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Hotan Travel Blog

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Spinning silk

...I'd not seen a single other westerner? As I was queueing for a coffee at 'Hamburger Very Mine '(the only place that sells it), I heard a voice call "Hi Sarah!". It was Nick - a young Aussie I'd met briefly in Kashgar. He's studying Mandarin at a university in Hangzhou. We spent the next three hours or so chatting over a table in the fast food joint, like people who've not spoken English to anyone in a week do. He was facing a series of sleeper bus journeys with no book, having been scouring the bookshops for anything....anything, in English - with no joy. Selflessly I offered him one of mine, and he went off with 'The Great Railway Bazaar', chosen by virtue of it being the thickest and having the smallest font.

Carpet weaving

It was a quiet day otherwise. I took a ride out to visit the silk and carpet factories. The latter was mindblowing. I honestly don't know how six women sitting at a loom can create an intricately patterned carpet with no apparent means of knowing what they're doing. The factory was in no way touristy, nor were there any guides. You just walked into the different workshops and buildings and watched what you liked.

It's 8 o clock now. I just walked to the square to see what the street food vendors have on offer for tea tonight. But damn... the military numbers have trebled, and they've now taken over the whole square. The kiddies have nowhere to pedal their trikes or kick a ball about, apart from the walkways to either side. I wish I could take a photo - I've seen nothing like it.

Kiddie song and dance time.
I counted... 500 soldiers in groups of 20, doing their various shield, gun, baton or big stick routines - with lots of choreographed shouting. Every 15 yards or so, pairs of soldiers - one with a big gun, and one with a riot shield, created a perimeter barrier. I checked into a hotel on the square, thinking it'd be fun - but this isn't. The further I get into the Uighur heartland, the more intense the miltary presence becomes.

Yesterday long red banners appeared, lining the square. Nick translated some of them for me. They were all along the lines of "China's minorities live harmoniously together" and ""The minorities of China are properous and happy" This morning, one of the banners hangs over my hotel entrance...and above  some of the shops next to it. It's like being in Orwell's '1984'

On a happier note, I walked along a parallel street.

I saw this seating swept down 12 hours ago. That's how dusty Hotan is.
There, outside the Papalu Happy Restaurant, little kids were gathering for what appeared to be a little song and dance club run by the staff. They started off with  a Chinese rendition of 'If you're happy and you know it', and then went on to other action songs and kiddy pop dances. I hung around for ages. It was ridiculously cute and endearing. I grinned from ear to ear, and bonded with the equally delighted parents.

Ha ha! Just back from another walk. On one side of the square is a big screen showing TV. A soap appeared to be on. It cheered me up no end, to see that the four nearest pairs of perimeter guards were busy watching that, rather than the likes of us!

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Spinning silk
Spinning silk
Carpet weaving
Carpet weaving
Kiddie song and dance time.
Kiddie song and dance time.
I saw this seating swept down 12 h…
I saw this seating swept down 12 …
Hotan
photo by: orcio81