I got off the train, hopped on the bus into the city and was able to walk to my hostel. It had a rooftop terrace that looked over the street and the mosque across the road. I was impressed. The location was in Old Town, which is a large area of winding cobblestone streets, alleyways, and Uygher style clay houses. I liked it immediately. I’m a fan of any city that is set up nicely for randomly wandering around, and for this purpose, Kashgar was great.
I noticed that a lot of the buildings looked kind of new and nice (unlike most Uygher neighborhoods I’ve walked through) and apparently the Chinese government did a large renovation project a few years ago, so I guess it’s not totally authentic, but it looks nice at least. Although I can just about guarantee that anyone whose house was getting demolished had no say in the matter. In China they just love to knock down actual historical areas and ancient cities and rebuild totally redo them. It’s pretty tacky, but it’s the Chinese way.
Next thing to do was find out if anyone was going to Kyrgyzstan in the next few days as it’s really helpful to travel in a group and split taxis. There’s only two or three hostels that backpackers stay at and they all have message boards where people post their plans and try to get a group together. I found a Scottish couple who posted on the board and were going the same way I was. I messaged the girl on facebook and waited for a response.
That night I ran into another hiccup. I walked around town to all the banks I could find and every single time the ATM was locked. Whaaaat?? Apparently the government shut down every single ATM in the city from the evening to mid-morning the next day, I have no idea why. I’ve never heard of anything like this before, anywhere. Well I had enough money to buy bread for dinner and get a taxi to the infamous Sunday animal market (which is a bit outside of town) the next morning, but not enough money to get back. I might be doing a bit of hitchhiking!
I woke up around 7:30 and found a taxi and showed him the photo of the animal market on my phone and off we went. The market was pretty damn cool. It’s only on Sundays and people from all over Xinjiang come to buy and sell livestock. There’s loads of goats, sheep, and cows. The buyers handle the livestock and feel all around the animals, their heads, ears, throats, etc. I don’t know exactly how they determine which ones are the best, but after a thorough groping eventually they’ll make their choice. The final deal ends with money changing hands and a very enthusiastic, over the top hand shake between the buyer and seller. It’s pretty entertaining!
After a solid two hours of wandering around I’d seen enough and began walking down the road back towards town, as I didn’t have enough money for a taxi and there were no buses. Eventually a middle aged woman picked me up and ended up dropping me off at different market closer to town, where I could catch a bus (as far as I could understand in broken Chinese). This market was a fruit and vegetable market, and it contained more piles of watermelon than I have ever seen in my life. Just truckloads and truckloads of watermelon, among other things. So far I was really enjoying Kashgar’s markets. From here I was able to find the buses that went back into the town center, which I could afford, at 30 cents a ride.
Back in town I was finally able to find a working ATM, thank god. I also heard back from the Scottish girl and she and her boyfriend, plus two Kiwi guys were all looking to go overland into Kyrgyzstan. Perfect. I decided to switch hostels to where they were at to make the organizing easier. I also had more time to explore the old town, which I never got bored of. It really is a fascinating place. Kashgar certainly was one of the more unique cities I’ve ever been to.
I spent one more day in the city and then a group of six of us would be make the arduous, red-tape filled, pain in the ass border crossing from Kashgar to Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan.