14 August 2019

Kashgar: China's Ancient Secrets...

My Xinjiang experience has had me roll over events from a previous day to the next blog post, with so much to see it leaves me without any choice to do the same right now. My first day in Kashgar had been full packed with a visit to the Id Kah Mosque and a huge walk around one side of the Old City. Yes, the evening saw me visit the night market with all of its lights. 

After seeing the Id Kah Mosque I decided to rest in my hotel for a little while, the overnight journey and days sightseeing in Kashgar had tired me out. Crossing the road from my hotel to the adjoining side of Kashgar's rejuvenated part of its Old City before the sunset allowed me to see the hustle and bustle begin. I already knew what I wanted to eat, lamb kebabs and bread all the way but it was a great time to people watch and to take in the whole environment. Many domestic Chinese tourists transcended upon the night market, for me to find a seat was almost impossible but low and behold I found one. Minding my own business I enjoyed my food and appreciated that cultural moment. The lights, smells and sights gave me life to no end. The feel of the night market left me questioning my mainland China location once again! I was all in it for the views and my taste-buds loved every second of it! Raisins!

My hotel stay in Kashgar included breakfast, finding the right floor just before the buffet opened was my plan. Executing things the right way up until a certain point, things were fine but I wasn't ready for the almighty stampede made by the domestic tourists! Not wanting to entertain their hasty nature towards that breakfast service I vacated that mess without a seconds thought! Things were only just opening due to the local observance of Beijing Standard Time, trusting the businesses within the nearby Old City served me a lovely breakfast that was quite unexpected. I had found some freshly baked bagels from the first bakery that I saw, then moving forwards a street side vendor selling camel milk because no coffee or tea was in sight at that point! To accompany my bagels I found some salted yoghurt that acted as the perfect treat to dip my bagels into. Looking back to the chaos of the hotel, I now feel so blessed to have had such a local breakfast in the Old City! Thank you, K!

Meeting my tour guide allowed me to find more about the other part of the Old City that I had been to the previous night. Met by a hoard of tourists at the main entrance gate to that side of Kashgar's Old City didn't impress me because it wasn't what I wanted, crowds! I had been to a Turkic kind of place many time before that morning, the music and ethnic attire wasn't  something that I had never seen before, I didn't share the crowds hysteria. Entering the Old City, I learnt that the outer stalls were famed for its terracotta works, the local merchants crafted their trade because they stuck to what they knew. Buying a beautiful dress and some jewellery for a friends little girl had to be done, the friendship meant a lot to me so I wanted to treat her daughter to some local Kashgar gifts. The mornings heat grew hotter, it was such a glorious dry heat unlike Beijing's heat and humidity! Kash, I was feeling the love for that morning!

I hadn't seen one single Starbucks whilst travelling in Xinjiang, seeing a place in Kashgar's Old City that remotely resembled a coffeeshop impressed me much. My guide recommended the 'Kashgar Coffee' would be a perfect choice as the coffeeshops signature drink. Set with a bedouin mud brick building, it felt as if I was lounging in an Arabian outpost with the soft furnishings that I had bagged. Choosing a walnut tart had to be the one, once the coffee had arrived I was so excited and intrigued to try it for myself! Brewed with a blend of local herbs and spices, my 'Kashgar Coffee' tasted a million times better than any Starbucks Coffee that I had ever tasted before! Opting to have another coffee with a Kashgar twist was the right decision, I lounged about in the soft and rich surroundings of that coffeeshop for some time, I wasn't bothered about the itinerary at that point. Funnily enough, I had been so relaxed I left my purchases on the sofa I was lounging on! It was blessed!  
Leaving the noise and tourists of the central area of the city, it was time to see something more authentic as far as the Chinese didn't consider. Adding an extra Turkic vibe to my final day in Kashgar, it was time to explore a market that wasn't touristy in any way shape or form. Locally known as Yeni Bazaar being the Turkish for New Market, how I felt as if I was at Fethiye's Tuesday market on the Aegean Coast of Turkey. I didn't buy anything at the market but to simply walk around to see the different things on sale was amazing, the lack of anything Chinese as such was quite frankly brilliant because I was loving the Uyghur style much more in that moment. The presentation of the stalls transported me once again back to Turkey, the local chat sounded the same with the surroundings presented in an uncanny way. Kashgar's new market showed me everything and more with spending any money! Kash, I loved it a lot!

With my flight back to Urumqi, we moved back towards the Old City to have one last meal in Kashgar. Dining at a Uyghur style house allowed me to taste some local food in a homely environment. I was suffering from really bad stomach ache, the weeks diet had been mainly lamb and bread and in the east of China its something that isn't the staple diet. I tried my best to enjoy the food but I was feeling the dietary change of the trip. The surroundings were lovely but the pace of the trip had hit me. Making my way to the airport, the car arrived at the airport terminal to find a very strict policy that only passengers could access the terminal building. The airport security was beyond and then some, it was such a relief to be taxing down the runway for Urumqi! The whole experience in Kashgar during the second day was just as good compared with the previous day. Yes, I was ready for a day in Urumqi before heading down to Turpan, Xinjiang was the gift that kept giving! Kashgar, I'm out!

Kashgar Done!

Joseph Harrison

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