Xinjiang--South of Kashgar [photo intensive]

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Re: Travels in Kyrgyzstan: Crossing into China [photo intensive]

Unread postby Sean » Wed Apr 08, 2009 7:22 am

Lady Wu wrote:WWD: when taking a cab in Xinjiang--or, in fact, doing any kind of business transaction in that province--make sure to haggle shamelessly. And then some more. The whole history of Xinjiang is basically based on trade, and slap on the whole "let's take advantage of the foreigner" thing, and you really gotta bargain hard.


Shenzhen as well. I believe that haggling is key in most parts of China, northwestern border, Mainland, or otherwise. :)
I know in Hong Kong and Macau, cabs have fares on them, like, x amount of money for this distance + extra distance in km. I assume this does not apply in Xinjiang, if you must bring up the topic of haggling.
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The New Territory

Unread postby Lady Wu » Mon Jul 06, 2009 7:23 am

With this whole riot thing going on in Urumqi, Xinjiang, I guess I really need to continue this thread with pictures from Xinjiang. It'd take a few days before I could sort out my photos and upload them, but here's for a teaser. Starting in the south with Kashgar (the second-biggest city in the province, and the biggest Uyghur settlement).

Old City, Kashgar
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Kashgar is a very old, very Uighur city that the Chinese government tries over and over again to Sinicize (while keeping enough Uighur elements to woo tourists and placate the locals). It is also home to the westernmost statue of Mao in China. It's friggin' huge:

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(Complete with an anti-corruption slogan underneath.)

And speaking of tourists, how can a collection of pictures of China be without one that shows bad Babelfishing?

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(The store on the left says "Precious Vegetarian Diet of Jade", and the right one says "Gold and Jade Predestined Relationship". Both of them are tourist-oriented stores in the renovated part of the "Old City", selling ridiculously overpriced "Khotan Jades" that aren't even from Khotan.
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Re: Xinjiang, the New Territory [photo intensive]

Unread postby Sima Hui » Wed Jul 08, 2009 11:11 pm

Awesome photos, m'Lady. Central Asia looks really interesting and I hope to go there sometime over the next couple of years (provided I return alive from North Korea in September). :?
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Re: Xinjiang, the New Territory [photo intensive]

Unread postby Lady Wu » Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:13 am

Good luck in North Korea! I look forward to your stories! (Not sure how many photos they let you take...)

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Xinjiang, Part 1: Kashgar

Kashgar, the Uighur capital in southern Xinjiang, is a mish-mash of old buildings and traditions, and Chinese-imposed modernization.

Id Kah Mosque

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- The biggest mosque in China, this building is the heart of religious and cultural activities in Kashgar (especially since religious gatherings in private homes are prohibited). Unfortunately, the contamination of Han Communist culture is all too visible here. They charged 20RMB for entrance, and the first thing you see inside is a big sign explaining the history of the mosque and how it reflects that China permits full religious freedom and how Xinjiang loves being part of China. I wish I took a picture of that sign, but that camera episode on the border made me very wary of taking any photos that could be construed in a political sense. A fellow traveller, though, did, and you can see the picture of the sign here (while you're at it, check out his other photos. They're amazing.).

A couple of photos inside, after I navigated through throngs of Han Chinese tourists, most of the women wearing miniskirts. No, I didn't take pictures of the miniskirts, either.

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Outside the mosque is a modernized, touristy outdoor shopping area that was rebuilt with a pseudo-Uighur flavour.

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- The seat covers on the motorbikes are really nice.

Free water by the roadside--a sign of local hospitality.
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Old City

The "Old City" of Kashgar is divided into three parts. There's the "outskirts", the modernized section (with an "ethnic feel") with tourist shops. Then there's the government tourism board-approved section, with Authentic Uighur Buildings inhabited by Real Uighurs, which the government charge you 30RMB to enter. And then there's a little section of the original Old City where they haven't gotten around to install a tollbooth yet (or you can think of it as the same section of the Old City, just accessed through the back alleys). That section is slated for demolition in the near future.

The picture with the donkey cart in the post above is taking in the outer regions of the Old City. Here are some more:

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The original Old City (no, I didn't pay. I just wandered around until I could sneak in):

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Emerging into the modernized, Han-dominated part of Kashgar:

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- See how that "ethnic"-looking building is sandwiched between boring modern buildings? I actually had lunch there:

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- I wasn't brave enough to try their specialty. Went for more laghman noodles instead. It was hard to order something else since the owner spoke neither Mandarin nor English, and my Uighur wasn't so great.

Modern Kashgar

McD's rip-off:
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The Kashgar Technology and Culture Plaza:
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Another view of Mao:
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Across from Mao is Renmin Gongyuan, the "People's Park". It's quite a nice park as parks go, with something for everyone in the family (including a children's amusement park section where they loop Christmas songs and the Sound of Music soundtrack ad nauseum). But I only found two things worthy of pictures:

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Tomb of Yusuf Has Hajip
Yusuf Has Hajip was a Uighur poet and philosopher in the 11th Century. His poetic masterpiece, "The Wisdom of Happiness and Pleasure", documented much of Uighur society, technology, and religion of that time, and is one of the best-loved works in the old Uighur language.

