Old City of Kashgar

Since we *have to* stick to original plan, on Saturday morning, we made our way to the bus station to buy ticket for Kuqa. Kashgar has 2 bus stations: North (going to Urumqi, Kuqa, Osh in Kyrgyzstan etc) and South (to Karakul-Tashkurgan, Sost in Pakistan etc) so this is our first time visiting the North bus station. On map, it looks rather far, but in the fresh morning, we took a walk by the town’s excellent pedestrian way, crossing over bridge and subways, within 20 minutes or so we’re almost there. But have to stop at this shop selling fried pastry that similar to ‘charkuay’ in my hometown :D

We had our breakfast there, and this restaurant seems popular with its fresh milk (coz you can see at every table, every single customer has one mug of fresh milk in front of them). Az gets a mug, but I am not a milk drinker, so I took out my Milo sachet and pour into the milk and now it taste better :)

At the bus station, ticket purchase was done smoothly since we just wrote down our destination, date and time to show to the officer. Our bus will be at 8pm tomorrow (Beijing time).

Done with the ticket, we’re now walking around old houses nearby, and it’s time to explore the old city of Kashgar. One can be confused with the term “old city/old town” in Kashgar and their locations (me included!). As a matter of fact there are many old cities in entire Kashgar, because they’re afterall homes to many locals since hundreds years ago, and many of them are still living in these places, while some parts have been commercialized into tourist attraction.

When we’re visiting the old city, it’s expected to see many houses nestled in it, built with mud brick, having small alleys to go inside and out. The border of history and civilization. While (some of) the old cities are still preserved, its surrounding is now well developed being located in the center of Kashgar and accessible by major roads. If you see the old city like this, you’ll be wondering “where’s the entrance?”

There it is, the entrance, with neatly constructed high stair. Az says there must be regular entrance for locals who live inside, but I insist that it’s located up high and I dont see any other stair except this one. And we have to buy tickets; for 30 yuan. ( which I only learned later after we’re back, there ARE other ways to enter the old city NOT through this tourist way! We could have saved 60 yuan if I listened to Az T_T and to make it sound a silly mistake some more, it’s actually stated in the LP book but I seem to have taken it for granted and not reading them well particularly about the old city visit >.<)

So this is the tourist entrance, you’ll be guided with small sign board telling you to “Go this way for Route A”, or “Start here for Route B”.. When we’re about to enter, a group of Chinese tourists just arrived by a mini van, and one lady, complete with Uyghur dressing and portable microphone was ready to guide them walking inside the old city.

But seriously, with a microphone?? =.= I fear that the sound will spoil our quiet moments here (and what about the neighborhood?), so I walked towards faster, as if running away from them. It didnt help though, coz once they’re started, the amplified sound by the microphone seems to be heard loud enough ALL over this place! >.<  who can enjoy the serene of the historic neighborhood with disturbing Chinese speech in the air?

We walked towards nevertheless, to different route than theirs, and now we decided to walk even more slowly, letting them to finish off first and we’ll continue enjoying the walk. Taking different small path and junction towards different alleys just randomly, we’ll get to see aging doors belong to old houses inside the neighborhood, the houses dont have physical shape of house, rather it’s partitions divided inside the walls with a door (even they have house number!), you can guess how the structure is like.

And every time we’ll wonder if people still reside inside. Yes, sometimes I get to peek into slightly opened door and see a lively house compound inside. We feel like so much visiting the family, but at the bottom of my heart somehow managed to guess what they feel towards tourist. I mean, their neighborhood is being promoted as tourist place and it should be more than enough for them to see yet another tourist invading their home area. Anyhow. It’s really amazing to know Uyghur people have lived in here for more than 400 years, and the architecture wih old technology, despite being built of mud brick and timber, managed to survive for such a long time! Walls were made of mud. And, they actually managed to build houses of several storeys using only mud bricks and timber!

We came across an entrance that looks like a mosque. Unfortunately it’s closed, otherwise we’d like to go and see how it looks inside.

And what makes it interesting is the narrow passages in between walls that connect a part to another. It’s almost like a maze and you can simply get lost in the middle of it. I’m so overwhelmed with every angle we see that brings us time-travel to many hundred years back.

Tracing a small alley, we caught a sight of an opened door, but after getting near, it turns out to be a souvenir shop.

Not one, but several  houses have been made into tourist traps and the locals are happy to sell their souvenir like fabrics, jewelry and leathers. I just made a quick stop browsing the item and think it should be cheaper to buy these items in regular market (i.e. not tourist trap like this). And, we encountered the Chinese tourist group again at this house having a live dancing performance. We were there for a few minutes then left.

Walking towards, we no longer can remember from which way we came, but it doesn’t matter anymore since it’s best to just continue walking mindlessly inside the “maze”. And after the tourist group left, it feels much better to explore this place at its silence.

Little children that ‘accompanied’ us walking around their neighborhood :)

We passed by a donkey cart and were wondering why the donkey’s eyes being wrapped off. We end up making our own assumption that the owner fears that the donkey gets confused with the ‘maze’ alley and avoid it from looking at the road. Which I believe it’s a bad assumption :P

Before we arrived to Kashgar, I have read from many sources on internet that since recent years, Chinese Government is in the middle of doing reconstruction of the old city (read: demolish, and build their version of new buildings). The reason is, the they say the old city is overpopulated, very old, unsafe and fragile if earth quake happens thanks to being made of mud bricks. Despite the fact that Uyghurs have been living here safely for many hundreds years! And they believe they will always be. While the government says it’s to bring development to Kashgar people, it’s apparently trying to destruct the heritage of Uyghur culture. Plus, I believe nobody comes to Kashgar to see new buildings and modern structure, no? Which is sad, and yes, we have come across many parts that are already torn down, while others seem to have been dusty construction sites.

We spent here for around 2 hours and slowly we’re trying to find a way out, although it seems difficult!

We ended up at the edge of the village (because we could see bright sky ahead and a glimpse of tall electric tower, so it’s probably the main road…

But it’s not, remember we’re at a higher place? And there’s still wall and you have to get down from here to get to main road. Can you guess how old this mud wall could be?

So we went around to trace down the entrance again, and finally managed it. We walk along the main road to see the old city from outside.

The old city of Kashgar – with uncertain future and no promise that they will still be standing here for several years to come.. partially cleared old city. And now do you see what I see? I realized that we could have gone inside the old city from here (without paying 30 yuan!! =.=). And one remark by Az that makes me feel bad for the rest of the day: “I’ve told you!!”. *sigh*

When we’re about to cross the street to find our way back, a couple of old men greeted us (maybe thinking Az was Uyghur??) and we happily asked to take a photo. Nearby them, some little children doing their school homework.