It’s still drizzling in the desert when we pack up and leave. I tried running before we left. It’s easier now that the sand is wet. In around 2 hours, we reach Kashgar, which strangely is bathed in hot sunshine. We laugh at the irony. It’s raining in the desert but hot in the city.
Much of the food and drink that John had packed for us in the hamper is still there. Why should we leave it? We paid for it after all, we reason. And bottles of water never go waste, since that is one commodity we must buy everyday. John’s Cafe is situated in the grounds of the Seman Binguan Hotel, a creaking old grand monster of a hotel. We decide to try our luck for rooms there since we can leave for Karakul Lake only in the morning the next day. I walk to the reception, through grape trellises. I stand there. A Uighyur woman is at the desk. There is another Uighyur family who seem to be having what sounds to me like an argument. I wait there patiently, not wanting to interrupt. The woman at the desk gives me a glance, but doesn’t bother to ask what I want. I wait. 5 minutes pass. The argument is now over, and the woman proceeds to fill out forms. I stand there waiting still. By now, she doesn’t even look at me. It’s been almost 10 minutes since I came here. Smarting at the rudeness, I walk away. Jorg and Birdy are waiting for me, all the food and bottles of water packed into plastic bags. “That lady there doesn’t even look at me!” I exclaim in frustration. “What a @#@#%## city!” I am frustrated. Jorg rises to the rescue. He offers to go, and after a while comes back and says they have a room for 180Yuan. He has seen the room and its bigger than the Qini Bagh, he assures us. I am still irritated. I don’t want to stay at the hotel, but as the others point out, it’s easier to negotiate things if we want anything from John’s Cafe, plus we have all these extra things to carry. I relent and we walk back to the reception. The same woman is there. With the same sullen expression. She is still just as rude while Birdy tries to bargain. Eventually, we walk up the stairs, down a musty-smelling corridor, and open the doors to an equally musty-smelling room. I enter, and the room is huge. There are actually 2 rooms inside one. I walk up to the bed – there is just a thin mattress, and the bed sheet hasn’t been properly tucked in. There is no AC either. The beds look unwashed, and the pillows even more so. There is dust. And I hate the room. I tell Jorg that I do not want to sleep in this room, especially since we get an air-conditioned room for the same price at the Qini Bagh. He is irritated, perhaps at our insistence on the AC as the sticking point. But for me…it’s the whole atmosphere of the place. I hated the hotel. I hated the room. And I hated the people who run the place. As a concession, I promise to ask Jorg if they can give us an AC-room for the same price. Of course, the answer is no. We decide to then leave for the Qini Bagh.
There is another person at the desk now, a man. Jorg explains to him the reason we are leaving. This man doesn’t take any points for kindness either. He snarls that the room is discounted, and tells us that next time we come, he won’t give it to us at that price, slamming the money we had paid as deposit on the desk. “What an ass@#$%!” Jorg exclaims. I grimace, agreeing. Just why the Uighurs have to take out their frustration on foreigners who spend their life savings trying to understand their culture is beyond me.