Friday Prayer at Id Kah Mosque

We have been waiting for Friday so much, ever since I started planning itinerary for Kashgar I would arrange it so that Az could spend time attending Friday prayer at Id Kah mosque and I could watch the crowd. Even when our itinerary changed a bit when we went to Karakul one day later we still chose to skip going to Tashkurgan just because want to be back in Kashgar by Friday!

Wanna know why? Because we’re hoping to see the crowd as we’ve seen on internet (check Google images here) and although the images were taken during Eid prayer, I cant help but hope to watch the (almost) similar crowd for Friday prayer too.

Az gets the camera, and I’d wait outside with camcorder to film the crowds during prayer (and see notes at the side bar to know why you dont see any video attached here). I keep watching increasing number of men walking towards and into mosque, and some young boys standing in front of the entrance selling blue-colored “disposable” plastic prayer rug for 1 yuan for those who dont bring their prayer rug.

Sitting around me are several women whom I guess are waiting for their husbands too. Although, when prayer was about to start, a police officer came to disperse us and ask to wait somewhere not too near to the mosque. And I could hear the sound of prayer preach/Khutbah clearly and the thought of Az listening khutbah in Uyghur language makes me smile. According to Az, he was feeling sleepy like usual during any Friday khutbah, yet was amazed to witness that every single man around him was paying full attention to the preach. In Malaysia, half of the audience would easily fall asleep.

To my disappointment, when the prayer starting, the crowd was only a little exceeding the entrance stairs, so this proves that the large crowd filling the entire mosque yard only happens during Eid prayer.

After Friday prayer is over, Az got to watch several woman holding plates of food (dried fruits?) standing at the entrance and men coming out of the mosque would stop and blow at the food, and some look like spitting. Which is weird, and only after we’re back to Urumqi later, Nazar told us that it’s a traditional practice for people who can’t afford to get sick family member to doctor and this alternative is to let religious men recite prayers on the food in a way so that it somehow becomes medicine. Or so we’re told.

After Friday prayer, the street going back to hostel apparently has turned into a busy afternoon street market. We look around to see if there’s anything interesting to get. It’s like a common atmosphere you can find in any flea market, people selling just everything. There are even people selling used office shirts, they’re clean, looking new and cheap so we managed to stop and waste a few minutes browsing the items, although ended up not buying. I was also tempted to buy some leftover fabrics (good quality and price starts from 3 yuan!) but thinking that I hardly have time for sewing and it would give unnecessary extra weight to our luggage, so forget it.

We passed by an old woman selling Uyghur cap, which is unusual since we have come across many shops selling them and they’re run by men, and she’s selling it for only 20 yuan! (We have asked many places before and they’re 30-50 yuan) so Az says it’s time to buy one for him, as well as additional 2 for souvenir.

Az wearing Uyghur cap, and from the moment he wears it, we always get friendly stares from the locals, as if they’re saying to each other “Look, there’s tourist trying to be Uyghur!”. It feels rather good, and even funnier when people have to look twice at us to ensure if we’re locals or tourists. It also happens several times when we stop by shops and places, people would ask from where and how much we bought the cap. I mean, it’s like a necessary question!

This is our neighbor restaurant, they’re just two doors away from our hostel and we get to see them every time we go out from and return to hostel, and they would smile at us and we would exchange wave. Today, we decided to give a courtesy stop at their restaurant and have a couple of lamb kebabs. And additional to lamb kebab, they gave us free lunch!! :D It’s a large plate of noodle and I must say it taste really good! Despite the communication barrier, we feel so welcome by them and they’re trying to express their pleasure to meet fellow Muslims from far away (which is funny that had to “test” us by asking us to read some verses framed on their wall, and we did).

After lunch, we went to take bus to go to train station to change our ticket. Why? Because we realized we have come to like this place even more. Now Az asks if it’s possible we extend our stay in Kashgar, rather than going to Kuqa, Turpan and Urumqi that early. As for now, our confirmed itinerary will be:

Today (Friday) to Sunday: Kashgar. Sunday evening take bus for Kuqa (have to go buy bus ticket tomorrow).
Monday: Arrive Kuqa Monday morning, one day sight seeing, then take night train to Turpan
Tuesday: Arrive Turpan, meet CSer Ahmad and visit Tuyoq village
Wednesday: Around Turpan, and take afternoon bus to Urumqi (2 hours). Meet CSer Mischa.

After a discussion, we decided to skip Kuqa and Turpan and will buy either direct flight or train ticket to Urumqi from Kashgar. It will take 24 hour train or expensive 500+ yuan flight, now we have to choose between saving money or time. But before that, we already have train ticket from Kuqa to Turpan which had already been booked by Derek earlier. So if we are really determined to skip Kuqa and Turpan, we have to cancel the train ticket, or change it to new route Kashgar – Urumqi for Tuesday/Wednesday. Then again, we’ll only save 1 or 2 days extra in Kashgar and we’re still contemplating if this will be worth skipping Kuqa and Turpan. Anyhow. Now we’re going to train station to see if we can change the ticket, or refund it. If it can be done, then we’ll extend our stay in Kashgar, just to eat more lamb kebabs! :)

So we had to ask a favor from our hostel’s manager to write Chinese translation on our book so we’ll just simply show the message at the ticket counter (yes, don’t expect that they would understand English!).

