Friday, November 23, 2007
The Grand Mosque of Kucha.
Compared to Urumqi, Kucha feels quite dusty and run-down, but it isn't without its charms. After returning from the Subash ruins, we had some mediocre Sichuanese food for lunch and took a bus to the old town for a walk. The entire town feels old, really, but the west part of town is the historical city center.
There were lots of old men riding around on donkeys in the streets of the old town; electric carts drove up and down the street offering people rides for a small fee. On the side of the street were people burning logs to barbecue kebabs.
On the right you can see a big pile of charcoal logs.
We walked around for a while and found the Grand Mosque of Kucha down a side street. The mosque really was impressive, though not in use anymore - we were even allowed to go inside and take pictures. There was a group of Uyghur tourists seeing the mosque too - or perhaps they were Turkish or from some other Central Asian country.
After seeing the mosque, we walked around a bit more in the old town - there's a market near the bridge with people selling meat, melons, dried fruit, and so on. There really isn't a whole lot else to see in Kucha, I suppose - we saw a palace that belonged to one of the Hui kings, but it didn't seem terribly interesting.
The ubiquitous donkey cart.
Our next stop was Kashgar. Lonely Planet claims there isn't any sleeper bus to Kashgar, and that you have to hope to hitch a ride on a bus coming from Urumqi, or get a seat on a train(no sleepers from here either). However, there is another way. I called the bus station and found out there are sleeper buses from nearby Aksu. The next day, we took the three-hour bus to Aksu, then bought sleeper tickets to Kashgar. Our bus didn't leave for a while, so we went out looking for a place to eat.
As we walked past three Uyghur restaurants lined up near the bus station, the guys standing outside suddenly burst into a frenzy, exclaiming "Welcome, welcome!", reciting all the dishes their restaurant offered at triple speed, and waving their hands around trying to get us to come inside. It was quite a sight - you had to be there, I guess. They all looked terribly similar, so we randomly picked the middle one, much to the chagrin of the other two greeter guys.
The waitress didn't speak any Chinese at all. Fortunately, at this point I'd learned a couple Uyghur words, like suoman, which are chopped-up noodles with beef in a spicy tomato-based sauce. If I'm not wrong, this word is derived from the Chinese word 炒面(chaomian), which means fried noodles, although the two dishes are totally different.
This was actually taken in Minfeng, but is the only picture of suoman that I have. Most of the time, suoman noodles are more flat, although they can be chopped up laghman noodles as you see here.
Anyhow, as soon as I said suoman, she visibly relaxed and burst into a long stream of Uyghur, which I didn't understand a bit of. The greeter guy grinned, clapped me on the shoulder, and spoke to me in Uyghur, which I also didn't understand. He switched to Chinese, asking me if I was Hui(Chinese Muslim) or Han, and which school I was learning Uyghur from, visibly pleased at my small attempt to speak the language. After dinner, we boarded the bus to Kashgar...
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