lake tomorrow. We need to check the bus station whereabouts and plan accordingly on how to get there first thing in the morning next day.

Walking down Jiefang Road in front of Id Kah mosque towards South, we start seeing high rise buildings and alot of cars. Kashgar city map comes in handy to give us direction to the bus station.

At the big junction we’re expected to use the subway to cross the huge road. It’s amazing that they have many subways every some hundred meters and how I wish KL has this facilities too.

We pass by an area which I guess the People Park as referred in map. Although a little confusing as we cant still see any sight of bus terminal after walking this far. After checking with some Uyghur women we encounter, it’s understood that the bus station should be after 2 more junctions. How come it looks very near in the map!

After a day being overwhelmed by Uyghur exotic culture here in Kashgar, we only realized that we’re still in China once we see the Mao statute! :) Wasn’t it a Mao statute also that we saw in Chengdu? Does this man practically have his statute in every single city in China??

So you can see more Chinese people in the city part here. We stop by a watch repair stall to let the guy fix my cheap watch, for 8 yuan, which is horribly done, but I have no choice. The bus station is a few steps away, it’s a huge building with a universal Chinese logo for bus station/stop/terminal which resembles the Mercedes logo. We manage a pair of tickets for Karakul Lake at 38 yuan per person, departing at 10 am Beijing time (8am local time). I’m rather surprised that the ticket people do not say anything about us having to get permit for Karakul Lake, but soon we’re planning to check with the police station itself.

Way back, we spare the walk and take a bus for 1 yuan instead. The bus service is very frequent! And it’s very systematic, for example, it only stops at the designated bus stop (unlike bus in KL stops just wherever and whenever people pressing the bell!), which I guess helps to smooth the traffic.

Pineapple being sold in cart. Wondering how they taste, yet we refrain from taking any uncooked food when traveling (and what’s with the water?).

We return to the police station to check regarding permit for Karakul Lake. Been here earlier before going to bus station but the officers were on lunch break. 4 police officers come to hear us, but sadly none of them understand English. I make a call to Nazar (in Urumqi!) to have him talk to one of the officers, while another officer is trying to call some other officer who can speak to us, and after repeatedly asking the same questions, she confirms us that we dont need any permit for Karakul Lake, rather all we need is to bring our passport (of course!). Having said that, we jump with joy that we didnt get trapped by tour agents and manage to save 1000 yuan by going there by bus ourselves! Can’t wait for tomorrow!

Kelantanese Rebana

After suffering a great shock over my new lappy’s hard disk failure (which later to be rescued properly by Dell people, after my own attempts resulted nothing but failure and big depression) I learned that I had to spend some time doing housekeeping, sorting my files, photos, videos etc in old (which now belongs to Az) and new laptops, and got them backup. So, I found some random video from past years, recorded in Kota Bharu during a ceremony I cant remember (but there was the King and fireworks). Before I replace my old DVD camcorder with some Full HD gadget, this is one of the cultural stuff I love about my home state. Enjoy the tune, and oh well, I used to send many postcards of Rebana in the old days, which sadly no longer exist.