1.30am Kashgar dec 26
have settled into my sleeping bag in a dingy room at the Chinni Baagh hotel. my Pakistani travel companions wanted me to stay at the same hotel as themselves. its cheaper baaji - rmb 25 a night -- i wasn't impressed. too cheap for mighty me. while they haggled with the taxi driver about the fare they had to dish out, i gave my share, rmb 80 to one of the guys, pulled my bag out from the back of the pickup that had carried our bags and walked across to the Seman hotel. wed stayed there last summer. the place was dead - not a soul stirring, dark reception. i ask a random woman coming out of the hotel where is everyone. she points me to the other end of the building. i drag my bag across to the 'front' desk, call out till a sleepy clerk emerges from a sofa in the lounge -- rmb 280 a night for a Uighur style room he says ! we bargain back and forth till we reach rmb 140 for a regular room - i ask to see it. its ok. clean, warm. then he says hell only take cash, one days deposit and pay up for tonight - no credit cards. he knows he has me by the.... i know what I'm doing! I've lost it with this grouch, and just walk right out. sheepishly across the street to the other joint where the Pakistanis are staying, by now tucked into their warm beds. no rooms say the two receptionists! the place is full sorry -- i insist, there has to be ONE room - he says yes come - walks me up three flights of stairs, the room is musty and damp, smelling of smoke - both beds with crumpled sheets, ashtrays filled with cigarette buts - one look and i say no thanks ill sleep on the sofa in the reception area - nope no can do miss. just for the night? nope. meanwhile a sleepy eyed shawlar kamiz clad Pakistani strolls into the reception area asking for water. over hears our conversation. my nephew snores too much, i cant get any sleep, you can use my bed baaji!!!! if you can ignore his snores, i wont be using the bed, its perfectly ok with me! you can take it. thanks but no thanks! so now Uighur receptionist and Pakistani trader begin to list all the other hotel choices - i decide on the Chinni Baagh - only because ive heard and read about it over the years , the old British consulate from the 1800s.
so Abdul Mohd promptly hails a taxi, loads my bag and escorts me to Chinni Baagh hotel - every ones asleep here as well, except its a large place and the one awake person behind the desk isn't a thieving grouch - i get my second grade room at rmb 60 on the second floor - i pay the one day deposit and the days charge. same rule all over Kashgar they tell me??! - except with a credit card this time - Pakistani pal hauls my suitcase up, gets me a flask of hot water for the night. pays for the taxi, tells me to join them for breakfast next morning. i lock the door to my very warm room. tired, hungry, frustrated and feeling terribly sorry for myself, the hell with Chinese and absorbing the culture and learning the language... i sit on the sleeping bag I've spread over the grey bed cover - crack the window open slightly, to the backs of other rooms, draw the curtains so i can see daylight when it arrives, and just want to catch the next bus back to Gilgit - want to cry! too much hospitality and help in Pakistan -- just another $$ sign here, no one cares - money talks and so does language, which I'm not good at whatsoever!
who knows what surprises tomorrow has in store.