We stayed one night in a Kazhk yurt at Sayram Lake as a stop-off en-route to the Ili Valley.
Our arrival could have gone better. Upon pulling into the entrance of the park the locals discovered there were foreigners in the car, after I had got out and stretched my legs. Now we are used to being hassled when we get to new places, but this soon became a new experience for all of us, one which all of us would rather not have again.
A large group of Kazahks, maybe two dozen quickly surrounded the car. They were desperate for business, we climbed back into the car because they were over-bearing, beyond rude. The Kazakhs then opened our doors, and started trying to climb into the car to get us to go with them. Several of them started arguing, and at one point it looked as though they might trade blows. We were starting to feel very intimidated, for the situation was starting to get a little out of control as more people gathered round. Clearly they don’t see many foreigners around here. Our driver was getting very agitated and concerned, and ended up pushing the people out, slamming the doors, locking them and speeding off to escape.
We drove a couple of hundred metres away, and a local Kazakh man followed on his motorbike. We had a Chinese friend with us who negotiated for us, and the man told us we could stay in his yurt for 50RMB per person. We were short on options, the scenery was stunning and we wanted to get out the car. He assured us we wouldn’t have any more problems, so we agreed to go with him.
The landscape was great, the yurt very cosy, the toilets – well we hiked up a hill into the woods, and the food wasn’t great, but it was an enjoyable afternoon / evening.
There are two entrance/exits. One is in the middle of nowhere and will try to charge 75RMB entrance per person, the other (the east entrance/exit) is free (The Kazahks had broken the fences down) and has plenty of yurts available.