July 9, 2009

A snowy morning at Karakul Lake, Xinjiang, China

Location: Karakul Lake, Xinjiang, China (38° 26′ 0″ N, 75° 3′ 0″ E)
Date: 10 June 2004; 8.15am
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

Karakul Lake is approximately 200 km on the road towards Khunjerab Pass, the border crossing between China and Pakistan. It is a beautiful high alpine lake at about 3,600m and is surrounded by snow-peak mountains (also see this post). There are a couple of Kirgiz settlements along its banks. However, around 2003, a small cluster of yurt-tents and a couple of Chinese restaurants sprang up. A gaudy gantry was also erected near the same spot, at the entrance of a small paved road leading from the main road to the lakeshore. These people who run the restaurant and rent out the yurt-tents (think a couple of Chinese families) started collecting entrance fee of 50 RMB per person to visit the lake. Honestly, I am not sure if these people are actually authorised to collect any entrance fee (like many parts of China) but they will not allow one to go pass without paying. When I attempted to go back to Karakul Lake at the end of 2008 (after the Tibetan disturbances), I was told that I need to get a special permit to visit the lake. I guess the Chinese government was sensitive with foreigners in remote places of China after the Lhasa disturbances. Unfortunately, they did not trust their instincts enough and so did not start enacting policies or taking steps to reduce the marginalization of the Uighers that lead to the deadly riots in Urumqi on 4 July.

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