Asia | China | North West | Kashgar – First impressions
A 30-hour train ride with seven kids was the best test of my patience. This car of the train was a perfect example of population explosion in China (am I sounding negative already?). If it hadnt been for the stunning sight of the jagged, eerie, and colorful mountains in the Taklamakan Desert, Id have gone insane from the piercing screams and scent of public defecation. I couldnt be more relieved when the train pulled into Kashgar.
Kashgar at first sight was once again an array of new storefronts and wide boulevards with a huge statue of Mao Zedong in front of Peoples Park. It couldnt be more Chinese. The hotel we stayed was the foreigners headquarter, and the staff, assuming all Asian guests were Korean or Japanese, was shocked when I started speaking Chinese.
However, walking into the market and taking a turn into a side street brought us into a time machine. In a labyrinth of narrow windy streets, old mud walls, and elaborate doors, there was a quaint mosque around every corner, and children stopped their games to say hello to us. All the signs of sinocization were gone. What remained was the old Kashgar: street signs in Uygher, locals with their distinguished dark features, and women in colorful headscarves and long dresses. Everything looked so foreign, yet so natural, as if I had floated back 1000 years in and comfortably immersed myself into an old world.
The bazaar area and the streets surrounding the main mosque were beaming with evening activities. The locals were mad about pool and disrespect anyone who took it lightly. We played a couple games with an Uygher guy who initially was very friendly to us and offered to show us the old town, but coldly ignored us after we lost miserably to him and laughed through it with no signs of shame.
Another favorite pastime was bad American action movies translated into Uygher. A group of men, young and old, packed snuggly against one another on the benches around a yogurt stall and went ooh and aah as they became entranced by a shoot out playing on an old TV. We watched them from a restaurant next door, and their reactions were just as entertaining to us as the movie was to them.