Why we didn’t like traveling in Xinjiang, China

We’re on a mission to share what travel is really like in the countries that we’re trippin’ through–and that includes sharing the bad along with the good. We admit it: we didn’t like traveling in Xinjiang, China. Here’s why.

If you’re traveling to Xingjiang, or anywhere in China for that matter, make sure to get a VPN before you go. We used and recommend ExpressVPN when you travel to China. Check out ExpressVPN here for the best deals.

We left western China after only three weeks of travel.

The original plan was to travel around western and central China for two or three months. We’d enter from Pakistan, kick it in Xinjiang for a bit, get as close to Tibet as possible without having to get permits or be arrested, then exit through to Kyrgyzstan. We entered with high hopes, excited to explore a country that is so saturated with ancient history it’s fit to burst, that has a culture completely unlike any other in this world.

As the days progressed, we realized our expectations were too high. The China we imagined was far, far to the east, and Xinjiang province was more of a tense territory taken from other countries, rather than a true extension of China. Our days turned into drags, and we spent more time being frustrated, bored, and whinging about lost funds than actually enjoying ourselves.

Where’s the fun in that?

Why we didn't like traveling in Xinjiang: things are too expensive

Hiding out in a hostel because sights are beyond our budget.

There was no point in forcing ourselves to enjoy something we found mediocre when so many other places were calling our names. We decided to throw in the towel on China for now, and save it for another day when we have more time, less of a Central Asian agenda, and have acquired several million dollars via a lottery/inheritance from mysterious distant relatives/getting a sugar momma or daddy.

Until that magical moment when we become millionaires (sugar daddies, take note) we’ll stick to blogging. And what kind of bloggers would we be if we left you hanging with a vague “we peaced out because it sucked”?


We’re not the kind of travel bloggers that spout lies to convince you of our “perfect” lives—we’re here to keep it real. Here are a few more reasons we didn’t like traveling in Xinjiang, China. Keep in mind while reading that these views aren’t necessarily true for all of China–this is just us venting about Xinjiang itself.

Traveling to Xinjiang from Kyrgyzstan? Check out this post on crossing the border between Kyrgyzstan and China!

Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, China

Despite being a functioning mosque, the Id Kah mosque in Kashgar entrance fee was equivalent to one night of sleeping.

Money in Xinjiang

The Chinese government loves money. They love it so much, they’ll charge you up the wazoo for everything and anything. And I mean everything.

Oh you want to see this purposeless little building? That’s 45 RMB ($6.50) please. An active mosque? 70 RMB ($10). This lovely mountain lake? That’ll be 200 RMB ($28.50).

We don’t mind spending a bit of money on sights, but when you have to empty your pockets for literally every single pointless pebble, we draw the line.

Add in the facts that a train to anywhere costs more than our daily budget, a bed in a dorm costs the same as a three-star hotel in Georgia, and active religious sights actually cost money unlike the million and one epic religious sights in Armenia, and you begin to see why western China wasn’t our flavor of the day.


Woman staring in a Kashgar market.

No love, only stares.

People in Xinjiang

We never felt particularly welcome when traveling in Xinjiang. People’s attitudes ranged from indifferent to downright hostile. The most common response we got when we asked people on the street a question was meiyo!–no, not possibleand a wave of the hand. Begone foreigner! You’re not wanted here. Just give us your money and leave.

Rumor has it that the local Uyghur population is usually very kind, but our experience was different. We never felt particularly welcome walking around Uyghur neighborhoods. In the true old town of Kashgar, no one would respond to our greetings.

People in Tuyoq Valley refused us entry into streets and shrines with cold stares. When hunting for lunch options in Kuche, people just glared at us as we moved towards places to sit, not turning around until we had grown uncomfortable and moved on.

It might be a side-effect of the suppression of Uyghur culture and people at the hands of the Chinese government – which has only gotten worse since we left – or perhaps we’re just scary lookin’ folks. Who knows? Everyone has their own experience, so yours may be different from ours.


The last true remnants of the Kashgar Old Town.

The last remnants of the old Old Town of Kashgar, the rest of which has been demolished in favor of a new, more polished “Old” Town.

The Disneyfication of tourism in Xinjiang

China seems hell-bent on destroying its sights. The process for developing tourist sights in the west seems to be:

  1. Realize something is worthy of tourist visits.
  2. Build a hideous 5-star hotel right next to it.
  3. Demolish any authentic buildings around it, and rebuild new ones made to look old.
  4. Construct a huge fence in a 10km radius around the sight.
  5. Set up a mandatory bus line from the fence to the entrance of the sight. Charge people 100RMB to ride the mandatory bus.
  6. Require tourists to have a guide. Make foreigners’ lives a bit worse by making the English-speaking guide 5 times as expensive.
  7. Install a million CCTV cameras to track tourists’ every movement.
Disney statues in China

And this being China, some literal Disneyfication as well.

