Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Kashgar, take two

I had only been in Kashgar for two full days, but that was really enough time to see most of the things in the city. Really, there's the Sunday Market, the livestock market, the Id Kah mosque, and the Abak Khoja mausoleum. But most of all there's simply wandering around the old city and soaking up the atmosphere. I suppose one could explore the more Chinese parts of the city, but that holds little appeal for me. Maybe visiting the amusement park would have been interesting.

So on my final day in Kashgar, I didn't have much on my plate for the day, and I decided to accompany another tourist staying at the Pamir Hostel as he went to the Sunday Market to buy a carpet. This guy was a European who was living in a big city in Eastern China, and he wanted to buy a carpet or textile to use as a wall decoration.

Given the size of the Sunday Market, the are devoted to rugs and carpets is quite small, but it was interesting to tag along as I would otherwise be hesitant to enter one of the shops and waste the seller's time while being bombarded with high-pressure sales tactics. Accompanying someone else who was interested, while making it clear I wasn't buying anything, was a much better strategy. Virtually all the carpets on display at the shops we went to were used, and they were in a surprising array of styles—not simply the Yarkand or Hotan carpets one might expect to see. Pakistan, and Afghanistan were well represented, and they also had a fair number of Tajik or Uzbek suzani tapestries. I discovered that I quite like strong geometric patterns of the flat-woven kilim rugs they had, most of which were Afghan, and many of which were camel-hair. I know nothing about carpets, and have no idea how much things should cost or what a good deal would be—and in that respect, I'm sure I'm like most consumers.

The Uyghur carpet salesman recognized the two of us for what we were—a couple of tourists with little to spend—and didn't try too hard to sell us on his carpets, though he was friendly and informative. The European guy bought a small suzani for about $60. Small potatoes. But then the carpet seller said something that really encapsulates the reality of traveling in China: "Four or five years ago, Americans and Europeans were the biggest customers, and had lots of money to spend. Now, they buy little and it's the Chinese who spend a lot." It's like that for a lot of things. Those Westerners who are likely to travel to places like Kashgar are simply out-classed, economically speaking, by the kind of Chinese who can also afford to travel there. Prices for many things seem expensive even by Western standards, but that's because there are more than enough wealthy Chinese who think nothing of overpaying and for whom conspicuous consumption is a virtue.

Looking north from Aizirete road bridge, near the Sunday Market.

Making a staw & mud slurry to cover the new buildings along a stretch of old town that was destroyed & widened into a large road.

New buildings going up. At least they didn't widen the road, so it will retain more of its old character.

Sunset in an area still being destroyed. A woman sits on the roof, watching a vanishing way of life.

View along the Tuman river.

Mosque in the dwindling twilight.

Although I loved Xinjiang, and could have spent more time there backtracking to places I had skipped in my rush to get to Kashgar, it felt like it was time to move on to Kyrgyzstan, especially since summer was coming to a close (even if it didn't feel like it in sweltering Kashgar): I decided to try my hand hitching to Osh the next day, aided by a set of instructions posted by a fellow traveler at the hostel.


August 29: 78 yuan
  • Pamir Hostel: 50 yuan
  • Dinner: 15 yuan
  • Drinks: 15 yuan
  • Melon & naan: 8 yuan

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