Wednesday, 23 June 2010


22nd-24th June
Our arrival in Kashgar was marked by considerable relief. It had been a long and at times harrowing journey. The Old Town Youth Hostel was perfect. Immediately we had immersed ourselves in a community of travelers and the welcoming hosts provided information and maps- it was all too easy!

Kashgar is a dusty, bustling desert metropolis. It's population is largely Muslim Uigher, with other ethnic minorities and traveling tradesmen in the mix. The difference from Eastern China is striking. Kashgar- like much of Xinjiang feels like it belongs Geographically to the 'Stan' regions more than China.
Walking amongst the Old Town the small streets are lined with dusty primitive housing and buildings. The bazaar and the residential area are one, forming a patchwork of residential and trade buildings. The market is a mix of flat bread and bagel stores, kebab houses, dairy and yogurt outlets, lines of hat stores and stockists of traditional musical instruments. Its an exciting and vibrant place and you can lose yourself for hours wondering the many backstreets and alleys.

A traditional tandoor burner for heating water

One of the most striking and saddening sights is the destruction of the Old Town. Large dusty brown plots o land have been cleared, waiting for new Chinese housing and shops to land. It seems nothing in China escapes the Chinese 'communist facelift'. Although it can be said that in some parts the attempt is to replace the old with something more 'authentic' and in keep with the Muslim style, the drab concrete mass infecting the rest of China is still evident. On the whole the vision is more likely wide of the mark and in future its likely, I would estimate, that the Old Town will only remain in a small pocket which will attach a hefty charge for passing through.

The destruction of the old town

Speaking to a few locals it was clear the process was a painful and unpleasant one for the Uighers inhabiting. Many losing businesses and homes, seemingly without any compensation or after thought for the peoples well-being and future.

Wondering through the Old Town and across the river its possible to visit the markets of Kashgar. The experience wasn't quite the explosion of people and vibrant original stands I had expected. Perhaps my vision is more fitting to those found in the North of Africa, such as Morocco or perhaps in more Central Asia parts. But somehow the Markets really didn't excite me, and satire the scene envisioned.

All in Kashgar was a great experience, unique in many ways to anywhere else in China. The culture shock is pleasantly exciting and really I felt more at home here than anywhere in China. If the Old Town can preserve some authenticity and along with it its people some strong tradition, there will be continue to be plenty to offer in Kashgar.

Kashgar Old Town Youth Hostel
Welcoming and informative hosts, with great location for exploring the Old Town.