In addition to the charmingly Chinese development process, there’s also the issue of the way the historical sights are presented. Most of Xinjiang, the “far west” of China, is basically land that China laid claim to in recent history. The museums and sights are filled with propaganda, re-crafting Uyghur history and culture to fit the Chinese government’s seemingly happier (and more Chinese) narrative. Xinjiang? Xinjiang is China and has always been China. Uyghurs? No, they are simply Chinese… with a slightly different ethnic background that we will choose to ignore.

Why we didn't like traveling in Xinjiang, China: the billion and one security checkpoints.

Local folks waiting to go to the three–yes, three–security checkpoints to enter the train station in Urumqi.

Chinese officials are mindless drones

What’s the most deadly article you’ve carried on you while traveling?

For us, it’s deodorant.

Forget the pocket knives, toxic bug spray, and baton-like selfie stick–the ever-so-clever Chinese security deduced that spray deodorant was our weapon of choice. Multiple cans of our deodorant were confiscated because ??? We might kill someone with freshness? Craft a bomb with our B.O.-begone? Do I look like fucking MacGyver to you?!

China doesn’t want citizens to be independent, self-thinking, or critical–it would be dangerous for the Party. Instead, it has created an army of mindless security drones who refuse to do anything except following paper orders to a T. And these totally arbitrary security restrictions drove us insane. Even more so than security in Pakistan (and that’s sayin’ something).

Paper says no drinks on the bus platform, so no drinks on the bus platform. The fact that it’s 40 degrees and you’re on the verge of dying from dehydration is irrelevant–the paper has spoken. The fact that there’s a vending machine for drinks on the platform is also irrelevant–you still cannot have drinks there.

Paper says no suspicious objects on the bus. You have shampoo in your backpack. Your shampoo is very suspicious, despite the fact that it is in a bag with conditioner, razors, soap, and other shower products. Suspicious objects are not allowed on the bus, so you are not allowed on the bus.

Paper says groups are not allowed to intermingle at the border. You must stand by your bus, and stop speaking to the person in line before you. Shouted conversations across the compound to said person are acceptable, however–the paper says nothing about that.


Before the rant ends: a caveat about traveling in Xinjiang

Traveling isn’t always going to be fun, and it’s easy to get sucked into a negative mindset. It’s important to remember that traveling is a privilege not granted to many, and we should be fortunate for what we do have, even if it is really fucking annoying frustrating at times.

So let’s end this on a positive note, shall we? Despite the frustrations and pains, there was one shining beacon of excellence throughout our time in Xinjiang: the food.

Street food in Kashgar, China


Noodles in Kashgar, China

Oh yes.

A bowl of noodles in Urumqi, China

Yeah baby.

Egg dumplings in Xinjiang, China



At least we can say we left China with contented bellies.

Heading to China soon. Check out this post on things to do in China. 


Travel doesn't always live up to your expectations, and that happened to us in Xinjiang, China. Here's why we didn't like traveling in Xinjiang, China.


Have you ever traveled to a country, only to leave disappointed? Which country? What happened?


Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

68 thoughts on “Why we didn’t like traveling in Xinjiang, China

    Journal of Nomads says:

    Wow, this was very interesting to read!! We have high expectations of China too but now you’re making us doubt whether or not it will be worth the trouble of going there. Eventually we make our own experiences and maybe it’s not like this in other provinces. Although we’ve heard stories about how intense it is and how the system works there. Thank you for being so honest about your experiences!! Yep, it isn’t always sunshine and roses! Hope you’ll have an amazing time in Kyrgyzstan, we’ve heard only good stories about that country 🙂

    Heh, we encounter sunshine and roses about… 20% of the time. Knowing how you guys travel, you might have similar experiences (be sure to save up before heading into China!), but then again, the country is so vast and has so many incredible places to see, there’s no way it could all be a letdown.

    We will indeed enjoy Kyrgyzstan, thanks! Enjoy your last days of summer camp, if those are still going on, and good luck with prepping for your Georgian adventure!

    Jon B says:

    Maybe pick a place that is similar to other countries, Kunming for example if you like Vietnam and Laos? There will be quite a few similarities and although China is very intense, noisy and shocking at times I think the people (at least in my experience) are great as they are fascinated by people visiting their country. I very rarely had people try to rip me off and it’s very safe to travel around China.

    Xian was a particular highlight for myself as was the onward journey through the Hexi corridor on the train to Dunhuang. Once at Kashgar I stayed for a day and then went to Lake Karakul which is beautiful.

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks ka for the detailed response. We’ve had several people tell us they had a lovely time in China, and especially in the far west. Maybe we were just unlucky in our interactions.

