I was hungry for fastfood and desperately decaffeinated after the 3 weeks on Karakorum Highway. I needed a moderately big city and human commodities after having spent those weeks in the mountains. I loved the mountains and I loved the stunning landscapes of Northern Pakistan, but I missed civilization. I wanted Wi-Fi, a night of sleep on a proper bed, coffee and cake.
2 days before I arrived to Tashkurgan, the border city with Pakistan. It was late, There were no exchange offices around, and some guys from Hunza Valley whom I met on the bus invited me to share their room at the local Traffic Hotel. It was really flashy outside and truly gross inside, like most of Chinese hotels. The guys from Hunza knew how to leave their imprint on the hotel room: they brought their own tea and made it right IN THE KETTLE. Not that it was not tasty. But the cleaning lady probably thought to herself out out in the morning: ‘Ta ma de! Not those guys again!’
Escaping Tashkurgan as fast as I could, I hitched a ride to Karakul lake with an Israeli couple I met on the road. We stayed in a yurt and did all that touristy stuff that everybody does.
Karakul Lake is likely the most scenic lake I’ve ever seen. Walking along the shore, I thought I might even take a swim and ripple its glass-like waters.
But then I saw some local families preparing for the music festival the next day. They had cut up three horses and were washing their intestines in the water.
The festival featured a lot of traditional music and Chinese tourists with cameras.
The most brilliant thing about Karakul lake is that it looks more beautiful with every passing hour.
Kashgar had ATMs, Kashgar had paved roads and Kashgar had this awesome Pamir Youth hostel where I met some exceptional people. It felt like a cultural crossroads for the vagabonds: Dia and Yayoi were cycling from Japan to Greece, Steve just came from Pakistan like myself, Bob was spending his holidays and finishing his novel. I was even asked to cook borsch one evening.
For about 2,000 years Kashgar served as the global crossroads for merchants traveling from Europe to China along the Silk Route. As West as you can get in China, Kashgar is remarkable for its scarcity of Khan-Chinese population – which is always for the best, of course. It is still deemed, by the Chinese government, one of the main centers of Uyghur protests and resistance, and many people here do not speak Chinese at all. Uyghur is a Turkic language that uses Arabic writing system.
As much as the the Chinese government tries to fight off the local Uyghur population and devour their ethnical authenticity, the feel of Kashgar is exotic and much more Central Asian rather than Chinese.
The main action takes place every Sunday for the past 1000 years at the weekly Livestock Market.
If you like hanging out in old-man bars and bazaars full of bad teeth and women of large proportions, Kashgar Livestock market is the ultimate place to go.
Beware of spitting camels, yelling donkeys and spiteful sheep.
The Old Town of Kashgar might seem familiar. With all the rubbish lying around and old clay buildings crumbling at the corners, you know that you are in a highly livable place. It is here, not in Kabul, they filmed ‘The Kite Runner’. So Kashgar is like your cheap version of Kabul minus the guns.
Finally, after a few days spent under shower and in bed with my Macbook, I decided to get out of town for a stroll. The long stroll started with a ride on an extremely old motorbike with my CS buddy Tohsun, and ended up at Shipton’s Arch – a rock with a hole. Honestly, it is just a rock with a hole, but lurking bats and other strange animals turned our trip into a creepy evening adventure.