And so we rolled into Kashgar, where we had a rather nice sounding hotel booked for the night (based on the guidebook: new, own bathrooms, the works!). Unfortunately, the guidebook lied and the place ended up being rather elderly looking (holes in the walls), with dirty laundry lining the corridors and filthy rooms complete with aggressive looking bunches of Chinese men hanging round drinking and smoking. We cracked. We moved. Into a bit of a quirky place, Kashgar’s newest (and second) FIVE STAR establishment…. Still being built and with only one functioning lift, but very smart it was, more marble than you can shake a stick at and hot and cold running receptionists. Also (mercy of mercies) an enormous big fluffy bed and a BATH – haven’t seen one of those in a while. So we felt jolly smug with ourselves and decided that China was obviously going to be an easy ride vs. all those pesky Stans.
Kashgar is a famous market town; both for its daily Sunday market and its Sunday only Livestock market. Yep, we were confused too. Still, off we set for the market and – once again were a tiny bit disappointed in yet a other bright new shiny bazaar, carefully compartmentalized and clean as a whistle. Although the hat section was cool. And we were pretty happy about that whole clean as a whistle bit when we stopped for some noodles for lunch – figured those would be boiled to food hygiene safety – and the noodles actually turned out to be the cold variety. And, as it happens, delicious (no Mum, we weren’t sick. Yes I’ll be more careful from now on). On the walk back we discovered the old town of Kashgar which is where all the trading has moved now the market is so shiny and spent some happy hours there haggling for hats. James bought a rather natty drinking hat made out of GENUINE lynx fur and has been rather too cheerful with life ever since.
Next day was the livestock market where the real action happens. If you’ve never seen a few hundred enormously testicled fat bottomed sheep all lined up together ready for sale, well then….I think I might actually envy you. It’s certainly a sight that’ll stick. Compared to the sheep the enormous and rather moody cattle, braying donkeys, and, yes, I think even the camels (two humped and very very fluffy this time around) paled into insignificance.
Next stop, dinner at a local cafe with no English or picture menu. We’ll have one of what they’re having please (appetites weren’t that high having seen the unconcerned-with-cleanliness open air butchery stalls at the livestock market – right by the animals in fact which seemed a little unnecessarily cruel). As we finished up and moved to settle our bill, a small child sat on the pavement and crapped about a foot away from James shoe, leaving us with some unresolved queries about basic food hygiene in this part of the world…
It was something of a timely reminder actually. China may be many things, but an easy ride it ain’t.