We have finally made it to Kashgar
! This was one of the places we really wanted to visit, and though we cannot go on from here into Central Asia it is still satisfying to reach one of our goals.
China runs on a single time zone so this far west they have devised some local ways of working to accommodate "Beijing time". Local businesses tend to work to 'local time' which is 2 hrs behind Beijing time but most keep the official Beijing time. The result of this is that if you are catching a bus or plane you will appear to be departing at a normal time - say 9:30 - but then find that nowhere is open to serve you breakfast at 8:30am which is really 6:30am to most locals.
Kashgar old town
The other noticeable thing is that on Beijing time it gets dark very late here, it is still twilight at 10pm so this is a true summer night city.
Kashgar is probably not the place of travel books from 20 or even 10 years ago and if you come looking for the old town it is disappointing. But after a day or two you begin to appreciate what makes this place a little special; it is still a cosmopolitan hub where people from 5 different countries some to buy and sell their goods. There is no better example of this than the Sunday livestock market where cattle, goats, sheep and horses are all traded. In comparison the normal Sunday market (it's permanent so is on every day) seems a bit of a let-down and though it is large seems a little sterile.
We seem to arrive in town at a bad time as beds seem hard to find.
Apak Hoja tomb
We eventually track down a room at the International complex in their mid-price building but this is only available for 1 night. Hundreds of school students are arriving from the country tomorrow to sit exams and have booked out most of the budget accommodation. We take the room for the night and then manage by luck to secure a room at a good rate at a 4 star hotel down the road. We are thankful not to be staying another night at the International as they in the middle of building a new hotel here and are clearly are running behind schedule as they are busy pouring concrete at 2am in the morning.
Apart from the old town and markets there are actually only a couple of sights in Kashgar itself. At our first attempt to visit the mosque we are turned back as it is prayer time, so bus out to the Apak Hoja tomb a short distance from the centre.
Kashgar livestock market
The tomb is wonderfully scenic decorated with an odd collection of coloured tiles. While here we notice that something odd is about to happen as there are no other visitors and a large police presence. No one asks us to leave but the police look visibly relieved when we make for the exit. They ask us to walk on the pavement and we soon realise why; in less than 5 minutes the motorcade of a visiting head of state passes by on its way into the tombs. Our return bus to town is held up as the surrounding roads are closed to traffic until the visit is over, so we wait for the tour to complete and after 20 minutes or so everything returns to normal. Back in town we are permitted to tour the mosque but there is little to see inside and half of the prayer hall is closed for renovation.