    We’ll probably go to China again one day, but we decided we rather spend more time in Central Asia than go on in China, with no regrets. We did think Karakul was gorgeous though, it was perhaps our favorite stop in China.


    Victoria says:

    China is definitely more tense in the west, especially around Tibet and Xinjiang. If you want an easier and more cultural experience with (perhaps) friendlier faces, definitely go to east China, where the larger cities are. I found Xian beautiful and history-rich (the terracotta army was amazing) and also advise going to the province of Fujian.

    Simon Leroy says:

    Hi Sebastiaan ! We met in a dorm in urumqi when you was waiting for Alex. Thanks for your honesty, listening your pakistani tales I didn’t really expect something different from you x)
    I will try to complete for readers your post with my own experience from parts of xinjiang you didn’t went to and rest of China. As you went -I’m not sure of that- from kashi to urumqi, you passed through the pointless part of northern taklamakan silk road way , and miss the southern silk road, where people were far more interested on you, and where there were almost no landmarks to visit with an expensive fee (chinese hasn’t yet exploited each monuments and lakes, but that’s beggining). So I recommand people wich want to travel in xinjiang to better go to the southern part of the taklamakan than the northern part, or the north part of xinjiang (almaty region and so on). There chineses controls are worse and more frequent than the other part of xinjiang, but I think it worth it!
    Otherwise I agree with most of the things you said and had a similar experience.
    I’m waiting for your stories of the next few weeks, thanks for all that, I wish you will like kazakhstan !

    Simon from britanny (france)

    Hi Simon. Thanks for your addition, very useful to our readers. We thought about going to the southern part but decided our time was better spend in Central Asia. So far we aren’t regretting our decision. Glad to hear from you though, hope you’re doing well!

    adom says:


    Came across ur blog as we were looking into Georgia and armenia (can’t download guidebook in freaking western china, cos Google is banned..) We were actually in our bed in kashgar doing exactly what you are in the photo thinking about how expensive the mosque was and deciding not to go….I’m glad we went I china, I don’t need to go again. Security esp in West China is out of control, I mean seriously how much damage can I do with a pot of yoghurt). We travelled across China, and the West of China and esp kashgar was our favourite. The rest is manufactured tourism on steroids (nothing is real/old),  I’d consider myself a seasoned traveller and I’ve never been happier to leave a country, the locals are generally rude, and many are plain disgusting, everything costs a fortune (except food, which along with cheap best are saving graces).

    Enjoy the rest of your travels (we are loving Armenia)


    Hi Adom,

    Thanks for reaching out. It seems China really is a love it or hate it destination. There’s no in between. The food does salvage a lot though.

    Hopefully China will realize that it is destroying its tourist industry by hyper-commercializing it. Don’t think that will happen though, sadly.

    Anyway have fun in Georgia and Armenia, we loved both countries.


    Jon B says:

    I understand what you are saying but I have to take exception with one point and that’s people not caring in China. I’ve found them to be as helpful as they can be, but you have to remember they don’t speak English so usually the waving away just means they don’t have any idea of what you are asking them.

    If you find English speaking people you will find them very helpful usually.

    Please don’t let this region of China taint your view of China as there are some truly amazing places to visit. They also happen to be quite a bit cheaper than the options in the West.

    China is relatively expensive compared to Asia and the surrounding Central Asian countries but I don’t remember paying that much for a dorm bed on many occassions. They can be as little as £3 a night in some places. Food is 50p for a bowl of noodles etc.

    I do agree that the sites and attractions can ruin a budget backpackers life in a few days! I think i paid £30 to climb mount Wu Dang Shan in 2010!

    Great blog by the way, and i’ve linked your post about Uzbekistan/Afghanistan!

    Noriko says:

    I very much agree with Jon. You absolutely must learn some Chinese (Mandarin) and then try to visit China. Totally different world! Some are still quite rough around the edges but my time in Beijing regarding the people was great! I had the opposite experience with you. I really hated the food, and I was there for almost three months!

    But the people were memorable. I have many examples but one is that I once was lost and this girl took the time out of her day to make sure I got to where I needed to go. So, we asked a taxi driver and he didn’t know. We asked a few more and they still didn’t know. So, she said let’s just go together then she got in a taxi with me and used the gps on her phone to navigate me there. Then, when we get there, she absolutely will not allow me to pay. So, she paid for my cab there (15 min. ride away), her cab back to where she started, and she still had to get to her afternoon class. I was just totally in awe. And like I said, that was just one incident, there were others.

    So, for me, China = loved the people, hated the food.

    We don’t think you can compare Beijing to Xinjiang, though. The local population there doesn’t speak Mandarin, and they aren’t really Chinese to begin with.

