Saturday, August 9, 2008

Aug 7 - 8 Hotan to Kashgar

A sleeper bus is a really amazing vehicle. Imagine no seats, two aisles, and three rows of beds, with the foot section of the bed behind snuggled under the headrest of the bed in front. Then stack another set of beds on top of these. Imagine that some beds are 1 foot longer than the others. The result is four classes of accommodations on this sleeper bus: (1) Long beds, lower level (most expensive): (2) long beds, upper level; (3) Ordinary beds, lower level; and (4) ordinary beds, upper level. We didn't understand about the length of the bed, so we got two tickets for the ordinary bed, lower level. We had beds 1 and 2 on the right.

You must take off your shoes before entering the bus (placing them in plastic bags) since the floor is carpeted. This makes loading and unloading the bus very slow. There were some old people on the bus who had real trouble moving around. Carol's conclusion was that if you compared this to an airplane, getting a sleeper seat was almost like flying internationally on
Singapore Airlines.

This was fine for Carol, who is 4' 11", but a little uncomfortable for Mike, who is 5' 9". On the left hand lower seat 1 were two girls, sharing one bed. The 7 or so year old mad elife miserable for somewhat older sister, kicking her and crying. Daddy was in the middle lower bed, and had his hands full.

Mike fell asleep immediately. Carol watched the feature movie, projected on upper and lower level on TV screens. The feature movie was a Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock-Dennis Hopper about a madman placing a bomb on a Los Angeles bus. At the same time that we were driving through villages with watermelons and donkeys, Sandra Bullock was steering her bus through L A and environs toward LAX. The film had been dubbed into Uighur. Carol got a real kick out of hearing the dude with dreadlocks yell, "Apla!!!" at dramatic moments. When the young girl asked her daddy at a scene of mayhem, "Where are they?" he replied, "That's America." Guess it is in the eyes of the world.

The 520 km trip took 12 hours. There were 3 or 4 bathroom stops on the open road. There were also 2 or 3 security checkpoints, where Carol showed her and Mike's passports to the officers.

We arrived at 9:30 am at he "Long Distance Bus Station," not to be confused with the "International Bus Station." During the trip, Carol had her eyes on two young men she supposed to be Japanese, and the only other tourists on the bus. As we picked up our luggage, we discovered that they were Chinese and already had reservations at a local hotel. We hopped in a cab, followed them to the Qinibagh International Hotel, and were able to check in and shower immediately (280 RMB per night, no bargaining.)

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