Eden Hotel, Kashgar

Eden Hotel
No.148 Seman Rd, Kashgar. 15 minutes walk to Id Kah mosque (if you dont stop looking at shops etc)
Website: http://www.xjeden.com/index.php
Double room (Apr 2012): 190 RMB
Comments: Okay and good, only the staff cannot speak English and arent too friendly. No warm/drinking water available during breakfast (only hot water).

We forgot to take photo of the building, but here’s the hotel pamphlet with one.

The hotel at first seems a little expensive for travelers on budget, but however, when you happen to have been traveling by trains for 3 days and havent had shower since, this hotel is the best you could ask for. We are in need of shower SO DAMN SERISOULY! And comfy large bed. Although, no offense to Qini Bagh (which was our option earlier), but Eden Hotel happens to be better if you want to taste a mid-range hotel, Uyghur style. It’s also a relatively new compared to other hotels in the guidebook, at least it looks so. In the ground floor, there’s an Uyghur-Turkish restaurant which we planned to dine once later, only it turns out we didnt have time to come back after checking-out Eden after a night stay (to move to cheaper Old Town Youth Hostel).

 

The receptionists are Uyghur, who hardly speak English (but workable if you only need to know/ask about price, time to check out etc). There should be a tour agent stationed near the hotel lobby, who can speak English. He seems to be regularly called by the receptionists when they’re in need of translation when communicating to foreign customers. The tour agent, whom we asked about tour for Karakul Lake, would charge anywhere around 1000 yuan (which I believe all tour agents in Kashgar would charge, so no issues there). He wouldnt push you either, so we dont have problem even if we want to think longer and find alternative way, say, I still believe we can go by ourselves by bus without permit.

The room is quite spacious and ours facing the road. We get to handwash some of our clothes changed in trains, and it’s convenient to hang them near the window (so can get direct sun heat). That night we had the best sleep ever since few days, and we still couldnt believe we finally arrive in Kashgar :) The hotel check-out time is 1400 Beijing time, so around 12 Xinjiang time.

 

The next day, we’re given buffet breakfast with food we had never seen before (except boiled eggs). Lots of variety of vegetable and salads (which taste sour like pickles), cakes, chicken etc. The taste is exotic, good if you love to trying strange, new food. Although, they dont serve plain drinking water. The staff would bring you hot water upon request. During breakfast, we notice that there arent any foreign travelers staying in this hotel. Most of them looking like Uyghurs and Chinese coming from other cities for business, and maybe neighboring countries like Tajikistan and Kyrgyztan.

We only stayed in Eden for one night, and although at first feeling so excited that we wanted to extend the stay for next few nights (probably because the ultimate excitement of finding shower and large bed after 4 days traveling) but we have to be realistic that one night in Eden would cost almost 3 nights in the Youth Hostel, and since we want to meet other foreign travelers in the hostel, we just need to make a move to there, expecting less convenient than hotel. But we didnt come all the way to Kashgar to stay in hotel anyway. Therefore, on second day in Kashgar, we shift to Old Town Youth Hostel, before going to Karakul Lake the next day.

Finally in Kashgar!!

The bus driver dropped us in front of the Id Kah mosque as we requested earlier. Because the mosque is literally the center of Kashgar city, and in Lonely Planet guide map or any Kashgar map would use the iconic Id Kah mosque as the landmark. It’s almost 7pm when we reach the city but it seems as if around 5pm (NOTE: Xinjiang officially use +8 GMT as Beijing also, but locals would use Xinjiang time which is 2 hours prior) since we actually arrived in Xinjiang only today in Urumqi (it seems a long journey already, huh?) we just start getting used to it when we arrive in Kashgar. We dont need to change our watch time (KL time) as it’s practically the same as Beijing, only when you’re Xinjiang, you need to be careful when asking/being told about time and be specific if it’s refered to Beijing time or Xinjiang time.

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Xinjiang: Places we visited (and not)

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, being China’s largest region and located in the Far West, it borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and obviously the home to many ethnic groups descendants from neighboring countries and ancient Turkic kingdoms. Probably this what has made us pull all effort to visit this colorful land, apart from wanting to get mesmerized by snow capped mountains and taste the world’s softest, juiciest grilled lamb ever. Here’s a summary of places:

1) Urumqi

The capital of Xinjiang and main connector between Xinjiang and other region (and some Central Asian countries) by air, and the city is far bigger than we had expected. Not being fan of big city, we dont find Urumqi very exciting. The Tianchi Lake is pretty, but seems enough to spend a few hours there. It’s been very touristy anyway. I dont find anything amazing about the Grand Bazar either, despite looking like an icon of building from China Silk Road time. We have spent around 3.5 days in Urumqi including transit, which actually could be shorten it to 2 days or not visiting at all.

2) Kashgar

Although Kashgar also turned out to be a rather bigger city than we had imagined (no quite such views people riding donkeys..) but more than half of Kashgar is still purely blended with Uyghur culture, Old Town, exotic food, cattles and easygoing people. We spent around 5 days in Kashgar (includes Karakul Lake) and still couldnt get enough of it :) Az even wanted to change our train ticket last minute and skip Kuqa and Turpan so that we could stay longer in Kashgar, only they didnt allow us as the tickets were booked online by Derek and any changing isn’t possible done in train counter.

3) Karakul

It’s the most distant point we stretched beyond Kashgar (given that we didnt have time to proceed to Tashkurgan finally). Being here is like in a quiet, hidden paradise, watching views you had never imagined to see, all for yourselves without a sight of people. We spent one day and one night in here after 5 hours journey from Kashgar, and we would have wanted to stay for another night if our camera hadnt run out of battery (and if the night wasn’t THAT cold!)

