posted Sep 20, 2011, 4:06 AM by Gilles Depardieu   [ updated Dec 22, 2011, 1:29 AM ]
Originally called Turkestan, now part of China, Xinjiang (new Frontier in Chinese) is still a muslim region in its character, although the Hans already reach 50% of the population. In certain ways, it reminded me Morocco where people also eat lamb soup at every meal and wear "babouches". They even still use the qanats system, ancient underground water tunnels, called khettaras in Marrakesh. Same problems, same solutions in 2 extreme regions of the muslim world.

1. from left to right: Typical "pisee" house in western china. The Yellow River in LanZhou. Rest of the Great Wall of China lost in the Taklamatan desert. Popular Dunhuang dunes, near Dunhuang: those arid mountains host the famous Buddhist Mogao caves, inside the cave, Buddhist frescoes cannot be photographed, some have Russian orthodox influences because White Russians were imprisoned there in 1920 and did restoration works. Great Lamas tombs. North Mogao cliff.

2. Sailimu lake is not a tourism Mecca anymore since Hanasi lake road was built, its water is ice-cold and salty, no fish, no trees. Local Kazakhs will rent you their "yourte", but when you think the yourte is for you alone (no english/chinese spoken here), around midnight all the village came to play cards while smoking, drinking and shouting. Lacking fresh news, Kazakhs have left Lenine, Staline & Mao busts in Yining streets, the capital of their small autonomous region. Kashgar mosque challenge the new "chinatown" in front. Kachgar, Sunday market: thousands of donkeys are parked on non parking areas. Shared "taxi" in Kashgar from 1 market to the other. Local cabbage seller dreaming of Turkestan? In the geographical centre of the Taklamatan, and after 500 km of highway: a gas station, in front, irrigation systems help stabilize moving sand dunes and 120 wells have been dig every 4 km along Desert Highway. This gate near Korla was famous on the silk road, separating Imperial China from the rest; Korla, a large Chinese city, hosts now a gigantic air force base. This gate marked also the end of my 1 year long Silk Road Trip [but not the end of my trip, as I want to discover the rest of Asia now!].

3. DunHuang is a large oasis between Xinjiang and Gansu, and was a mandatory stop on the Silk Road, about one month before reaching Xian. A few faces randomly seized in what is left of the old Dunhuang Market or "Souk". I am sure Marco Polo didnt see so many Han people, many centuries ago, when he stopped there.