We decided to start our trip in Kashgar, and to go East, towards Xining, in the Qinghai, 2.700 km (1,700 miles) away. Main reason was that this stage, the first one, when we did not know what to expect, could be done by train.
- Tag Archives Kashgar
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)
We are ready to start! Who? you may ask. I do not know yet :), but I hope that my enthusiasm will convince other travelers.
Let us start easy! There is a train line that runs from Kashgar to Hotan (485 Km) in 8 hours. It departs Kashgar at 10:16 and arrives Hetian at 18:26.
But the aim of this trip is not “going to places”, but “flowing into places”. We are not in a hurry to get Hotan, isn’t it? Let us stop one day in Kargilik. There are caves with Buddahs, a mosque, and, sure an open market.
Or … what about Yarkand? Any choice means that other places will be skipped. Decisions are difficult. If some reader has suggestions, please, use the comment field, I will try to add information about where to stop
This place will be the first immersion in the flow that will drive us towards East, the Oasis and the Desert.
This will be the easier leg of the trip.
Featured image: from Internet www.Christopherpitts.net
Traditionally the Silk Road direction East (“downwards”), arrived to Kashgar (at the left on the map). In Kashgar travelers must decide either go NE, towards Aksu and Urumqi, or SE, towards Yecheng, Hetian and Qiemo. This is the “Forbidden Oasis” route Ella Maillard followed,
Peter and Ella went “upwards” (Westward). Once in Xining, they should either travel NW through the Gansu Corridor (the traditional route), towards Dunhuang, where they would be probably stopped and sent back, or, avoiding Dunhuang, cross directly, due East, from Xining to Qiemo (Tchertchen). This area had no roads then, and now there are few. For instance there are no roads marked on this map in this area, but they exist, although they may lack traffic…
So, what is in between Xining and Qiemo? Qinghai Lake, Chakayan Lake, Dulan Desert, Dzoun…
And this is the road that we must follow if we want to follow Ella’s steps, as well as avoid too touristic tours.
But once in Xining, how to find a transportation on an area were there are no roads marked, in a city in which few people understand English? Xining is one million people city. Where to start if one plans something else than Qinghai Lake tour or Ta’er monastery? How tell someone than the plan is to reach Dulan, and from there Golmud?
It is important to point that Golmud (200,000, inhabitants, not in this map) is half-way between Xining and Ruoquiang. And if there is some way to cross this area, it should better be found in Golmud than in Xining.
So, probably I would consider starting the trip at the West, in Kashgar (350,000). There are buses (Lonely Planet dixit) that follow the South Path from Kashgar to Golmud. Probably it would be worthwhile to go by train to Aksu, and then find a bus to go due South to Hetian. Once there, take buses from one oasis to the other, until arriving to Golmud
In Golmud starts the most wild part of the trip… how to reach from there Dulan and Xining? well, we will see once there !
And, if there is no transportation we may revert to the train, Golmud is a train station in the Xining – Lhassa Sky train.