I’ve just spent two weeks in Xinjiang beginning of September. Like the message above I didn’t find the security situation as bas as I read, except maybe for Kuqa indeed.
I crossed the border from Mongolia to China (Bulgan border) and from China to Kyrgyzstan (Irkeshtam) and both crossings went pretty smoothly - my phone and camera weren’t checked.
There are a few checkpoints on the road between cities (never inside a city) and they all went pretty fast (~5 mins, no questions asked, except the one before Wuqia before reaching the Kyrgyz border).
I only stayed one night in Urumqi so I cannot comment much but it is such a big city that you mostly go unnoticed. Stayed at Bestay Hostel
which can be booked online and is okay. One thing I should mention here: it is quite hard to get a SIM card in Xinjiang as most places ask for a Chinese ID. I was able to get one at a big China Telecom office near the Xin Mei Hotel on maps.me (43°48′28.51″N 87°35′21.66″E). They told me at first that I would need to come back to the same store to deactivate it when I leave China but after a short discussion on Google Translate they told me I wouldn’t need to do that in fact. Also I was able to use a VPN with my SIM card during my time in Xinjiang.
Next city was Turpan - my favorite in Xinjiang. Dap Youth Hostel
is the place to stay - very nice place with a beautiful patio, English-speaking staff, conveniently located... I found that in Turpan people were more relaxed, the atmosphere is nice and there are very few tourists (foreigners or Han Chinese) unlike Kashgar. One of the best things to do is to go visit the Emin Minaret at the end of the day (the mosque looks closed but it is not, go inside!), then wander in the vineyards around the mosque (workers harvesting are very friendly and they will offer you grapes) and then go up the street that goes straight into the city center - this is the Uighur neighborhood and people are incredibly friendly.
Next was Kuqa. Kuqa Hotel (41°43′11.34″N 82°57′28.39″E) accepts foreigners but it is a big hotel (200¥ a double room for 1 person). This is the city where I felt the most uncomfortable but still it was not difficult to travel. I had an undercover police escort following me the whole time (6 guys in a white car, dressed as civilians who would take turn following me in the streets, mosque, etc.). Also it was obvious there that the Uighurs were scared compared to other cities in Xinjiang. The Reste Mosque was closed but I was able to visit the Great Mosque (pictures here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2ZVu3IJ4hB ... pd7hgfp49k
) with my police escort. The Sunday Bazaar is also a really nice place to visit, more lively and authentic than the Kashgar one - the main reason for me to visit Kuqa actually. Its location is not in the Uighur neighborhood anymore but a bit outside of town, northwest (41°43′54.85″N 82°54′20.23″E). Trust the maps.me location. Bus 1 will get you there from city center.
Finally I went to Kashgar. It has become a Uighur Disneyland. The old district has been completely destroyed and rebuilt a new. Some Uighurs are paid to entertain the Han Chinese tourists. But I have to admit that the new old district was beautifully rebuilt and as it is still inhabited by Uighurs, it is very lively and nice to walk around. Overall I’d still recommend visiting Kashgar. Two additional tips: the famous animal bazaar is located here now (39°31′22.01″N 75°55′55.98″E) - careful with the maps.me location, one is not correct. Last but not least: there is still one real old district still standing in Kashgar and waiting to be destroyed. It is closed to the public but I was able to climb my way in. Do it at your own risk if you’re interested (otherwise I put pictures here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2RQj_oJJ2o ... 6r7h6naq38
I also went to Tashkurgan on the Karakoram Highway with a Tajik e-visa using public transportation (see separate post).
Overall I don’t think the situation is as bad as presented in Xinjiang (for foreigners, not for Uighurs). I’d recommend it, maybe more as part of a longer trip in the region.