4) Kuqa

We wanted to visit Kuqa as to divide 24-hour journey between Kashgar to Urumqi/Turpan by half, as I believe in traveling during night and spending the day time for sightseeing, whatever place it is. Thefore Kuqa was our chosen transit place to do a day sightseeing before continuing night train to Turpan. But tragedy came unexpectedly, the sleepy town was in heavy dust thanks to sudden sand storm from nearby desert. Because of bad weather, we missed the chance to go sightseeing (only stayed in train station and made a short city bus trip between station and town) and even worse, our train to Turpan was cancelled and we were stranded for another day in this town.

Places not visited

5) Tashkurgan

It’s a town 2 hours beyond Karakul Lake via Karakoram Highway. I read there’s nothing much of intrest about this town except that you can see Tajik ethnic people. The bus between Kashgar and Tashkurgan run only once daily which is the only means for you to have a ride and get down to Karakul Lake in the middle of the road. Were worried if the inbound journey to Kashgar bus can be full, so we thought of hitch hike(?) the bus going to Tashkurgan instead (when possibly some travelers get down at Karakul, and we get to have their seat).  It turned out that 1) We went to Karakul Lake 1 day later than itinerary 2) We could finally get the inbound bus with seat, thankfully. It’s just a matter of going with the flow.

6) Khunjerab Pass

Wanted to go here but not included in initerary because too far. It’s 4 hours beyond Tashkurgan and is actually the Pass entering Pakistan. I read that the mountain views are really majestic when reaching this place. If only we had more days…

7) Turpan

I still can’t belive we had to skip Turpan last-minute because of wasting a day in Kuqa after the train cancellation (afraid not having days left in Urumqi). I dont know what to expect, but Turpan is said to be a must-visit, then again its attractions are mostly ruins of old city, which we dont have much interest in afterall.

8) Kanas

I so wish we could include it in our itinerary, but when you’re planning to go southern-most to Kashgar, Tashkurgan whatsoever, it’s almost impossible to make another trip to the Nothern-most point of Xinjiang. Kanas has very beautiful pine tree lakes and villages bordering Kazakhstan and Russia, yet we have to be realistic that it could be too cold to visit there in April, and the pretty pictures you see on internet are taken in Autumn! Let’s hope there will be a next time to Xinjiang.

9) Ili

Didnt really think of visiting despite having pretty grassland, mountains and lakes. You can never visit ALL places in Xinjiang in a time (unless you’re in one month trip or longer). This place is located far northwest of Xinjiang, with high possible of being an untouched beuty.

Flight: Urumqi to Kashgar

Flight: China Southern Airlines CZ6886
Depart Urumqi 14:45, Arrive Kashgar 16:30 (1h 45m).
Distance: 1470km, Fares: 550 RMB/person.

Taxi from Kempinski Hotel to Aiport: 40 RMB. If you manage your time earlier, you can catch shuttle bus from here to Airport for 10 RMB. And I also think I have read somewhere that it’s free if you’re flying Southern China Airlines. Bus frequency is however only every 30minutes.

Continuing the run again, but we’re done with two long trains and now we’re so relieved that we’re taking flight finally, and we’re reaching our destination soon! :D Although we feel a little upset for missing shuttle bus in Kempinski Hotel (which otherwise would save us 20 RMB instead of paying 40 RMB for greedy taxi driver). Anyways. The Urumqi airport is actually rather far from the city, I guess 30 minutes. And the airport has 3 separate terminal buildings, and China Southern Airlines serve in Terminal 3.

 

The luggage check-in went smoothly, but when it comes to getting into the boarding gate, the security screening is pretty tight. We are told to take off our shoes, and they scan the whole body until the foot palm! And Az happened to have forgotten putting his Swiss Card in the hand luggage, which the officers need to dig into his backpack several times taking out things after things to re-scan in the screening conveyor (for I guess, 5 times!). Finally after we help them find the Swiss Card of out the backpack, they told Az to check-in the backpack as cargo luggage, which he went alone leaving me wait in the boarding area alone. It was our fault for not checking in the first place, oh well.

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Meeting Nazar in Urumqi

Bus no 10 from Urumqi Railway station to Grand Bazar: 1 RMB. The bus can easily be found in front of the railway station. Tell the driver you’re going to Bazar, because this bus isn’t stopping exactly in front of Bazar. So the driver would alert you when it reaches the place you should get down (it’s underneath a flyover), where you should cross the road and take 5 minutes walk to the Bazar.

Well, rewind to the time we were still in Chengdu – Lanzhou train. I sent sms to Nazar, an Uyghur CouchSurfer we were supposed to meet in Kashgar informing our whereabouts and expected time to reach Kashgar, but surprisingly, he replied telling he was coming to Urumqi! It was an emergency family matters, and although we felt a little disappointed (coz now we’re not going to meet CS buddy in Kashgar) we agreed to meet him during our transit in Urumqi before our flight to Kashgar. In the meantime, I have come to know Hasnat from a Xinjiang Facebook page, he’s a Pakistani Medical student in Urumqi. Since Hasnat might have class this morning and we only have a few hours to spend in Urumqi, we had to meet Nazar first since he’s going to help us about Kashgar and getting a permit to go to Karakul Lake.

Xinjiang International Grand Bazar, or sometimes I came across in internet it’s called Erdaoqiao Bazar. It’s a huge building complex with a little Central-Asian/Turkish essence in the architecture. Especially the minaret part. Deciding whether to enter the bazar first or have lunch, we have to admit that we’re getting hungry. We’ve been eating Maggi noodle and Tesco instant chicken curry all times throughout 3 days on journey and it’s time to get real food again.

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