Xinjiang--South of Kashgar [photo intensive]

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Re: Travels in Kyrgyzstan: Crossing into China [photo intensive]

Unread postby Lady Wu » Sat Apr 04, 2009 4:26 am

Man, I just watched Kite Runner (I know, I'm really behind the times with movies), and I just couldn't take it seriously as a film about Afghanistan. All the "Afghanistan" shots were done in southwestern Xinjiang and I've seen those places with my own eyes.

I guess I should be posting Xinjiang pictures soon...
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Re: Travels in Kyrgyzstan: Crossing into China [photo intensive]

Unread postby Lady Wu » Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:53 am

For those who are following: Kyrgyz protesting against Bakiev.

Another Tulip Revolution in the making?
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Re: Travels in Kyrgyzstan: Crossing into China [photo intensive]

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:10 pm

Lady Wu wrote:For those who are following: Kyrgyz protesting against Bakiev.

Another Tulip Revolution in the making?


It will be interesting to see. If it turns out to be the case, I'll just hope that it doesn't turn into a pogrom against ethnic minorities the way the first Tulip Revolution did.
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Re: Travels in Kyrgyzstan: Crossing into China [photo intensive]

Unread postby Tigger of Kai » Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:31 pm

Not a bad reason to resurrect the Central Asian Politics thread


The border guard office bit is one of my favorites so far, what great material for a sitcom!

"You numbskulls, help that lady with her bags!"
"Yes, Colonel!"
"Now, I've got a meeting with the General Secretary in Urumqi, so I'll just leave these secret documents right here on this windowsill. And if you let anything happen to them while I'm gone..."
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Re: Travels in Kyrgyzstan: Crossing into China [photo intensive]

Unread postby Lady Wu » Sun Apr 05, 2009 6:20 pm

I had a mini heart attack every single time my documents were taken away for inspection out of my sight, which happened quite frequently in southern Xinjiang. There were something like 3 checkpoints between customs and Kashgar, and Karakoram Highway, even the parts that are far from the Pakistan border, was chock full of them too.
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Re: Travels in Kyrgyzstan: Crossing into China [photo intensive]

Unread postby Sean » Sun Apr 05, 2009 7:18 pm

THIS IS AMAZING. AND SO COOL. :D

Are there more checkpoints depending on which region you're in? Perhaps my little story here won't be relevant, but when I took a train from Hong Kong to China, there was only one visible checkpoint (that I couldn't go through because the stupid visa expired...grr).
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Re: Travels in Kyrgyzstan: Crossing into China [photo intensive]

Unread postby Lady Wu » Tue Apr 07, 2009 5:51 am

Sean wrote:THIS IS AMAZING. AND SO COOL. :D

Thanks. :)

Are there more checkpoints depending on which region you're in? Perhaps my little story here won't be relevant, but when I took a train from Hong Kong to China, there was only one visible checkpoint (that I couldn't go through because the stupid visa expired...grr).

Yeah. Going from HK to the Mainland is a simple process if you have the right documentation, and people do it all the time (my parents make the trip over to Shenzhen sometimes as an after-work outing. :shock: ). If you take the train there's only one HK Immigration checkpoint and one Mainland China Immigration passport check. But in Xinjiang things are different as the province borders so many other countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan). Plus the area is volatile and the central government is paranoid that it'd turn into another Tibet. There's also quite a bit of smuggling (of people and drugs, mainly) in the southwest.

Perhaps it was right before the Olympics, but on top of the real checkpoints (with offices and gates and stuff) there were quite a few patrols on the highways. Basically they'd just flag down everyone except for cargo trucks and inspect their registration documents painstakingly. And it's painful to be stuck on the side of the desert for an hour while the highway patrol people take their time with your paperwork. Then the highway robbers ask for a fine regardless. I've been flagged down with a Uyghur driver as well as a Han Chinese driver, so I guess there's no racial discrimination in that regard...
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Re: Travels in Kyrgyzstan: Crossing into China [photo intensive]

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:00 pm

Lady Wu wrote:Yeah. Going from HK to the Mainland is a simple process if you have the right documentation, and people do it all the time (my parents make the trip over to Shenzhen sometimes as an after-work outing. :shock: ). If you take the train there's only one HK Immigration checkpoint and one Mainland China Immigration passport check. But in Xinjiang things are different as the province borders so many other countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan). Plus the area is volatile and the central government is paranoid that it'd turn into another Tibet. There's also quite a bit of smuggling (of people and drugs, mainly) in the southwest.

