Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 3 – Kashgar

After our late night flight from Urumqi to Kashgar we were up and ready by 10:00 to explore the city. First stop was the livestock market just about 15 minutes from the center of town. When we arrived it was still too early for most of the people, as it takes them hours to get into the market from their local areas. We wandered around the outside where it was mainly melon sellers and a few guys with lamb meat booths set up. As we milled around we watched people shepherd in goats, cows, lamb, and donkeys. Many of the animals were stacked on the back of donkey powered carts, everything for sale. This by far is the best market that we have ever been into, as it was just row after row of animals and groups of guys bartering to purchase them. Every once in a while the sun would break through the clouds and we could snap some outstanding photos, and the people at the market are just perfect camera fodder as you will see –
From there our guide took us over to another Sunday market, this one was mainly a wholesale market with nuts, figs, all sorts of live fowl, and rows and rows of leather.

From there we headed to the Kashgar Grand Bazaar, which apparently up until a few years ago used the also have the livestock, fruits & vegetables, and the fowl market. Now it is just mainly a giant flea market, with material, clothes, and standard household supplies. Not that impressive, especially after seeing the one in Mongolia, but I was able to purchase a jacket for the next day’s trip up into the mountains.
By this time it was about 15:00 so we stopped for a quick lunch, because this month is Ramadan none of the Muslim Uyghurs (about 95% of Kashgar) aren’t eating or drinking anything from sunup to sundown. So a lot of restaurants are closed or only open at night, and the only local food places that are open cater to westerners. It seemed odd to be eating in a restaurant that was about 80% full of tourists, as we normally avoid those types of restaurants as the food is more expensive and not as good.

Finished with our meal we headed over to the old city of Kashgar, with its narrow streets and close built buildings. The oldest buildings are around 400 years old, and a large percentage of them are made with mud and straw bricks. We headed to a less touristy section of the old town, there are different three sections, and here there was a lot of building being torn down.
About 2-3 months ago the government decided that the old buildings we not safe and had to come down and be replaced with new construction. One story is that Beijing is worried after seeing the destruction from the Sichuan earthquake, and other stories is that they are worried about terror cells forming in these tight-knit communities. We don’t know what the exact story is, but we felt bad about the city losing some of its amazing heritage. Turns out that it’s not as bad as we thought, they are rebuilding in a similar manner so that the basic style is maintained, and apparently the people who were living in the smaller houses are glad that they will get to finally, after several generations, be able to have larger living quarters. Some of the larger houses are being spared if the owners want that then they can fix them up and the show that they have been reinforced. There must have been a mosque for every block inside of the old city, and you could see the men all coming out from praying. The colors amongst the dull mud building on each door helped each unit really stand out. Women covered in their traditional dress wandered the streets, some with their kids in tow. Around another corner and suddenly we are on another street market with beautiful old buildings lining the streets.It was an amazing day, we got back to the hotel at about 19:00 and since it was still light out decided to take a quick stroll around the hotel to see what was there and find a place to eat. After a little over an hour of wandering and not finding any great dining we retreated to the hotel with a bag full of beer and instant noodles.

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