Arriving in Urumchi

When we left Almaty, they "made" me shrink-wrap my suitcase for $5. We thought we'd have to ask for a knife to cut through the stuff, but it turned out to be very flimsy. I also changed hotel rooms: the leaky bathroom and room walls were moldy and I didn't think I'd be able to stay there without getting sick.

We also had an inexperienced young female guide who we all immediately took a disliking to. She obviously had no training on how to process/sequence things, so as we were "retiring" for the night, she then told us we had to pay a damage deposit to the hotel. The way she went about telling us was so convoluted that we thought we were getting "shaken" down for cash. Mark Urban finally paid her something, and it turned out she was right: it is quite usual for this, but there was nothing in the tour literature to indicate this.

Our early plane the next day to Kashgar was cancelled, so we were able to "sleep in" a little and spent most of the day in Urumchi.