Kashgar Travel Blog› entry 4 of 24 › view all entries
...didn't materialise, sadly. Kaiser and Rena called me this morning. Apparently the venue for the ceremony and the photos has just been over-run by the army (more of which later), and consequently the whole thing has had to be moved, at 24 hours notice, to a town an hour an a half away. I thanked them effusively for the invitation, but said I would bow out as the family had obviously got more than enought to deal with, without a random foreign acquaintance to worry about. They were very sweet though, and want me to visit them at home in Urumqi instead - but I doubt there'll be time.
After breakfast I went in search of the original British Consulate in the grounds of my hotel, which is named after it - The Qini Bagh.
Then I headed for the Mosque, and Kashgar's Old Town.
I passed stalls full of dried fruit, nuts, spices and teas, and street food stands where lamb kebabs were being cooked over charcoal and served on bowl shaped naans, patterened and sprinkled with fennel. The smell was wonderful.
In the late afternoon I went to People's park. All life is lived in Chinese Parks - people playing cards, snoozing, gossipping, playing games. People of all ages and ethnicities, and right in the middle of the city. It's a people watching paradise.
There are heavily armed soldiers, if not on every street corner, certainly on a lot. And not just one, but usually at least 20, if not 30 or 40 in one place. All in full riot gear and armed with anything from big guns to batons. There's a very blunt message being delivered to the Uighurs, and it would be a very brave person who started anything here. The streets are reguarly patrolled by convoys of trucks with 20 - 30soldiers on each - usually three trucks in a convoy. From most of the trucks, one soldier stands on each side, gun pointing outwards and finger on the trigger. When, as I stood on the pavement waiting to cross, one convoy stopped for the traffic lights, it struck me that the gun was pointed straight at me. 'Looking down the barrel of a gun', suddenly took on some significance. It's odd then to come back to my room, and put the TV on to any of the Xinjiang channels. Almost always, one of the propaganda videos seems to be on, as indeed one is now, as I write in my notebook. They're beautufully filmed and put together...lots of scenes of wonderful, progressive China, shot through with happy, productive people of all the ethnic minorities (particularly Uighur). There's a Uighur and a Han pop singer singing a happy little song, backed by half a dozen cute kids of each of the two ethnicities. 'This is all very well', I think, 'but I've just had a gun directed straight at me'.