Published: August 3rd 2005June 12th 2005
Further west lies Kashgar, the famous town that marks the end of the Chinese silk road. It is right next to the border with Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan, more than 4000 km from Beijing. Actually - it's about half way home from Beijing, and still in China! Even though Kashgar is so far in the west, the official time here is the same as in the rest of China - Beijing time, which is quite ridiculous. They have an unofficial Xinjiang time, which is two hours ahead of Beijing time, and it makes things really confusing - it's very easy to miss a bus because you didn't understand that the time on the ticket is Beijing time, even though the clock in the station shows Xinjiang time...
Even though it is called the silk ROAD, it's still easier to travel by train. This time I took a day train, so I could admire the views of the desert and feel like I am traveling through the silk road. The train was long and it was very hot, and the amount of sand and dust that filled it made me fill lucky that I am doing this in eleven hours and not
in a month, which is the amount of time it took until around 1930.
Kashgar has the biggest market in Xinjiang, one that takes place every Sunday. Even though I've seen some bazaars and markets before, even though it's a little more organized today, and even though you can already see that it has some touristic sided to it as well - it is still the most impressive market I've seen. There were so many people there, so much noise, so many things to buy, on such a vast area - that words just can't describe it. Even the pictures - each worth a thousand words - can't really deliver the feeling. I could have stayed there for days just soaking the atmosphere and taking pictures of it. I bought a green hat like most of the locals are wearing, but it was still easy for them to recognize that I am a tourist there...
After that I left the city for a few trips in the area, stories that will be told separately, and in between came back to Kashgar. I will just tell everything there is to tell about the city together, even though it is not exactly
accurate chronologically (who would believe that I would allow such a thing!).
In the canter of the old part of the city there is one of the biggest mosques in China, originally from the 15th century, called Id Kah. Visiting it on Friday you get the feeling of a fundamental Muslim country - women covering their faces, hundreds of men just flowing inside for the prayer, the call for the prayer from the mosque...
People just kept going into the mosque and it was hard to believe that there is enough space there for all of them. Walking around the mosque you could see from the side gates how it looks inside, with so many people praying together. The most amazing part was the end of the prayer - in just one second everybody stood up, took their things, and went back to their life, and all those people just walked out at once, like a swarm of bees with no real order, such a contrast from the straight lines and the synchronous movements during the prayer itself.
Another thing that happened in Kashgar is that I helped a traveler who lost everything. She was on a night bus and
while she was sleeping somebody stole her money belt with all of her money, traveler's checks, passport, and flight ticket. I met her once before, almost three months earlier, in Dali. It was a funny worldwide operation - her parents went to my mother's house and gave her 400$, and I gave her 400$ in Chinese currency so she wouldn't have to beg for money on the street.
Well, this is the summary of (almost) everything that happened in Kashgar. The next stories will fill in the blanks for the things that happened in between.
Until next time,
There are more photos below