    Noriko says:

    They don’t speak Mandarin? Who told you that? Mandarin is an official language there. Some may not prefer to speak it but most people most definitely can speak Mandarin.

    The point I wanted to stress though is language. In their case, Uyghur would probably get you more brownie points since it’s their cultural language but even so Mandarin is far better to know than having only English.

    That is one thing I love about the mainland Chinese people, they are so proud of who they are. Most people I’ve met absolutely love China and the Chinese language (NOT Hong Kong or Taiwan though).

    Ivan Chua says:

    Good read you have here. I’ve never been to Western China but I’ve been to the eastern part. If you really want the taste of the Orient, you should really go to the east such as Beijing and Shanghai. Guilin and Xi’an are also great.

    But the thing that upsets me about the mainland Chinese people are : They’re not really friendly to almost anyone even if you speak Chinese and if you’re Chinese (I speak Chinese and yes I’m Chinese. Second generation Chinese living in Malaysia to be precise)

    You might also want to consider other countries with similar Oriental cultures such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

    And do visit Malaysia one day 😉

    What a shame! I have to admit that I had similar feelings in Xinjiang – I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t leave a great impression on me either. It all just seemed so robotic, to be honest – and you mention that in the post. And the security seems to have been stepped up since I was there.

    And paying to get into a mosque??? I don’t think so!!

    We had hoped to leave paying for religious sites behind us in Iran. Alas.

    XiuJing says:

    Sorry for the experience in xinjiang, the reason of most bad things you experienced in xinjiang is, this place is suffering from islamic extremism. Non-muslims are not welcomed there. I’m a chinese han nationality, I traveled to there at 2012 and I was not welcomed by the muslim nationalities too. You can check out the big thing happened in Urumqi at 2009, that’s why the security was so strict.
    It will be totally different if you travel to the other parts of China, people will be well educated and nice, but the Disneyfication of tourism is a common issue in China.
    Anyway, welcome to visit China again, please let me know if I can be any help.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Honestly, nothing that influenced our perception of this place had anything do to with extremism. And, considering how the locals are treated by the central government, we can understand where their frustration comes from. But, since this is not a political blog, I won’t go into it any further.

    Chris says:

    I have to say….many of your problems come from not speaking the language (which I don’t expect most tourists to do, but it does create problems.).

    While many of the things you mentioned happen, if you speak the language, it’s a lot easier to get around these regulations.

    I currently study in China, and before I open my mouth and start speaking Mandarin, some people will act like this to me. However, as soon as they realize I can communicate, they have no problem and are super nice. It’s frustrating for the Chinese when they want to ask us questions (for example, about your deodorant, something Chinese people do not use and so is probably not familiar to them) but are unable to due to a language barrier.

    Again, I don’t expect you to know a language before entering a country, but I think this should be mentioned as a factor in the bad side of your guys’ trip.

    I hope you guys give China another chance, it really is a great country!


    lui says:

    Dear all,
    We are wasting an opportunity to explain freely what is happening in Xinjiang right now.
    That’s the most interesting thing to visit that area.
    Maybe we can understand why they are like this , why they charge to visit a mosque or how much they love the different languages..

    Sebastiaan says:

    Not really sure what you mean. If you’re talking about the political situation in Xinjiang, and the oppression of the local population, we are aware of that. But, this is not really the place to discuss that. Also, charging for sights is done by the government, and locals have very little say in this.

    Rianne says:

    I think it’s really good what you told us about how it was in Xinjiang.
    Most bloggers tell us only the good things, and that makes us (the readers) think that they have a perfect life!
    But it isn’t always that perfect, you showed us.


    Sebastiaan says:

    Haha we honestly don’t think a perfect life exists (although we’re pretty close). But we get what you mean. We often feel the same. Everything is rainbow and sunshine, apparently, but we know better. Trying to keep it real.

    Victoria says:


    Like the some of the above comments, I really hope you give China another chance and visit the east coast. Although the locals may sometimes seem rude and not overly friendly, they’re used to being that way to strangers they don’t trust and know. However, they are in general very polite people to those they do get to know, and also do the whole guerilla-warfare-over-paying-the-bill thing (similar to what you said in your 5 Serious Danger of Traveling to Pakistan article).

