With limited time and vast distances to cover, we knew that we would not be able to only travel overland, as we had originally intended. We decided to fly out to Kashgar,Xinjiang, and make our way back to Kunming from there. A hastily-purchased but far-from-direct flight from Lijiang, with overnight stops in Chengdu then Urumqi, had us in Kashgar in fifty short hours.

Xinjiang has long been on our list of must-see destinations. Both of us were drawn to see that province's huge mountains and deserts and to explore some of the old Silk Road sites. One of us is far more cultured than the other, and wanted to understand first-hand how the people of Xinjiang, with culture and religion unique from the rest of China, are able to reconcile their traditions with those of their new Chinese landlords. I wanted to go and eat mutton and flatbread. Neither of us was disappointed.

Kashgar's bazaar was noisy and bustling, with items on offer ranging from used boots to fur hats to livestock to food of highly dubious origin. We had read that at any time, one could expect to hear over fifty languages or dialects being spoken in the market. Sounds about right.

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