The entrance:
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Side entrance:
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Yusuf himself:
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Inner courtyard:
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On each section of the wall in that covered walkway is a quote of the famous poem:
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More pictures:
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Upon leaving the site, I got quite a fright. Right at the front entrance of the site is the following sign:
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- It's a "Patriotic Education Headquarters" approved by the Xinjiang government. I'm not sure how a 11th Century Uighur poet has anything to do with Chinese patriotism...

The Grand Bazaar

One of the biggest markets in Central Asia, and supposedly crazy on Sundays. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go on a Sunday.
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The government tried to clean up the place and make it more modern, by moving most of the vendors inside. As a result, most of the bazaar isn't very interesting--well, as interesting as a shopping district in Shenzhen. It is huge, though, and there are still some outdoor sections left:

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Re: Xinjiang, the New Territory [photo intensive]

Unread postby Jiang Zhi » Mon Jul 20, 2009 7:08 am

Holy crap, I'm jealous :) If not for the political turmoil, I'll probably visit there within the next year or so. How much did you spend there? I'd imagine the food is quite cheap compared to North America (or even HK)
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Re: Xinjiang, the New Territory [photo intensive]

Unread postby Tigger of Kai » Mon Jul 20, 2009 11:13 pm

Best photos so far IMO, what a beautiful city! Those cloisters would make a great movie set.

I really like Yusuf's robe. Something about it just screams, "I am a Great Poet".
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Re: Xinjiang, the New Territory [photo intensive]

Unread postby Lady Wu » Fri Jul 24, 2009 4:27 am

Thanks, Jiang Zhi and Tigger. :)

Jiang: Food is indeed quite cheap there if you eat where the locals eat. Local cuisine tends to be limited to shashliks/kebabs, laghman, da pen ji ("big dish chicken"--see Naryn photos), and polo (a rice and meat dish). Tourist-oriented establishments with options outside of the above are capable of charging exorbitant prices. If you still want to go to Kashgar, I'd say visit within the next year or two--before they completely tear down the Old City. Use English as your lingua franca unless the locals indicate that they prefer to speak Mandarin, and under no circumstance identify yourself as Chinese. I was treated royally all the time when I was in southern Xinjiang as long as I identified myself as Canadian; however, as soon as I revealed that my hometown was Hong Kong, everyone clammed up and would have as little to do with me as possible.
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Re: Xinjiang, the New Territory [photo intensive]

Unread postby Lady Wu » Sun Aug 02, 2009 11:11 pm

One of the days I was in Kashgar, I hired a driver and a car to explore some of the places south of Kashgar.

My first destination was Karakul Lake, 200km south of Kashgar on the Karakorum Highway.

Along the Karakorum Highway, which is the major route between China and Pakistan:
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A road-side stall by one of the many police checkpoints along the highway (I had to get out of the car and register with the police at least twice in one direction). Note the solar panels on the left--Most of this region is off the grid, and solar and wind are the main sources of electricity.

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Karakul Lake (3600m), with the stunning Muztagh Ata (7500m) in the background:

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There isn't much infrastructure around the lake--originally, it had a few Kyrgyz settlements around it and that was it. However, the Chinese government was quick to see the tourist potential of the place, and they now charge RMB 50 just to walk up close to the lake. I guess they do run two overflowing pit toilets by the "parking area" (my friend, whose picture of the Id Kah Mosque sign I had linked above, took a picture of the toilet. He visited the day after I did, and I can assure you that it was worse when I went). My driver, though, knew the backdoor way (there's always a backdoor to anything in China), and smuggled me in without going through the toll-collector.

We visited a family in this yurt, who fed us some lunch. After that, the driver took a nap and I rented the family's horse to ride around the lake:
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Another "Lady Wu can't balance on horseback" photo (the mountain range in the background is Mt. Kongur):
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More lake photos:
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Passed by a man herding camels! (One of my all-time favourite photos)
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The permanent settlements are on the south end of the lake. In the summer, many of the families move to the northwestern shore to get some extra income by accommodating tourists or selling handicrafts, so these houses are largely empty.
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The houses may look primitive, but they do have wind power!
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Re: Xinjiang--South of Kashgar [photo intensive]

Unread postby Terranigma Freak » Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:09 pm

What did they serve for lunch?
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Re: Xinjiang--South of Kashgar [photo intensive]

Unread postby Lady Wu » Mon Aug 03, 2009 9:29 pm

Terranigma Freak wrote:What did they serve for lunch?

Unfortunately, nothing special.

They asked me what I'd like for lunch. I named some traditional Kyrgyz dishes. They laughed at me and made me tomato egg foo-yong on rice. :(
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