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Travel Guide: The Silk Road // Pakistan to China: Part 6

Updated: May 15, 2020

Part VI - Out of the Taklamakan Desert and through the village oases of the northern Silk Road, then back to Kashgar

Day eleven | 14 September | Taklamakan to Korla

Today involved a great deal of sleeping and there is not much to write, save that we went for an early morning desert walk up and down the dunes. We arrived in Korla after completing our overnight desert journey, and spent an hour looking for a hotel that could accept foreigners (another unusual thing here - don't expect you can stay in any old hotel). We had a late lunch of polo (pilav/pilau). Delicious. Juicy pieces of orange and yellow carrot, succulent lamb, raisins and stewed, dried apricots. The best polo ever.

Day twelve | 15 September | Korla to Bosten Lake to Turfan

Breakfast in the hotel: tasteless dumplings, cold pickles with veggies and warm milk with sugar. Left around 10:00 Beijing time for Bosten Lake. Xinjiang is unofficially two hours earlier than Beijing, but we've found everything to run on Beijing time, which is the official timezone for the entire country. Bosten Lake - the largest in Xinjiang and one of the largest fresh water lakes in China - is located 2 hours from Korla and we had to pay an exorbitant 20 yuan each just to get in.

This was out first experience of Chinese tourist-ification - the systematic payment for entry, the consistent over-development and the regular bus-arriving hordes of domestic tourists. Thankfully, the third of these was absent and the lake was quiet, except for the local fishermen. The place itself was not remarkable, but the light was good and storm clouds were gathering across the lake, so it was atmospheric.

The onward drive to Turpan was smooth, along a highway through dry scenery. Turban was reached in the evening and we shared a kind of hot-pot for dinner at the night market.

Day thirteen | 16 September | Turfan

The next two days have been allocated to visiting Turfan, where there are apparently a plethora of sights. Turfan itself is a small, but sanitised, laid-back city - the second lowest depression in the world at 130m below sea-level (second to the Dead Sea), and the hottest place in China (reaching 50° celsius which isn't doesn't sound so extreme to me..!). We certainly came at a good time; the whole trip we've met with excellent weather - warm days and cool nights.

First stop was breakfast across the road from the hotel. Boiled cow milk with a little salt and cream on