    Charly (not real name) says:

    Hi Guys,
    respect and congratulations to a very honest report of the impressions of your Xinjiang visit.
    I am living in China for 7 years now and unfortunately what you guys describe as monitarization of nature and disneyfication is a common scheme in China everywhere (China is by far not a cheap country anyway).
    But your destination is very different from the rest of China.
    In Xinjiang suppression is taken very seriously. “Real” Uyghurs are living very isolated and are scared to go out, to work for example. They get arrested on the spot, if they only radiate the smallest possible threat.
    There have been some serious local incidents when Uyghurs attacked Han Chinese randomly. The Chinese paranoia is not completely unfounded.
    This is not a new thing, Xinjiang was (on/off) part of the Chinese empire for a few hundred years already. Uyghurs basically speak Mandarin very little to nothing, simply because of the minimal exposure to Han Chinese. The Han Chinese run the province. Many live there already for many generations and not all are fresh imports. Road blocks and controls on the road are frequent, Han are usually passing without any delay, Uyghurs and Laowais (foreigners) get grilled. Xenophobia at its best.
    Interestingly Uyghurs have a special Chinese ID card, that does not permit them to leave the province without special documents they need to obtain.
    Han Chinese in Xinjiang are heavily subsidised. Companies get huge incentives there. China has a big plan to develop this area to a tourist attraction (will take long time) and needs to explore the mineral wealth of parts of the province. In fact China is spending huge amounts of money for Xinjiang.

    This extreme social and political environment does not reflect China generally.
    It is very wrong to conclude that all of China is like Xinjiang.
    Even the difference in “atmosphere” between north and south Xinjiang is already significant (as mentioned in one reply above correctly).
    It would have been good to get a bit better overview in this biggest Chinese Province before coming out with stereotypes.
    That’s too simple, guys!

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks for this long response. Not really sure what your point is, though. We mention most of the points you make, albeit in passing (this is a travel blog after all, and not a political one). We also link to an article about Uyghur oppression for people who want to learn more. We also mention that Xinjiang is different from the rest of China, and shouldn’t be compared as such. So unlike your claim, we don’t conclude that all of China is like Xinjiang.

    You say we come out with stereotypes, but where exactly are the stereotypes? That Chinese officials are mindless drones? Pretty sure this holds true anywhere in China, as both expats and other travelers have told us.

    In the end, this blog is about our experiences. We’ve met several people who had a completely different experience in Xinjiang from us, which us great. And they can write about those experiences on their own blog or in their own diary. But if we have a certain experience somewhere, we’ll write about it as we see fit, as we have done here.

    Hi Sebastiaan,

    thank you very much for this honest story! We have been to Xinjiang about 4 weeks ago and we also experienced the mindboggling amount of regulation and police control as really annoying! (We were there during the 19th party congress so everything was even more tight) Overall though, we had a great experience, especially down the Karakoram Highway and hiking in Tianchi.

    We have to also agree with the other commentators that once you leave Xinjiang, things change radically! Ok, the Disneyfication of tourist attractions still continues but you can normally evade those. We were especially fond of Gansu, right next to Xinjiang, not sure if you had the chance to go? I would be very happy if you checked out our blog where we detailed some of our journeys!

    Kevin and Nicole

    Sebastiaan says:

    Being in China during the party congress must have been something. Can imagine security is super tight. Yeah the KKH is gorgeous, we traveled most of it from Pakistan into China, definitely a highlight.

    We didn’t go to other parts of China, since we headed to Central Asia instead.

    Wow says:

    Why do you see the world as your playground for the benefit of your easy travel and fun? You have little respect in your writing for cultures that are unlike your own. Your white privilege shows deeply, would hope you challenge yourself to stop believing that a place is unlikable when not fit for white western tourists.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Easy travels? You clearly haven’t looked around the site much, have you? Also not sure how me being white has anything to do with the arguments I make, or where I’m disrespectful towards Chinese culture. And who says that Xinjiang is unfit for western tourism? I certainly haven’t. If anything, its been made too fit, too sterile, you know, Disneyfied. If you don’t like the points I’m making, maybe come up with some actual arguments next time, instead of crying white privilege when you don’t agree.

    Karen Chua says:

    Hi guys, just stumbled across your site. Very cool travels. My boyfriend at the time (now husband) and I travelled through Western China, Pakistan and onto India back in 1986. I think it was the 2nd summer the Karakoram highway was open. I’m of Chinese descent (grew up in Canada) and found the Uighurs to be extremely friendly when we were there. Of course there were far fewer Han Chinese living in that region and very little Chinese military presence in the area at the time. I think I would be saddened by the changes that have occurred over the last 30 years and would probably be concerned about how open the Uighurs would be to interacting with me.

    Looking forward to reading more of your travels. Hope you two continue exploring the world. My husband and I have continued to travel on and off even with our 4 kids over the years. When they were younger we took them through Southeast Asia; in their early teens it was South America. As they moved away for university we continued to travel with whomever was available. Last year it was Ethiopia and the Caucasus. This summer my 22 year old and I are planning kyrgyzstan and tajikistan and the Afgan Wakhan corridor. However since I just read your article on the World Nomad games I’m starting to rethink our timing and thinking we should try and plan our travel around the games in September. Keep up the great reads!