Arriving at the train station, we quickly ran into ticket counter (like any other train station in China, the ticketing center is usually located outside the terminal building). There’s only one counter operating so the queue was rather long. The officers are all Chinese, no doubt. We have to bear with some tensed moment when some men in front of us falling into argument with the ticket officer, and after a while we could notice that the officer is being prejudice towards Uyghur people and for any reason would yell at them loudly in Chinese. On the other hand, she would talk normally and politely to fellow Chinese, even those who look and smell drunk. Fear of being in the racism dispute, I asked Az to remove his Uyghur cap before dealing at the counter.

When I showed the translated messages with our ticket, the ticket officer was saying something in Chinese and refused our tickets and it was a hell of pain that none of the fellow officers understand us. It took some time for her to ask the guard to go out and search for someone who could talk to us, and like 15 minutes later, a neat lady in uniform approached us explaining what’s going on. I guess she’s a senior officer or something.

She said our tickets cannot be exchanged or refund here because they had been booked via internet (by Derek) and the only possible way is to change it at the boarding place, in this case, at Kuqa! Why on earth would we want to go to Kuqa just to change tickets when our aim now is to NOT going to Kuqa?? =.=

Feeling upset, we left the train station, went to nearby shop to buy pomegranate juice and took bus back to town. We try to cheer ourselves by thinking that it’s meant to be and we need to follow itinerary as planned, and we get to try sleeper bus to go to Kuqa, and meet CSer Ahmad in Turpan, and we’ll still be within budget. Yeah, we’re sticking to our plan finally.

Uneventful train ride back to Delhi

Train Agra to New Delhi
Mahakaushal Exp Train# 12189
Depart AGC 08:23 Agra Cantt
Arrive 11:35 NZM H Nizamuddin
Duration: 3h 12m
Class: AC 3 Tier
Cost: Rs. 706 (2 pax)

This is our last train in India, and apparently the first (and only) train that was NOT on time. It was delayed and arrived around 11am, almost 2 hours than expected. But we were not mad about it as we were mad about missing train because of being cheated by tout!

We stayed at the train patiently while watching people around. This time we were more brave to take photo (but trying not to look obvious) so Az could snap some faces from our zoomed lens. We felt great when we could silently take a closeup photo of some random  people without them realizing, and our super zoom camera is quite helping in this ;) So it was our mode of entertainment while waiting the train… *bored* =.=  We noticed a Caucasian couple waiting train for Delhi as well, and since they’re waiting for long as we do, we guess that they’re the same train as us. Which turns out to be correct.

There was this designated stall selling drinks and snacks at the platform, and when Az wanted to buy a snack, the seller apparently give a price higher than what was printed on the label! Being surprised, Az asked him why but instead of explaining, he took back the snack rudely with a look of “take it or leave it”. What a jerk!

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Unfortunate event of Jammu – Delhi – Agra route

Train Jammu – Delhi: Jhelum Express Train# 11078, Depart Jammu Tawi 21:45, Arrive New Delhi 10:05, Duration 12h 20m, Class: AC 2 Tier Cost: Rs. 1,855/2pax
Breakfast in train: Omlette Rs.21, Potato Rs.13, Toblerone chocolate Rs.60, Lays Rs.30, Nescafe and tea Rs.20

Hate to write about this and looooong story which I dont feel like recalling.

But short story is, when arriving New Delhi from Jammu, we helplessly got cheated by a tout so convincing enough that we believed that our next train to Agra was delayed (and canceled). Had to go to travel agents to book some bus and (foolishly, plane?? We thought Agra was so close to Delhi that it doesn even have airport! But the guys were talking about getting plane and we almost believed it? Did we get hypnotized?) only to realize later when we went to Mr.Bashir’s place to ask help, and the guys at Mr Bashirs clearly told us that we got cheated. T_T

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Train to Jammu

Cycle rickshaw to Amritsar train station: Rs 30

Train Amritsar – Jammu
Bti Jat Exp # 19225
Class: 2AC upper berth
Fares/pax: Rs. 460
Leaves 01:10 Amritsar Jn (ASR)
Arrives 06:15 Jammu Tawi (JAT)
Distance: 206km  Duration: 5h, 5min

Rickshaw Jammu Tawi train station to Jammu airport: Rs. 150

We reached Amritsar train station a few hours before our train, so whether we like it or not, we had to kill the time in the waiting room. We were totally tired by this hour and not in mood to do anything. I took a short nap while Az laying down watching our luggage.

I sent sms to Sudhir asking if he’s in Jammu and if we could meet, and he replied that he was away for work.

Thankfully the train arrived on time and it was our first sleeper train (2-Tier AC). We had our upper berth on top while a middle-age couple sleeping at the lower berth. The bedding was perfect, and by the moment we climbed onto it, we closed our eyes and dozed off.

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