Perhaps it was right before the Olympics, but on top of the real checkpoints (with offices and gates and stuff) there were quite a few patrols on the highways. Basically they'd just flag down everyone except for cargo trucks and inspect their registration documents painstakingly. And it's painful to be stuck on the side of the desert for an hour while the highway patrol people take their time with your paperwork. Then the highway robbers ask for a fine regardless. I've been flagged down with a Uyghur driver as well as a Han Chinese driver, so I guess there's no racial discrimination in that regard...


Yeah, that's more or less how it worked when I went from Guangxi to Hong Kong - four years ago now? (Now I feel old.) Though it was on a plane, it was still relatively painless.

I haven't been out in Xinjiang, sad to say, but a few of my classmates who went out that way came back with a few similar stories of the checkpoints - but largely their gripes were with being overcharged by the cab drivers themselves, so maybe it was just the heightened pre-games security. In any case, you've got my sympathies: the Authorities can be an awful pain in the rear even in less sensitive areas of China, at less sensitive times!
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Re: Travels in Kyrgyzstan: Crossing into China [photo intensive]

Unread postby Sean » Tue Apr 07, 2009 10:03 pm

Lady Wu wrote:Yeah. Going from HK to the Mainland is a simple process if you have the right documentation, and people do it all the time (my parents make the trip over to Shenzhen sometimes as an after-work outing. :shock: ). If you take the train there's only one HK Immigration checkpoint and one Mainland China Immigration passport check.


Shenzhen is a wonderful place! Who can complain about significantly lowered prices of bazillions of things in the various malls and stores they have there? :shock:

Then came the dreaded question. "Do you have a camera?" he asked.

As soon as I produced my camera, he settled down in a comfortable chair and began to go through the 1000-odd photos in it. I was terrified that he would accidentally (or "accidentally") delete my pictures. He was supposed to check if I took pictures of sensitive material (such as pictures of the border), so theoretically he only had to look through the most recent photos on the card. I mean, I had only been in Chinese territory for at most 30 minutes. But no, he went all the way back to 2 months ago when I started that memory card...


I was wondering, perhaps you could store a second memory card with you? You know, one with significantly less data and while it would still be a loss if someone "accidentally" deleted the pictures, it wouldn't be as bad if you lost your memory card with the 1000+ pictures on it. Just a thought that came up.
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Re: Travels in Kyrgyzstan: Crossing into China [photo intensive]

Unread postby Lady Wu » Wed Apr 08, 2009 2:28 am

Sean wrote:I was wondering, perhaps you could store a second memory card with you? You know, one with significantly less data and while it would still be a loss if someone "accidentally" deleted the pictures, it wouldn't be as bad if you lost your memory card with the 1000+ pictures on it. Just a thought that came up.

In fact, I did.

After experiencing the harrowing camera inspection that time, I made sure to put in my 32MB spare memory card (yes, those exist) and hide the real one in my socks or something before going to anything that could remotely involve a security search.

WWD: when taking a cab in Xinjiang--or, in fact, doing any kind of business transaction in that province--make sure to haggle shamelessly. And then some more. The whole history of Xinjiang is basically based on trade, and slap on the whole "let's take advantage of the foreigner" thing, and you really gotta bargain hard.

But then again, transportation in Xinjiang tends to be more expensive than in other parts of China since the province is so huge and so sparsely populated. It takes a long time to drive between places, and the cab driver isn't guaranteed a passenger on the other side. Furthermore, according to someone well-connected within the tourist industry, car-hire fares take highway tolls (official ones or not) into account.
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