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Current Location : Gilgit, North Pakistan (Google map)
Last entry date : 19 June 2008

A glimpse of rural Xinjiang

28/May/08 to 30/May/08

Finally, after months of preparation (and of course an advance payment to the chinese agent to sort out my entry / exit permits, etc) for this entry, I rolled up to the Khazakstan / Korgas Chinese border on 28/May/08 morning. I was prepared ie I paid (too much to justify any border crossing) ; just keeping my fingers crossed that my agent has got my entry permission, the correct documents, etc with him and is waiting for me at the border. This is probably the most complicated and costly border crossing attempt of my trip.

Khazakstan had a small border post, but China had 2 big buildings with hundreds of personnels inside and outside (soldiers). “You’re the 1st biker we see this year. Did you come here on a truck” asked the Chinese customs officer. I am on a bike, why would I come here on a truck ?? Thus began a series of difficult hurdles to get my bike pass the rules imposed on foreign vehicules, each rule dutifully followed to the letter by the 3 customs sections involved (visa, customs and health). The guards would not allow the agent to enter the customs compound, so I had to talk to their dept chief to request a special permission for his entry. By evening time, the bike was checked twice over and the Chinese Health section had refused the bike’s clearance. It demanded that the agent’s caution guarantee for the bike be increased 3 fold – a surprise even to the agent, but they quickly did so the next day.

We spent the next 3 days in the city of Yinning, 100km away, hopping from the Vehicule Inspection dept, to the Registration dept, to the Police dept to finally get my temporary Chinese driving license. These are huge administration office, chinese style, who knows little about flexibility. An International driver’s license is not valid here. In the end, all these motion are for a set of temporary bike papers & driver’s license valid for the remaining 9 days of my allowed bike import into China. The agent said I should consider myself lucky to get the bike permits. I ask myself if I am really lucky or am a fool to have paid to enter China ?? After all, if they make it so difficult to get in, who knows it could be just as difficult to get out with my own bike.

The consolation of my 3 days stay at Yinning was that the management of the hotel I was staying finds it an honour that a long distance traveler had chosen to stay at their hotel. At their inauguration day, I was made their guest of honour and even had to give a speech !

Now if only the Chinese customs would be more cool like this… and welcoming…

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