Opinion of Ella Maillart about Khotan:
- Tag Archives Hotan
Each person, doing a trip like this one, must accept that other fellow-travelers may have different expectations, and not everyone may be interested in waking up at three in the morning to see the sun rising on a sea of dunes, or like the idea of a day bus instead of a night bus, to see a road in with there is nothing to see.
July, 1st, 1935, Ella and Peter left Keriya. They left there the “Pearl of the Tsaidam”, Number 2 (the second camel, of course), and Cynara, the mare that Peter traded for Greys at Issik Pakte, when it was clear that Greys cannot continue. Their caravan was a small one, although impressive: Four donkeys, Kini’s stallion (rather sick) and a horse with old galls for Peter, plus Aziz, their guide, and Tuzun Ahun, a guard with his horse who had received orders from the aksalal in Tchertchen to convey them to Kaskgar. That was impressive!
For Ella and Peter it was the end of the desert part of their trip. It will be the begin of ours. Our initial contact with traveling outside the beaten paths. First stage, 301 km, by bus if possible, if not through shared taxi. What to see in this part of the trip: Towards South, at 50 km the Kunlun Range, that form the South border of the Taklamakan. The peaks in the area between Hotan and Keriya are 7 and 6.000 meters high.
This is a very short summary of the stages of the journey, and their focus: The next post will include my comments to it, and feel free to add yours!! (or to send me your data through the contact form at the end of this post, and I will keep you updated)
Between Kashgar and Hotan there are several “Oasis cities”, and there is also a train that links these two cities. After Hotan, the true journey starts.
So, the question is: should we stop in these Oasis Cities, that Kini and Peter visited back in July 1939?. If we want to follow their steps, of course, we need to stop there. Finally, the theme of the journey is “on the steps of Ella and Peter”. We already do the trip backwards, from West to East, should we continue skipping historical cities, cities that were the melting pot of cultures, the places were caravans from India to China came and went?
But, from the other side.. should we stop, if there is nothing interesting to see in there, simply because “Ella slept there”?.
Then, I went to the sources. And this is what I found
a blogger says:
“The towns of southern Xinjiang are a thing of themselves. Unlike Kashgar. Very Uighur, very old, tradition seeping from the very trees. The donkey cart to taxi ratio in the outskirts of Kargilik was about 2:1. Donkeys, horses, street stalls full of smoked meat, pilaf and fruit piling over dusty streets in the brown-black of early evening.”
This blogger says, between lines, that really Kashgar is more a Chinese city than a Uighur one.
“The first stop was Yengisar; essentially a one road town. The only thing we could see was an array of knife shops along the highway, for which the town is famous. The knives were actually quite nice, with inlaid handles of bone, wood, and metal and carvings of Uighur or Chinese script or dragons along the blades. Next stop was Yarkand for lunch”
To visit a one road town and knife manufacturing is not of great interest.
“Kargilik is of importance to travelers as the springboard to the fantastically remote HWY 219, the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway (…) The main attraction in town is the 15th-century Friday Mosque and the surrounding adobe-walled back-streets of the Old Town”
Friday Mosque … here it is, At left:
This may be very cultural, very historical, very important, but.. should we stop for one day to see this?
and comments in different blogs are similar (links are at the end of the blog)
So, adding this to the Uighur unrest “It is best to check conditions in Kashgar before heading out there” (Lonely Planet, Xinjiang guide), it makes me think about the aim of the journey, which is not visiting cities, and following the “must see” signs, but the journey by itself.
I want to become fascinated by thee solitude of Deserts, and enthralled the hectic pace and odors of the markets. And, if, on my trip, I am able to capture the moment of the smile of a couple, or the ambiance of a bar in a dusty mining city, this is what I look for
And if I skip the Jama Mashid… well, let it be.
Photo Credits: Bazaar and Karghilik Mosque (from Internet)
Bar in Copiapó (Chile), and sad couple in Plaza del Zocalo (Ciudad de Mexico): Author
Links to blogs
Blog from an Expat in Urumqi: Uighur Tensions in Xinjiang
A trip on the Southern Silk Road
The traveler needs to take difficult decisions all the time: Avis or Hertz, MacDonald or Burger King, Sunday market in Kashgar or in Hotan? Because both cities are not far away (well, if 485 Km is not far away) and both have a reputed Market on Sunday.
So, it has any sense to see both markets, and wander for one week into the Chinese Far West? Probably not, so, let us read the guide: “No visit (to Kashgar) is complete without a trip to the livestock market (…) The day begins with Uighurs farmers and herders trekking into the city from nearby villages. “. Well, it seems interesting, but … “tour buses usually arrive in the morning, so consider an early afternoon visit”.
Well, this is the decision, do we really pinpoint a Sunday in Kashgar to have a “complete” visit, in coincidence with the Tourist Tours? or even, God forbids!, taking a “Morning Market Tour with Typical Samsa breakfast” ?. Not in my opinion, anyway. Markets are picturesque when they are genuine . Traveler may not like what he sees, one of the more nightmarish visits that I have done is to the Guangzhou market in the nineties, but I do know that my interest on Kashgar market transforms in relative if I need to be there in the afternoon, when all deals are already done, to avoid hordes of tourists jumping off the cars.
So, let us skip Kashgar Market on Sunday, and try to be in Hotan on Sunday: “The covered market bustles every day of the week but on Sunday. (…) most interesting parts are the doppy (skullcap) bazar, the colorful dyed, handwoven silk cloth market or the gilim (carpet) bazar. Nearby Juma Lu is filled with traditional medicine and spice shops.
The small but authentic Sunday livestock bazar…
Well, it is clear. I will never see the Kashgar Sunday Market. I feel like going to Pisa and not seeing the leaning tower.
Featured Image: Market in Chongking (1999) by Author
two other photos:
selling kittens: Guangzhou Market (1990)
selling hens: Chengdu Market (1995)