    Rick says:

    This was the dumbest thing ive ever read. You didnt like a place because sights cost money and the people didnt treat you like royalty? Jesus Christ man. Your complaints are valid for the rest of China as well. Disneyfication? Check out Lijiangs ‘old town,’ or the ski lift up Snow Mountain. Maybe you should’ve read up up what makes Xinjiang special in the first place before going.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks for reading. And thanks for the compelling case you make to visit the rest of China.

    tanya says:

    Very much enjoying your response to Rick’s enlightened comment.

    TheOtherDonald says:

    Hi. We are traveling to Urumqi this year and want to know more about this city and it’s people. Any other pros and cons to offer in getting there, places to see and stay etc. will have four short days (after arriving at their airport) to be in Urumqi and want to make the most of it.
    Safe travels,

    Julie Cao says:

    Hi Alex, I have read your blog all night and accidentally cross this article. I am a Chinese born and raised so it is hard for me not to read it when I see the title. I am glad you love the food, as Chinese food is always something I miss about when I travel around the world. I have never been to the parts you have visited, but I can feel your pain and frustration. I wont say people there are rude and unfriendly, but sometimes it happens especially in the touristic area, and I feel frustrated sometimes traveling to other parts of the country as well. Many people have left China because the general environment there is not good for us and our next generations as well. We love our country but we cannot do anything with our government. If you visit other parts of China where people speaks English, you will feel easier. It has changed a lot over the years so hopefully you will get a chance to explore the remaining parts.

    Sophie and Manolo says:

    So sorry to hear you didn’t like Western China. We traveled China for 2 months, and we can definitely agree on the high entry prices for everything a’d the disneyfication. It drove us crazy and we had a similar moment of hating everything about the country. We would go outside and sometimes literally snap at people (even when normally we are super friendly people). Chinese are also definitely no Iranians. The way of interacting with each other is definitely a bit rougher (horribly rude from a western point of view at times), but keeping in mind that it is their culture and for them it is normal definitely helped.
    However, the moment we arrived to Western Sichuan (the part that used to be Greater Tibet) everything changed!
    It’s a pity you didn’t make it all the way there. No permits required. People were very nice, especially when greeting them in Tibetan. Their culture is still very strong (think nomads, yak meat, very high mountains and tibetan buddhism). No chinification here yet, except for some museums depicting how tibetans loved to fight alongside the chinese in the 50s. And the best part? Not many Chinese tourists come here because it’s difficult to access (long and uncomfortable bus rides crossing 5000m mountains) and it’s cheap! We had some very nice double rooms for 10€.

    Alex says:

    That sounds amazing! I do want to return to China—it can’t ALL be Disneyfied, right?—and Western Sichuan sounds right up my alley. It’s refreshing to get some travel advice from a like minded traveler 🙂

    w.chang says:

    Appreciate your honesty, was romanitizing about Kashgar until I saw the picture you posted. Good blog! Wish there were less blogs that omit the less pleasant aspects but only accentuate the glamorous. Thanks!

    Alex says:

    Travel ain’t always glamorous, and it’s frustrating to only read about rainbows and sparkles and sunshine. I try to keep it real here!

    Winker says:

    Occupied Xinjiang province will yet be free. I noted a lot of propaganda about the China East of Xinjiang. To be sure, it is propaganda…and I have relatives in Mainland China.

    Winker says:

    Oh, I should note that your report was the fucking best…don’t let the assholes who put it down matter. Chinese propagandists are are all the fucking place. Xinjiang is run by primitive Chinese mafia style leaders. The lowest of the low.

    Justyouraverageperson says:

    Let me just say one thing: Uyghurs are very nice people. They are as jolly as their food is delicious. What you’re witnessing is the fear and suspicion that comes from being denied almost all human rights and being stripped of every single one of your freedoms. Right now times there are extreme, where you can’t even speak your own language without getting arrested. Sad to see your time wasn’t too amazing, but there are reasons why. Please don’t hate on the Uyghur people for trying to not get killed.

    Kaki says:

    Some more context on China’s police state policies in Xinjiang. https://www.economist.com/briefing/2018/05/31/china-has-turned-xinjiang-into-a-police-state-like-no-other. Makes me really sad ????

    CITL says:

    Sounds like you were just out of your element, Xinjiang is a rough & wild place quite unlike other travel locations. Unless you know Mandarin or Uyghur, it requires an English-speaking tour guide. And yes, people in Xinjiang do speak Mandarin. In 2016, Xinjiang was still a place where foreigners could travel. Beautiful natural landscape (mountains & desert). Amazing cultural locations (Turpan, Kashgar & Hotan). Xinjiang, especially Urumqi, does have some fake tourist locations, you’re right on there.

    As of now, beginning 2017-2018, it’s not advisable for any foreigner to visit Xinjiang. Actually the only people who should visit Xinjiang now are Han Chinese from Eastern China who’re part of an organized tour group. Otherwise, too risky. It’s descended into a complete police state where you tremble in fear of the police while walking down the street, fearful they will detain you as you’re on the way to board a train or airplane. It’s not a free place, very locked down, very controlling. You’d be shocked to go back now and see the difference only 2 years later and would find it’s even more difficult now than when you were there before.

    Janet says:

    As a Chinese, first of all, I’m sorry that the trip to xinjiang was not perfect。There are many complicated reasons for these problems。Welcome to other cities in China,You’ll have a great experience.If we have the opportunity to travel together, my husband and I will guide you.Welcome to China again!

    Ruo hang jiang says:

    Xin jiang hui muslim damn uneducated terrorists… so happy the day an ate this mixed breed savages into han culture… thwy r vile baggage on our xountry’.

    Lorenz says:

    Hi guys,
    I just came across your blog while looking for info on Xinjiang, where I am thinking of traveling next month. I have been living in China for almost 6 years and many of the things you mentioned in this article seem unfortunately normal and common to the whole country. I am talking in particular about the part on how the local governments “manage” or “develop” the tourism.
    I have to mention for the sake of truth that fortunately some of the most open and developed areas of the country have already realized a few years ago this problem in the last few years have been trying to shift to more reasonable standards.. the 2 problems (common to many other topics in this country) being that:
    1. before the change will invest the least developed areas of the country and less “important” levels of government it will take time and
    2. it will take a lot of effort and time to see a tangible change after 20 years or more of short-sighted “development”, and many things unfortunately will get lost/destroyed in the process 🙁 that’s sad, i know.
    Anyways… all this said, almost all the places in china i have been to were still worth it, nevertheless… and i hope xinjiang will be too.
    Very good to find blogs like yours with also cons and not only pros and many useful comments by your followers as well.
    Keep up the good work!

    Helton Ribeiro says:

    Hi, guys, next time don’t miss the south of China, the amazing karsts (conical cliffs) in Xingping and the lovely city of Guilin. And I travelled from Beijing to the south and just met very nice and helpful people. China is now one of my favorite countries, and I love Chinese people. You will not be disappointed again


    High expectation travling to Xinjiang? why you wanna harbor such feeling in advance. When you are not happy traveling to a certain place, it is better to reflect by youself, what happened to myself? sometimes high expectation is not a matter of fact attitude of travelling. Xinjiang people is not living to make you happy, if you don’t like it, then don’t choose to again. Traveling is more a new opportunity of discovering new staff than being made happy by the local people.

    JH says:

    I (from Taiwan) just came back from Northern Xinjiang. I’ve to said that, at the peak season now, I see no Western tourists.

    I can tell you that, China government don’t welcome Westerns to visit Xinjiang. China are afraid that you reveal the dirty things they have been doing. The Uyghurs or other races, they are not like Chinese. They are just being strictly controlled and are scared of the China government. You won’t know how they will be punished if they be nice to you.

    Mister Baggins says:

    Sorry to hear that you couldn’t have nice encounters with the Uyghurs. I’ve met some Uyghurs in eastern and southern China and they were the nicest people around these places. In Xinjiang, I can only assume that the Uyghurs are scared to talk or interact with you. Every move is monitored with cameras and I saw in some interviews, that it’s kind of dangerous for them to interact with foreigners. It’s very sad actually..

    Ivan says:

    my only comment – don’t travel when you don’t have money 😉

    david jones says:

    the Chinese charged me money, cry cry. The Chinese took away my deodorant, now i smell like rotten cheese, booho boohuhu… I saw a dwarf statue, this place must be Disneyland copycat. NO!!! I want the fictional silk road where people dance and welcome me into their home and treat me like king. why are people staring at me? cry cry… what a pathetic whinner.

    rinda says:

    thanks for the story. Is it safe a muslim woman with hijab to travel alone there?

    I really want to visit Xinjiang for nature, food and culture. I hate current political issue.

    I am aware that China is not nice to traveller (expecially if you can’t speak and read Chinese). I like Shanghai but I had bad experience when I was in Beijing. Crowded, costly and difficult to commute.

    nick says:

    I completely agree with you re: the coldness and unhelpfulness in China. (I have never been to Xinjiang– just Beijing and Shanghai). I found the people in India and other parts of Asia to be much warmer, much friendlier, and much less automaton-like. I was really surprised, as I went in thinking China was going to be amazing– at the very least with people as friendly as India/South-East-Asia.

