Last year I decided on an adventure to retrace parts of the ancient Silk Road. So with two weeks off from work, I mapped out a journey from western China to Northern Pakistan by road.
The oft-reliable Internet’s information about travelling to Pakistan from China was sketchy and outdated. I also knew I’d need someone seasoned to drive, as the roads weren’t the safest — construction, road-repaving and landslides — so serendipity be damned, I went to a travel agency who made the transport arrangements.
From Kashgar (read more here), I had to head further west of China to Tashkurgan, a border town at the crossroads of many other countries including Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. There, a public bus would connect me to Sost, Pakistan.
Few vehicles have the license to travel across this so-called friendship border, so I needed to get through immigration and then onto a dirty, public bus which an armed guard accompanied. Getting through customs wasn’t hard, and being Singaporean helped.
Maximum bus occupancy rates? No such thing! Everyone and I mean everyone got on the groaning overloaded bus. The lucky ones got a dirty reclining bed to themselves — the others reluctantly shared.
I was lulled into an uneven sleep, as the bus rolled along bumpy tracks and navigated hairpin bends. In between naps, I blinked through sandy mountain ranges and icy-blue glacier lakes from behind dusty windows.
Towards the tail-end of the bus ride, the views grew too magnificent to stay asleep. I moved up front to squeeze with the bus conductor and make conversation in bad Mandarin. I asked him, “do you ever get bored of these views?” He smiled and gave a slight shrug.