adventures in the people's republic of china and beyond

Monday, December 10, 2007


Kashgar: Part 2

The Abakh Khoja tomb.

Next, we headed out to the famous Sunday market all our guidebooks had been talking about, although it wasn't Sunday. In fact, we managed to just miss the weekly market of every city we visited in Xinjiang. Before going to the market, I wanted to walk around some old neighborhoods first, so we decided to walk in the direction of the market, cutting through old neighborhoods. As you can imagine, it didn't really work.

After walking around for a while, we walked up a twisty alley only to find a red banner over an entrance and a lady in a burka standing in front holding tickets! You need to buy a ticket to see some areas of the old town, which I found quite silly, so we backtracked our steps and walked out, getting a bit lost in the process. If you see hexagonal tiles on the floor, it means it's a "through alley", but if you see square tiles, it means it's a dead end. We didn't know this at the time, so we ended up at people's front doors a couple times.

We finally got out of the old town in an unfamiliar area of the city. Lonely Planet had a map, but it wasn't a very good one. I saw some people standing around a yogurt stand, so I walked up and bought some yogurt. The yogurt they were selling here wasn't the delicious sweet yogurt they had in Turpan, but it was sour diluted yogurt-water. I tried out my Uyghur, asking "which way to the market?" The guy drinking yogurt didn't understand me. I repeated myself, stressing bazaar. He said a lot of things in Uyghur that I didn't understand and made various pointing motions, which I interpreted to be directions. This is why I don't like phrasebooks - they teach you how to ask something, but not how to understand the answer! Finally, I remembered one phrase I had learned in "301 Uyghur Sentences" - "zhirakmu?"(is it far?)

The guy nodded and waved his hand - "zhirak, zhirak, zhirak!", then suggested I take a taxi. Thanking the man, we hailed a taxi, which got us to the market in less than two minutes. Apparently our definitions of "far" differ.

Even though it wasn't the big "market day", there was still a lot going on at the market. There were tourists around, but still plenty of locals shopping for stuff. The market had everything - carpets, furs, hats, stationery, dried nuts, electronics... I didn't buy anything, although I did try to buy a tape player capable of rewinding to listen to my Uyghur phrasebook tape. Unfortunately, every tape player they were selling seemed to be broken (it's common practice to test electronic stuff before buying it).

Next, we got on a bus to the famous Abakh Khoja tomb, also known as the tomb of the fragrant concubine, 香妃. I remember reading about her in a Jinyong novel, actually - the story goes that during the Qing dynasty, the Qianlong emperor's forces found an Uyghur girl emanating a natural scent, who was sent to Beijing to become one of the emperor's concubines, and buried back in her hometown of Kashgar. I don't know much about Abakh Khoja, but he was an important Uyghur leader. Speaking of fragrances, you know the saying "you are what you eat?" After spending so much time in Xinjiang, I (normally odorless) was starting to smell a lot like lamb and yogurt.

The Abakh Khoja tomb was a pretty impressive place, as you see here. We rode the bus all the way back, getting off around the gigantic Mao statue and spending some time browsing around the local Xinhua bookstore.

We walked around a bit more and found a fancy Uyghur restaurant, complete with live music! I love these places.

In front of the restaurant, we saw one of many wedding caravans driving by - a long line of cars, led by a truck with guys in the back thumping on big drums. It seems like there are weddings going on every day in Kashgar, but maybe that's common for all cities, and it's just more apparent here! Walking back, I took a couple of night shots, which turned out nicer than I expected. Given that I have a tiny pocket camera, as opposed to those huge DSLRs that many Chinese tourists have.

Better enjoyed with sound.


Would you say, in general, people there in western China are mostly freindly? Again, your post is so much fun, and I learned so much from it!



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