Monday, December 29, 2008

dec 29 1.10 pm Upal -stopped for lunch at this one street truck stop town. Men playing the ubiquitous billiards outdoors, bread, boiled eggs, fruit, noodles, kababs, rice all being sold by the road side and at the only restaurant. 17 year old cute looking kid, Ali Mo and 28 year old Uz Mahamet - the best shot - - looks alot younger, play with a couple of other boys. me clicking away, asking nosy questions, getting in their way -- they're somewhere between irritated, curious, and showing off their best shots.
2pm off again. after a tasty kabaab naan lunch. this time roghni type naan- more flaky - heated over the bukhari in the crowded restaurant. soft and delicious. tasted great. the men paid - wont let me pick up my paltry tab!

chinese restaurant Tashkorgan

7.40pm dec 29 - tashkorgan
the bus dropped us off in front of a grimy hotel in this one street town, its bloody cold -30c or so - my Gilgiti friends want me to check into this very place. this is where they're staying - costs rmb 25 they tell can imagine the rest. the Chinese group took off, looking for a place for themselves. im sure they found decent lodging - i wasn't planning on walking from hotel to hotel in these temperatures, so i walk a few hundred yards and find my self a place that looks a degree better than the first one. my room in this wonderfully dingy hotel with no hot water, costs rmb 60 - as much as the luxurious Chinibaagh in Kashgar!
I've dumped my back pack in the high ceilinged room, and tried to slip into town without the helpful Gilgitis noticing me. want to find my own dinner, explore the town even though my feet and hands are beyond frozen and i don't know a soul here! those darn foot and hand warmers are for sissies... they don't work on suckers for pain like visitors to tashkorgan in dec!
i see a restaurant sign on a small hole in the wall inviting door- i walk in, past the heavy plastic flap door, right into one happening dinner party in this Chinese eatery. All the men fairly drunk, all the women downing cha and juice. Everyone in a merry mood; welcome me right in - to the only empty table behind them - the place is tiny - one bukhari in the center- ive barely sat down and they've had three toasts to something already. I've taken 6 pictures of them toasting. eating like pigs - smoking like chimneys - the good life in Tashkorgan. -33c outside! they drink, eat, drink, eat. plate after plate of delicious looking Chinese food - no one minds the -F grade looking kitchen where its all being churned out from. the cheerful patrons scream for the waitress every few minutes, more, more, hurry lady we need the grub- shes going back and forth--probably spat in the stuff a hundered times already. here you are, you drunken fools.... theres even a little adorable baby in the midst of all the revelry -Jiang Bi Bing - burst into tears when i carried her - leave me alone you old hag strange face from mars!!! go kiss your own sort.
every few minutes they toast to something. one jolly bunch.
they insist i join their table, and taste their food - as drunk as they are they're careful not to offer me pork or alcohol - i had told them i was Pakistani and Muslim via LA - so they pour me peach drink - what the ladies were drinking - and toasted another half a dozen times to me! for lack of a better idea, i sang 'happy birthday to you' to one of the toasts. they all joined in. i promised to send them photographs of the evening. they promised to look me up in LA.
This has been the liveliest exchange of words and most enjoyable evening in China so far. but then its only been a few days.
my own paid meal
a plate full of garlicky greens
one pot of green dish water to down it
and two hours of friendly lively drunk company.
rmb 10
beginning to like this----next year inshallah!

have a dull headache, probably the elevation, 12000 ft, perhaps too much garlic and not enough water. though ive been drinking gallons of insipid green tea for the past 4 days. or more like, all that waitress spit.........mixed with the strain of speaking Chinese with less oxygen in the brain.
looking forward to tomorrows drive over the Khunjerab Pass, to Sost and home.

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