We’ve loved our visit to Kashgar. It’s a vibrant city that feels true to its history as an ancient silk road trading post. It’s colour has really boosted our enjoyment of travel. Very timely as we needed some re-invigoration about travel.
It doesn’t feel like a Chinese city any more than Auckland does: there are parts where you could live your life speaking Chinese, but if you did you would miss what the city is all about. The whole central city feels like the Urumqi bazaar. The haze in the sky doesn’t come from factories, but from charcoal grills on every street corner cooking mutton kebabs. Between them and the sheep carcases being butchered in the street, sometimes I feel like the whole city smells like lamb.
Kashgar feels like less of a Police state than Urumqi. In Urumqi the military presence included tanks every couple of blocks and patrols in between. Here the only real military we’ve seen have been guarding the People’s Square and its massive statue of Mao. It’s an austere and unvisited monument that doesn’t feel at all like the heart of the city. Instead that heart is at the major Mosque.
In Urumqi security measures mimicked flying. There were metal detectors to get into shopping malls and restaurants and Fiona got scolded by a police officer for trying to take bottled water on to the bus. Here it all feels much more relaxed. Maybe China feels this city is lost to its original culture. Or maybe there’s not enough that signifies Chinese authority for terrorists to try and blow up.
In any case, while our passports will record that we returned to China for Kyrgyzstan, that’s not how we will remember this part of the journey. We’ll say we visited another quaint and misunderstood culture along the silk road.