September 5th-8th; Kashgar
After the Kyrgyzstan border visit there was a lot of vegging going on on the part of team “Great Ride of China”. During the time of my border run, Amy was stuck alone in Kashgar, meaning she actually had quite a bit more time in the city than I had myself. Unfortunately, because we had to give over a week’s notice to the Tibet tour company of when we wanted to start from Kashgar and didn’t want to have to pay if they had to wait for us, we ended up having nearly a week of total down time.
The first couple of days we actually had a lot to do. We spent a lot of time catching up on things we had to do online as well as shopping we needed to do before heading into Tibet. This mainly meant camping food and cold weather gear like gloves and hats. The clothing turned out to be very difficult to find given that it was out of season. Nothing an afternoon wandering around Kashgar’s downtown couldn’t solve though!
Sightseeing in KashgarWe spent some of our time sightseeing of course. Kashgar is quite a pretty city when you get out of the newer, more developed parts. It has a very heavy middle eastern influence, both in the architectural style as well as the culture of the local people (as I noted in the previous post, the local minority people here known as Uighur or 维族 bare almost no resemblance to the majority Han Chinese and their local dialect sounds and script very much resembles Arabic). Our hostel was located in a part of the old city and near the major mosque in town so we got to see a lot of the traditional daily life and old style homes without having to go very far. There was a market just down the street from us and lots of little shops including tailors, blacksmiths, copper-smiths, and butchers. One of the major sights we went to go see was the terraced residences near the old town. The streets there were very narrow, which Amy said lent the neighborhood a European feel, so much so that no cars were able to enter the area. All the buildings seemed to be made of old clay and brick and, as the name implies, they were built terraced into a hillside. There were little courtyard homes occupied by local families (some of the homes going back generations within the same family). It had a very quaint feeling, as one might expect, with children playing on the cobbled streets, women with scarves covering their heads heating water for tea, and families selling hats, scarves and clothing out of their courtyards (whether they were locally made though was unclear).
It was actually a pleasant break from an otherwise bustling city. That didn’t last of course as from the terraced homes it was a short walk on to the Kashgar bazaar, a massive collection of shops packed together within a couple of city blocks. The market was organized into sections, depending on what you wanted to buy: one for household goods like tape and scissors, one for carpets, one for shoes, one for clothing, and much more!
A Different Kind Of Jet Lag
One weird thing about being out here in the far west of China is adjusting to the time. Officially, the time in Xinjiang, just as everywhere else in China, is set to Beijing time. However, because we are so far west, the position of the sun is the equivalent of about 2 hours earlier than Beijing time. This means that the sun rises at about 8:30am and sets at a quarter past 9. People still sort of adjust their lives though according to the time, but in an unofficial sort of way meaning that it’s sometimes hard to predict when things are busy and open, in particular meal times for example.