Saturday, September 15, 2007


8am: Chinese Test
11am: Leave for the airport
3pm: Board plane for Urumqi
6:30pm: Disembark and go find food in town
9pm: Back to the airport and fly to Kashgar

First Full Day in Kashgar!

8am: Wake up
9am: Breakfast
10am-10pm: People's Square, Xiangfei Tomb, Handicrafts Market, Lunch, Nap, Old Town, Dinner

Kashgar time is wicked confusing because all of China is officially on Beijin time, but - because of distance - Kashgar is technically about 2 hours ahead. This means that waking up at 8 is really waking up at 6, so it was quite dark out still.

Whoever said (coughAiLaoshi) being a vegetarian in Kashgar as difficult was probably lying. Or maybe they meant Xinjiang and have just never been to Kashgar (although as the saying goes: "You will never be in Xinjiang if you do not go to Kashgar.") Breakfast was absolutely delicious and a vertitable veggie feast. It consisted of every veggie Chinese dish ever, various pastry, veggie baozi, pretzle bread, tea and warm milk. Assuming I wouldn't be able to eat much the rest of the day, I ate until I couldn't breathe.

After breakfast we went to the People's Square. There's a juge statue of Mao saluting on one side of the square and on the other there were a ton of carnival rides (I swear, I'm not in Central Asia - I'm in Epcot). A couple of people rode them, althouh I refrained. 5 kuai for a kiddie ride seemed a little pricey ad pointless to me. The square also had flowered columns, giant red lanterns, a huge peacock (that I think lights up), a performance space, and an elaborate fountain (that was turned off, just like Bei Wai).

After the People's Square we went to the Xiangfei tomb. Kashgar is pretty small. Our tour guide is always sayin "X is about 15 minutes away. During this short time I will tell you the history of the Uyghers/Marriage Customs/etc." So it took us about 15 minutes to get to Xiangfei. Xiangfei translates as the Fragrant Concubine. The story is that during her lifetime (Qing Dynasty) she was so beautiful and wonderful that butterflies would follow her around. After her death a wonderful smell (xiang) would come from her tomb (for years and years) which was often surrounded by butterflies.

The tomb complex was pretty amazing. You'llhave to reference my pictures to really get an idea of what the architecture was like. I'm really not in China anymore. It's much more like Persia.

There were several Mosques on the complex as well as a building that functioned as a Muslim university for years (dating back to the 13th century). The village graveyard was also next door. The round tombs are for families and the rectangles for individuals. The big ones are for men, medium for women, and small for children.

A few of the mosques are still operational, although some only on Fridays. The big one had all these pillars holding up the roof. Each pillar looks different because they were each carved by a different artist who was asked to showcase his own unique talent.

After Xiangfei we walked down the street (about a block) to visit a local home. The people there were ice merchants. Every winter they collect tons of ice from a river and store it in this straw pit in their yard. They just sold out of their ice stores (which they usually make into a sort of slushy ice cream that they sell at markets). This family earned about 20,000 kuai a year farming ice. The homes are all amazing. They're each a secret garden. The outside is so unsuspecting, but then there are these absolutely lush courtyards within.

Next we went to a handicrafts market and saw so much stuff. Everything they make ehre is by hand, it's really amazing. Among the highlights: pounded tin, wooden pots, musical instruments, collapsable wooden baskets, round hats (like Aladdin's - they're supposed to make you clever), rugs, knives, etc. We also ate naan (mmm) and bagles (oh how I've missed them!).

Next: lunch. Since it's Ramadan, we had to go to a touristy restaurant because the city isn't eating. Lunch was delicious, though: yogurt, tea, fruit, noodles w/ stuff and tomato sauce, rice noodles, chuar and pilaf.

3 hour nap. Impromptu, unexpected, so necessary.

Around 6:30 we left to go to Old Town Kashgar. Old Town is spectacular. From far away it kind of looks like pueblo village. It's all of these secret garden complexes like I mentioned earlier. Every once in a while the monotony of pueblo and solitary door is broken by a glimpse insede, a brightly and beautifully painted entryway, or a gorgeous minaret soaring over it all. Again - pictures. We also walked through a few markets where you could buy everyhting listed above, plus all of this wonderful food! (Notice a theme - I ate my way through Central Asia). There were baskets and baskets and baskets of fruit, vegetables, dried chilies, freshly ground spices, all sorts of naan variations - it was amazing. A lot of stalls were selling this merengue type thing - whipped egg whites and sugar - often served with what looks like cornbread or dates. I'll definietly be tryin it. I don't have much time to write since my roommate went to bed, but I've got so much to tell. Quite wrap up: Dinner was in an Old Town home w/ a spectacular view of the neighborhood. We had so.much.fruit!! Watermelon, melon, grapes, pomegranates, dates! Also frut juices and naan. THen the meat eaters had some specialty mutton dish, and us veggies had pumpkin baozi. It was indescribable. All topped off w/ sweet tea. I'm never eating again.

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