Flavio, Sébastien, Cassandre and I took a tour of the Taklamakan desert, which by the way we were a little disappointed. The tour was kind of boring, nothing compared to the scenery towards Lake Karakul. The Taklamakan desert, considered the largest sand desert in the world, means in Turkish “no return”, many have lost their lives here in the past. No one was interested in riding a camel through the dunes.
We passed through small towns of the South Silk Road, such as Yengisar and Yarkand, where there were a little presence of Han Chinese, besides being less developed.
Yengisar is famous for the manufacture of knives. It was for centuries, supplier of knives to the Uighurs. We visited a very rustic handmade knife factory that even used child labor. Well, anywhere in Asia where there is poverty, the children work. Population of 260,000 people.
Yarkand (or Shache) is another oasis city with a population of 400,000 people. We visited the Altyn Mosque, there were some tombs in the adjacent area and we walked down a dirt street considered the old part of town. When we stopped to take a look at our guide book, some people crowded around us to find out what was going on, tried to see our guides stretching their necks and listening, attentive to our conversation, as if they understood English. When we realized and looked around we started laughing, for the locals we were the attraction.
We also passed through villages totally dominated by the locals, without any influence of the Han Chinese. Minorities usually don’t like Han very much, who are the majority and vice versa, the prejudice that exists anywhere in the world.
Here, as the majority of the population still lives in medieval times, donkeys or mules very important because they are used for light and heavy cargo transport in addition to serving as taxi or bus. We saw a lot of these being used as means of transport on the road.
In the evening we had a sandwich at a Chinese fast food (“The Best Food”), whose logo is that of the legendary monkey Sun Wu Kong. Famous for the Chinese short stories, whose author Xuan Zang wrote in the sixteenth century the famous work “The Journey to the West”, recounting the incredible adventures of the monkey and his group. This novel is so important as to be part of Chinese folklore, being created movies, cartoons, comic books, series, and video games. Even the Japanese incorporated the mythical character into dragon ball’s drawings. Chihiro, who was in the French room, also accompanied us tonight.