June 11 – Exploring the Market in Kashgar

This morning, we headed down for breakfast at 9am, about a half hour after the dining room begins its complimentary breakfast service for hotel guests, and…almost no breakfast!  As is typical of many of the hotels we’ve stayed in during our travels in China, if you don’t make it to breakfast right when they open, almost all of the food is taken by the early birds!  And it is seldom, if ever replaced, so that, like today, latecomers might find ten of twelve chafing dishes completely empty…Not that I need to worry about not getting enough to eat, but just a little tip to any first time China travelers who may be reading this blog…go early to breakfast, or don’t even bother!!!  

After our brief breakfast and dropping off our laundry at the cleaners just down the street from the hotel, we returned to our room, to catch up on our writing, until close to 1:00pm.  Then we headed out to the main part of the Kashgar market, the covered bazaar, which is held in several huge buildings about twenty minutes’ walk from our hotel.  Today is a very hot day, with very little escape from the harsh sun, so it’s hard to be outside for long!  

On the way, we passed part of Kashgar’s traditional Uygur adobe community, built on top of a bluff above and just before the market.  It attracted my attention because it looked like it was on the verge of either falling apart of its own volition, or being bulldozed by the government, whichever came first.   As we approached the steep path to the entrance, I was surprised to see that the government had declared it a Traditional Uyghur Folk Art Community, and had set up an admissions booth to collect 30 RMB  to enter.  When we tried to pay, we were waved through by the lady in the booth – it looked as if the Government’s first attempt at improving this area of old Kashgar was to make it an attraction, and then, as if in response to that not working out, to bring in the bulldozers!  

The small adobe, brick and wood community, built as much as seven stories tall because of the limited amount of room on the bluff to expand outwards, had been home to generations of families involved in various handcrafts, but it all seemed kind of sad now, perhaps reflecting its imminent demolition.  Most of the doors to the workshops were locked, and those that were open often had a few machine made hats, wrapped in plastic, available to sell to  passing tourists, but there was no sign  of anything currently being handmade.  And the only smiles to be seen were on the faces of the children playing in the narrow alleys, and even their games seemed quite violent to me!

The design of the community makes perfect architectural sense, considering the hot, sunny climate of Kashgar.  The tall adobe and brick buildings shelter the narrow alleyways from the sun, as do the overhanging additions that cross over the alley to the buildings on the other side.  At one time, I can imagine that all of the community’s needs were met within these walkways – for food, utilitarian tools and housewares made of woven cloth, wood, and clay, and so on.  Quite ingenious!

We continued to the covered bazaar, which is divided into long, long rows of people selling pretty much identical hats, then more long rows of scarf sellers, then rows of dried fruit and nut sellers, and so on.  Dozens and dozens  of booths of each type of item, some with aggressive salespeople, some with laid back ones, but all without the pride that comes from having made any of these items, or from caring very much about them.  

We navigated a few of these long rows, not seeing anything very striking, before deciding to repair to the Eden Cafe, near the smaller market we had been to yesterday, for lunch, and some respite from the sun.  We continued visiting the smaller market we had enjoyed yesterday after a  few hours’ relaxing in the cool air of the Cafe.    While we were walking in the market,  I actually witnessed a bulldozer demolish a Uyghur traditional house right in front of the owners of the building, who were screaming at the demolition crew to stop!  These buildings, as I mentioned earlier, are so badly in need of renovation that, in just a few seconds, the building was reduced to rubble.  One of the photos I took of the demolition is posted on Tali’s blog, http://www.TaliLandsman.wordpress.com.  

We finished our evening by again visiting the Eden for a light supper.  

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About juleslandsman

I live, when not traveling, in Sweetwater, Colorado, located in between Vail and Aspen, and in Kohukohu, a small town on the Hokianga Harbour in New Zealand. I write travelogues, memoirs, and reflections when I'm not skiing, biking, or otherwise outdoors. I retired recently from a career in the financial services industry that spanned more than twenty-five years.
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