Kashgar travel guide, Xinjiang
Situated in the southwest of Xinjiang, bordering the Taklamakan desert in the east, the Kunlun Range and Ali prefecture of Xinjiang in the south, Kashgar (Kashi) is the first point of arrival on land routes from Pakistan and Kirgyzistan, a significant stop on the ancient Silk Road for a long time. For thousands of years, it has been the political,economic,cultural and transportation hub on south of the Tianshan Range, one of the oldest and richest oasis in the Tarim Basin.
Nowdays, despite the modernization and architectural decline, the city features wealthy tourism resources of characteristic landscapes, ethnic minority charm and humanistic sights.
The most striking factor of Kashgar is the Turkestan influence visible on the streets and in the homes here. The place feels, looks and even smells dramatically different from the rest of China, more so than any other city in Xinjiang, which is without great surprise considering that 90% of the population are practicing Muslims. Uigur bazaars, tea houses and faces dominate the streets. What's more, this is the only city in Central Asia where the women choose to veil their faces.
The old streets, restaurants and markets here are great for exploring. The city is particularly busy between May and October, jam packed with merchants and traders hot-off the Karakoram Highway from Pakistan and Kirgyistan.
The Grand Bazaar/ Abakh Khoja Tomb
When to go? -- Aug.~Sept.
- Abakh Khoja Tomb
The tomb chamber is the main building in the group, the most magnificent mausoleum in Xinjiang. The base is rectangular with a huge brick column at each corner. The stone coffin of Xiang Fei lying inconspicuously in the southeast corner attracts visitors.
Abakh Khoja Tomb is admired as a well-preserved Islamic architectural complex not only in Xinjiang, but throughout Central Asia. Xiang Fei's love story intrigues tourists from home and abroad.
How to get there: take bus No.20 for Y1, a taxi ride costs about Y20 for round trip, or go by bicycle, it would be a long walk otherwise. Go northeast past the Sunday Market Area and turn at the English marked sign for the Tomb.
Admission Fee: Y40
- Id Kah Mosque
The Id Kah Mosque was built in 1442 as a very small structure. Several renovations and enlargements made it to today's scale and style. The complex occupies an area of 168sqkm, consisting of the courtyard, the Hall of Prayer, and the gate tower and as well as some other attached structures.
Every day thousands of worshippers come here to pray. During religious festivals all the Muslims in Xinjiang come to this sacred place to celebrate. At prayer time, the mosque, the square, the streets and the roads all around are full of piously kneeling Muslims. Afterwards, all the people get together on the square in front of the Id Kah Mosque and dance to show their happiness, with no sign of exhaustion.
Admission Fee: Y30
How to get there: Bus No.77 & No. 13
- Kashgar Grand Bazaar
Located on the east bank of the Tuman River, northeastern outskirts of the city, the Bazaar is the largest trading market for agricultural products in Xinjiang, also the busiest part of the Kahsgar city, with stalls dotted everywhere in the crowded streets.
Throughout the bazaars, you will find some stalls that sell everything while others specialize and sell local produce, arts and crafts, garments, knives, timber, coal and animals.
As an expansion, Kashgar is also home to a weekly Sunday Market. Conservative estimation put the area at least 5,000 stalls that see traffic of around 100,000 people/day. The mixture of people of different ethnic backgrounds from all over Central Asia descending on Kashgar to trade and buy various wares give the market an incredible atmosphere, so it is worth braving the crowds.
The western part of the bazaar is devoted mainly to Uigur and Kyrgyz, while the eastern part is for household goods and hardware.
How to get there: accessible by walking down the streets leading southwest from Id Kah Square in the center of Kashgar. The Sunday Market meets along the road leading northeast out the city about a 30-minute walk from the city. Cycling is not the best
option as you may not be able to find a place to park your bicycle. Another way to get to the Sunday market is by getting a donkey cart ride.
Reminder: Be cautious to protect yourself against pickpockets and bagslashers in these markets due to the tremendous crowd.
Getting there and away
There are 3 daily flights between Kashgar and Urumqi, which are sometimes canceled due to poor turnout and sandstorm. The flight takes 1.5hrs for around Y1,300. Leaving Kashgar for Urumqi is not easy. Better book tickets as far in advance as possible. This can be done at the Xinjiang Airline Office on Jiefang Nan Lu, south of the People's Hotel. Local travel agencies charge Y50 to book each plane ticket.
The airport is 11 km from the city center and there are regular bus services from the airport to the city for Y6. A taxi ride costs approximately Y30.
Being the terminal of the south Xinjiang railway, the train transportation is available in Kashgar though time-consuming. Everyday at around 14:00, K888 starts from Kashgar and arrives at Urumqi at 15:00 the next day. K886 leaves Urumqi at 12:38 and
arrives at Kashgar at noon time the next day.
Buses between Urumqi and Kashgar run via Aksu, Kuqa, Korla and Toksun. The trip takes about 36 hours for about Y200. Sleeper buses are more comfortable with cost almost double. Some travalers hire jeeps to cover the distance. The best place to get information about vehicle chartering is in John's Information Cafe opposite the Seman Hotel.
Foreigners are often asked to pay more for bus tickets than the Chinese, which is technically illegal, but it is difficult to deal with. There are also buses from Kashgar to Tashkurgan, which is the last town along the Karakoram Highway that heads to Pakistan.
Kashgar Long-distance Bus Station is on No.59, Tiannan Lu. Tel:0998-2827308
Reminder: Foreigners are not permitted to set off from Kashgar to Lhasa.
By bus/ taxi / donkey cart / bike
- Tianna Fandian - just opposite the Long-distance bus station, budget rooms are centered in No.1 Building of the hotel, Y10~20/dorm, with free hot shower
- Seman Hotel - a huge, rambling old complex in delightful, secluded gardens,the most popular place in Kashgar with Western tourists. The hotel is housed in the renovated former Russian consulate which was first built in 1890. It's located on the western edge of the city, about 13km from the airport.
If you don't mind things being a bit noisy from the karaoke bar nearby, the Seman Hotel is a good place to base yourself with good service and friendly staff.
Address:170, Seman Road. Tel:0998-2581186
- Qiniwak Hotel - one of the best hotels in town, occupies the building that used to be the British Consulate, now under Pakistani management. The hotel is 12km from the airport and close to the famous Id Kah Mosque. Y20/dorm, Y60/dbl.
The hotel is popular with Pakistani traders, as bus travelers from Pakistan are dropped right outside the front door. It can get quite noisy in the summer months so try and book in advance.
Address:144, Seman Road. Tel:0998-2980671
Xinjiang food has much more of a Central Asian flavour than a Chinese taste. Kashgar is one of the best cities in the region to enjoy authentic Xinjiang cuisine and there are literally thousands of tiny Uigur restaurants dotted about the place serving local specialties.
The area around the Seman Hotel is a lively district to begin your culinary adventures. John's Information Cafe (opposite the hotel) is a popular haunt with backpackers. This place not only serve up good pancakes and coffee, but are also a good source of information about travel and transport in the area. You can also rent tents here and use the internet. The streets around here and near Id Kah Square are full of Uigur restaurants serving local specialties including mutton kebabs, Nan bread stew, Uigur rice, roast fish and noodles.
One of the most gourmet dishes of Uigur cuisine is Roast Whole Lamb, a rare treat only found at Uigur celebrations and special occasions.