This fantastic photo was captured by Alex Bee, and it's hard to say who's got the tougher glare—the man or the camel heads. This is the sort of moment that is so difficult to capture as we travel the world; the miniscule events, the momentary glances and the gone-before-you-can-blink nature of true experience often eludes photo-albums around the globe.
Hotan (Hétián, 和田), where this photo was taken, possesses a rough-and-tumble landscape not unlike the arid plains and deserts of the American West; this man's glare, so steely and fleeting, would feel at home in any of the iconic Western films of the mid-twentieth century. Located in the southwestern corner of the already far west province of Xinjiang, Hotan is in one of the most remote regions of China. The town, long part of the Silk Road trade network, has a population almost exclusively made up of Uyghur Muslims, a people more similar in culture and appearance to their Middle Eastern neighbors than to their countrymen, the Han. This cultural disconnect has increasingly strained tensions across the province between the local people and the central government. More on Xinjiang travel after the jump...But while travel to Tibet, a nearby province which suffers from similar tension with the central Chinese government, is restricted to foreigners on a fairly regular basis, Xinjiang remains largely unaffected. Unless there has been a recent incident (like the Hotan bombings in the summer of 2011 or the Urumqi riots of 2009), travel in Xinjiang is more or less similar to traveling elsewhere in China. Keep your ID handy, your nose out of trouble and respect the community you're visiting and you should experience a hassle-free vacation. If rugged back-country landscapes are your thing, you can't do much better than Hotan, and the sprinkling of ancient Silk Road lore, mosques and delicious Xinjiang cuisine make for a well-rounded China travel destination for the hardier, more adventurous traveler.