On to Kuqa
Another early wake up call, today at 5 AM to catch the flight to Kuqa at 8 AM.
Cab was waiting at 6 AM and he first asked for 80 RMB for the trip. When we arrived the ride was 30 RMB I knew he was high so I countered with 50 RMB which he accepted. Arrival at the airport terminal I gave him 50 RMG and he said I owed him 80 RMB. Not to be intimidated, and with enough Chinese to argue, I told him he agreed to 50 RMB and if he did not accept I would call the police. This went back and forth for a bit and fortunately my loud voice can be very unpleasant even if my Chinese is not perfect. Finally, I offered his 10Y more as a way to conclude, for a total of 60 RMB.
Security in China is much tighter than in the US and in Urumqi and maybe all over Xinjiang, it is quite tight. The line at the entrance to the terminal took us 30 minutes to complete. The crush of people may have been due to the end of the National Holiday and we were part of last minute returnees. This security step also included baggage X-Ray. Check in was faster than anything I have witnessed in the US. They just buzzed through check-in. The airline, China Southern really had this under control.
The security before boarding was a nightmare. That was at least 45 minutes. Long lines, very thorough screening of baggage and individual pat down. I had the usual tourist quota of camera, lenses and flash with lots of batteries. I had to unpack my knapsack to locate all batteries and then when they were sure that it was camera equipment, the bag was then rescanned.
In comparison, arrival in Kuqa was a breeze. It is a tiny airport. We were the only plane on the tarmac. One luggage carousel. One exit door.
The itinerary had changed since through a contact we were allowed to access Kumtura, a Buddhist cave site not often opened. Our driver was at the door and after a brief phone call confirming that we could access Kumtura we were off.
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