Friday, September 14, 2007

The Silk Road, Part 2 - Kashgar

Sorry for the delay, we've been settling in for the last week. I believe that last time I left off with our arrival in Kashgar. Now, 6 of the last 7 nights had been spent on an airplane, bus, or train. Four of the last 7 nights had been spent sitting in a seat. Thank you Nancy in Xi'an and Chinese sleeper buses. We arrived in Kashgar and my watch said 7:30. Since all of China is in one time zone instead of 3 or 4, then it can be really confusing to be a couple thousand miles west of Beijing and still be on Beijing time. Because of this difference in longitude, they have two times in Xinjiang, oddly enough called Beijing time and Xinjiang time. Xinjiang time is two hours behind Beijing, so my watch said 7:30 but the locals were thinking 5:30. The sun wasn't up yet and there was absolutely no one out in the streets yet. Angelyn and I got a taxi to a hotel mentioned in our Lonely Planet guidebook (couldn't travel without it!) and secured lodging for one night. I don't know how, but we ended up with zero pictures of this place. It's a big place that has everything from cheap dorm style rooms to fancy rooms in the old Russian embassy that makes up the back part of the complex. The wall behind the reception desk was worthy of a picture in and of itself, but I guess we were too tired to dig out the cameras. Anyhoo, we cleaned ourselves up a bit and set out to explore the city. When we started walking a lot of the street vendors were just beginning to sell breakfast so we began experimenting with the bread they sell. Let me tell you, Muslim bread is usually covered in sesame (at least in this part of the world) and that just makes for awesome bread. The following are pictures from around the city.

It was good to see that the government was trying to stamp out poor driving.

The first half of the city that we walked through was just a typical Chinese city. We were a little disappointed. Then we came to People's Park. Every single town in China has a park named People's Park. The park in Kashgar has these wonderful tree-lined paths. The park seemed to go on forever. We made a mental note that this would be a great place to play Cops and Robbers sometime, if only we didn't live so far away.

We came out the far side of the park and were greeted by this sight as we passed over a bridge. That's the Old City of Kashgar, which definitely has more of the traditional desert/Muslim culture feel to it.

One of the first places we sought out when we reached the older part of town was the Bazaar. Kashgar is supposed to have an amazing Sunday Market that knocks most people speechless. We weren't there on a Sunday so didn't get to experience it. It's supposed to spill into the streets for blocks and blocks in every direction. We did get to experience the Sunday bazaar in Hotan, but that comes later.

The architecture in the Old City is definitely not traditional Chinese. It was great seeing something so different. If you're having trouble reading the signs it's because Arabic reads right to left. Try it that way.

The buildings went from mostly shops to mostly residences. The traffic practically disappeared and we were able to just stroll down some side streets and soak in the sights.

Most towns we went to had a new Chinese City and an Old City that was usually centered around a mosque. We knew that we were coming out on the street with Kashgar's big mosque, so here's the picture we took of it.

See the man in the red hat taking a picture of something off to the right? It turns out he was taking a picture of the mosque while we were taking a picture of the mall next to the mosque. Here's the actual mosque.

Here's a nice camel sitting outside the mosque. Their humps were a lot floppier than I expected. I guess they're filled with fat so what should I have expected?

After we walked around we found a place to eat lunch at had some nice kebabs. There are five different kinds of kebabs and I'm pretty sure one of them is sheep heart or kidney. The other four are really good, though. Meat and bread are 90% of the diet here, so most Americans would love it.

Two of the things we had in mind to do in Kashgar were to take a trip to Karakul Lake and to take a trip into the Taklamakan desert. We spent the afternoon scouting out travel agents who could help us arrange a trip. In the process we met a German student named Fabian. He had been studying in Shanghai and was taking a grand tour around China before returning home. We teamed up to split the cost of a trip to Karakul Lake and planned to leave the next morning at 6, local time, 8 Beijing time. And that is where I shall pick up next time. I'll leave with a teaser photo to pique your interest.


Ensor said...

Very beautiful there. Not too sure what "sites" you were checking out down those allies though. Nice haircut :)

Ensor Dispensor said...

the last comment should have said ensor dispensor. I love the picture of the trees. One of my favorites thus far.