China # 3 – Along the Taklamakan Desert’s Southern Silk Road – September 2014

May 11, 2018

A little sad that we had missed the knife factories in Yengisar, but it wasn’t really on our major must-see list. We were following the southern edge of the infamous Taklamakan Desert. In at least one of the Chinese languages, Taklamakan means, “If you go in, you won’t come out”. Hummm?

We always knew what jade was but never imagined that there were so many colors and huge examples.

We always knew what jade was but never imagined that there were so many colors and huge examples.

After spending an hour and a half driving around Yecheng in the dark and being stopped by a SWAT team, we finally found the Electric Hotel that allowed foreigners, (many did not), and a safe enclosed parking lot. We were advised not to venture outside the hotel grounds at night for our safety.

Hotan, a famous jade town

An early start in the morning brought us to the historic oasis town of Hotan (Hetian), strategically located at the junction of the southern (and most ancient) branch of the Silk Road joining the West with one of the main routes from India and Tibet to Central Asia and China. It was an ideal meeting place where not only goods, but also technologies, philosophies, and religions were exchanged from one culture to another.

Gary was in seventh heaven tasting all kinds of street food.

Gary was in seventh heaven tasting all kinds of street food.

Where there is water there is life. Surrounded by the Karakash River and the White Jade River flowing from the distant foothills of the Himalayas, the Hotan area prospered and survived on the edge of the vast Taklamakan Desert. Hotan artists and craftsman are known for their prized carpets and carvings, and for the “mutton fat” jade still being collected from the White Jade River. Of course we never get tired of exploring new markets, but after our recent visits to some of the biggest in Asia, like Kashgar, a stop at the famous jade market was not on our agenda. OK, Green loved jade so it was easy for her to convince us. We did stop at the food market to see what edible treasures we could find, but the Jade Market was definitely amazing. We were the only Westerners in town. Noted in our Lonely Planet China guide book, as the “Sunday Jade Market”, it is a very busy place every day of the week. While serious jade buyers scrutinized the overwhelming selection, food vendors were as interesting, with barbecue grills full of juicy lamb Shish Kebabs or Shashlik and rolling buffets of tempting dishes to go.

These guys were walking the market selling sunflower seeds, a popular snack.

These guys were walking the market selling sunflower seeds, a popular snack.

Jaded” out, figuratively speaking, we headed west just in time to find a nice gravel pit for the night, a quiet place for Green to set up her comfy MSR tent for the first time with a double layer of  Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads. She thought it was cool that it was “green”. Monika cooked up a delicious lamb stew and we slept well——except someone back home had put a bug in Green’s ear that there were wolves in the desert, so she ended up sleeping in a bed we made for her in the truck’s cab, try as we did to convince her that there was not a wolf for a hundred miles cuz there was nothing for them to eat. Turns out she had never slept in a tent alone, only with other people. No wolves came that night. She got braver and later, we all could laugh about it.

 

One Response to “China # 3 – Along the Taklamakan Desert’s Southern Silk Road – September 2014”

  1. China is amazingly awesome, you can’t go anywhere without wanting a photograph because it’s just so UNIQUE!! Lambs on the top deck of a skinny cargo scooter! A woman rolling dough cross-legged! Embryo in an egg! Y’all have taken great photos of “real life” in China. By the way, that wire guard on the donkey is to prevent it from snatching fruits/veggies in the market 🙂 They’re adept at snatching while walking.

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