    Wenxin says:

    Hi there:
    I am sorry to hear that you do not like Xinjiang, but I want to know that do you try to know a little bit thing about Xinjiang before you going there?
    Xinjiang is totally a different province from other part of China, and from some of your words I can see that you were there with your prejudice. About the government, you described it as a monster, but do you know that without soldiers everywhere, without cameras everywhere, you would be killed while no one knows. Xinjiang is dangerous, and in some way it is because there are some foreign power inciting Xinjiang independence, believe me, that is ture. Hence some people in Xinjiang are “fighting for their freedom” and you guys call them “freedom fighter”, but these kind of people kill people in Xinjiang, even kill people in other parts of China. I do not really understand why you guys would consider the terrorists as fighters, consider a country which wants to safeguard national unity and security as unreasonable monster. So thanks for the cameras and policemen everywhere, you were not killed, and cameras really do not care where were you going and what were you doing. Also thanks for the security measures, because of that, though Xinjiang is dangerous, this place does not have as many terrorist attacks as other countries do.
    When you blamed everything to the government, of course everything is unreasonable for you. Because before you going there, you already had your answers.
    Xinjiang is not really ready for tourism, though it tries to but it is not ready. It is good that you want to have an adventure there (yeah we called that adventure in China because even Chinese dare not go there alone, thanks you freedom fighters!), but it could be better if you tried to search for more things before you going, when I mean more things, I do not mean more things from western media.
    BTW, the best thing in Xinjiang is landscape, not the commercial place you went. That’s why I mean Xinjiang is not ready for tourism, for the best things, it is still a little bit hard for you guys to discover since you are not native so you do not know how to get there and what is right way to have fun.

    Piers Newberry says:

    Just wondering if the locals are fearful of talking to foreigners due to the secret police interrogations. You also have to expect a 100% language barrier resulting in the ‘No’s. In fact in other parts of China this was often the case – we were ignored by taxi drivers – the whole language barrier is just too much for them, and quite time consuming.

    Yeung Chai-ling says:

    Although y’all obviously aren’t demolitions experts, you can actually make quite effective bombs using spray deodorant with just some tape and a lighter, especially lethal when you’ve got razors as shrapnel.

    On another note, remember that Xinjiang was a where an internationally designated terrorist organization carried out attacks on civilians. Cells of that organization still remain active, with a bunch of their militants currently reinforcing ISIS in Syria. I very much support the Communist Party’s security policies but I guess that makes me incapable of independent thinking.

    Rhiannon Lynn says:

    Oh, is this near the Taklamakan desert and the “mummies” (naturally mummified by the salty dry land) they found near Loulan and Urümchi? I’d only like to go there to see them, and where they were found; I’ve got a passion for archeology, and there’s one question I’ve never had answered — what DID the people die of? Apart from the infant (malnutrition or intestinal illness) there’s no obvious cause for the adults. A lingering curiosity.
    Digressing a bit!
    Looks very interesting.

    Ksenija Olmer says:

    I appreciate keeping your cool with so many nasty responses. Don’t people have anything better to do? Maybe plan a trip for themselves and process their own travel feelings, joys, and disappointments.
    Kashmir for me was the biggest disappointment of 40 years of travel. I understand you very well and appreciate your honesty.

    Beau says:

    If you want a really fun Authentic experience in China with a great mixture of Tibetan culture and the most friendly/open people you must visit Sichuan Province. In fact, parts of Sichuan province are part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region but without the permit restrictions etc.

    As far as Xinjiang goes, it is a very sensitive area now due to concentration camps etc. As a tourist not able to speak Mandarin I would not recommend you visit.

    Grassroot says:

    I guess different type of travellers like different things. I plan to go there and also to another province to visit panda. I am glad they have 5 star hotels where I can have a bath everyday or else I am not going there. I also want to say that there are vocational camps not concentation camps where people are retrained to have a life skill to do a normal Life. I heard from friends who travelled there , it is true that security is high due to some terrorists /extremist activities. I ‘d rather be safe when I travel.
    I have been to many modern cities in China , very pleased so far, especially food. There are very expensive places and very inexpensive still very good food. I wonder if they have english signs in xinjiang, if not, then better to go with a tour.
    The other thing is – is it easy to find washroom everywhere? I do not mind to pay if there are clean washroom. Afterall, nothing is free in the world. If you need to maintain clean washroom, that needs money.

    M says:

    Chinese government may charge for many things but they can not and do not charge for everything and anything, such as air and street walking! Some Chinese officials may be not clever and may be even fool but Chinese officials are not mindless drones! You are wrong in these statements and claims!

    Joker says:

    So, an edited post that was posted back in 2016.
    If you aren’t trying to attract more people to your website, I don’t know what is.

    Joker says:

    did you see concentration camps firsthand or sth? Do share.

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