Kashgar

Kashgar (喀什; Kāshí; Uyghur: قەشقەر) is in the extreme west of China and the southwest extreme of Xinjiang. The city has been an important trading centre since the days of the Silk Road, and still is today; it is said to have the largest bazaar in Asia.

The local population is a colourful mixture of Uyghurs, Han Chinese, Kyrgyz, Tajiks and Uzbeks.

Understand

The Silk Road route from Eastern and Central China branches after Dunhuang; one route runs along the north edge of the Taklamakan Desert, the other along the south. Kashgar is where the two branches meet again in the western part of the desert. From there, the main route continues west into toward the Ferghana Valley and Samarkand.

Another former caravan trail has now become the Karakorum Highway leading south into Pakistan; Kashgar is its northern terminus.

Historically, Kashgar has often been the capital of an independent kingdom Marco Polo mentions one that existed before the Mongol conquest; the most recent was under Yakub Beg (originally from Kokand) in the late 19th century and at other times part of various empires including Mongol, Persian and Chinese. It has usually been under Chinese control since the Qing took it in 1759, though there have been several revolts; the last ended in 1934. Today it is China's westernmost city.

Get in

Travelling in this area has several options, with a direct relationship between how much you are willing to pay and how fast you want to get to your destination. Trains are the slowest and only leave a few times a day, but are also almost always the cheapest option.

By plane

Kashgar Airport (IATA: KHG) is 18km north of the town centre. Flights are available to/from Urumqi as well as direct flights to and from Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou.

There is a swift international air link between Kashgar and Islamabad by Rayyan Air, 92 333 777 99 27/28/33, or 13899100802 from within China, which takes only one hour from Kashgar to Islamabad and costs USD 330 return. It also links Middle East and South Asian cities via Islamabad.

A taxi to the city should cost about 30-100 yuan by meter. Shuttle buses leaving from the International Hotel at People's Square are available for 10元 per person. The airport has its own shuttle bus that goes from the airport into any location in town (just tell the driver where you are going) for 15元. There is also a public bus that goes to/from the airport to most locations in town, the line 2, for 2元. To get to the public bus, you must walk straight out of the front entrance of the airport, past the airport gates and turn left. The line 2 buses wait at the side of the street, about 20 metres to the left.

By train

Kashgar Railway Station (喀什火车站; Kǎshì Huǒchēzhàn) is the main railway station in the city. It is on Renmin East Road (人民东路; Rénmíndōnglù). Although it is east of the town centre, the distance is too far for walking. Bus 28 connects the city including Renmin Square (人民广场; Rénmín Guángchǎng), to the railway station. From the railway station, walk out and turn right and you will probably see a bus waiting there already. The fare is ¥1 and is paid onboard. If you do not know where you are going, get on bus 28, get off at Renmin Square and figure things out from there; the city centre is walkable and at Xinhua Bookstore (新华书店; Xīnhuá Shūdiàn), next to the main square, you will be able to purchase the best maps of Kashgar for about ¥5-8 (although these maps are only in Chinese).

From the railway station, Qinibagh and Seman Hotels can be reached a couple of stops after Renmin Square on bus 28 and then walking uphill for about 5 minutes; the people on the bus can probably help you and most people on the street know where these places are.

Kashgar is at the end of the Urumqi-Kashgar line. Destinations of interest include:

Kashgar–Hotan Railway has been completed and is now also open. Stops include but are not limited to:

By bus

International Bus Station is at 5 Jicheng Road

From Kyrgyzstan

It is less expensive, and maybe even faster, to get to Osh, or at least to Sary Tash in Kyrgyzstan using a combination of service taxis and trucks. At Kashgar's International Bus Station, get a taxi around 08:30 (Beijing time) for the 2 hour journey to the immigration point near Wuqia (they'll want 300Y but you can bargain down to 150Y). If you want to take a shared taxi to Wuqia (25Y), go earlier to make sure you're at the immigration checkpoint when it opens at 11:00. From Wuqia, stick to the main road and flag down passing vehicles westwards or get another taxi for the five-minute journey to the immigration checkpoint. There, immigration officers will even help you to get on a truck or into a car - they all go at least to Sary Tash. Trucks might require a small payment, or at least prepare some cigarettes to give to the driver. If you're lucky to get a seat in a car, you may be in Sary Tash before 17:00. From there, it's only 3 hours to Osh (2000-2500 Som for a private taxi). There is no special permit (other than a Kyrgyz visa) required for this border.

By car

The Karakoram Highway runs from Pakistan into China. Kashgar is the nearest major town on the Chinese end.

Get around

Most of Kashgar including the bus station, bazaar, main square, downtown (with the notable exception of the animal market) can be reached on foot within 15-20 minutes of each other if you are not carrying huge amounts of baggage. The railway station is too far to walk but is reachable with public bus 28 which, among other places, stops at Renmin Square (人民广场; Rénmín Guángchǎng), the main square. The international bus station is near the city and walkable.

The old town and narrow alleyways are pretty much only explorable on foot.

Cross streets carefully in Kashgar as no pedestrian crossings are available.

Cycling is an option but the traffic is somewhat dangerous, so only do this if you are experienced with this kind of traffic environment. Bicycles can be rented at major hotels such as Qinibagh for typically less than ¥30/day.

See

Nowadays only one pagoda is left, next to the pagoda is a platform. The pagoda is the place where the monks in the city to come and do their worship. The Mor pagoda has three square layers, each a little smaller than the one below it. The bottom layer has circumferences of more than forty-eight meters, the second layer forty meters and the third layer thirty-two meters, while the pagoda stands more than twelve meters high. The platform beside the pagoda was one of the central temple structures, and in its side walls were carved niches housing Buddha figurines. But now there aren’t any figures left, and even the niches themselves are barely visible.

Bazaars

This bazaar changed its location some three years ago (around 2011) and now it is a good 30 minute bus ride north of the city or a (¥15-20) metered taxi ride for around 15 minutes.

Old Town

Other sights

Id Kah Mosque

Do

Buy

The price of everything is negotiable in Kashgar, adding to excitement of shopping. Be polite in bargaining, but be mindful that merchants will overcharge you as a foreigner especially if you do not speak Uyghur or Chinese; so bargain hard. Price differences between locals and foreigners can easily amount to several hundred yuan so be careful. Local specialties include kilims (carpets), and colourful Central Asian hats(doppa, kalpak).

Eat

There are plenty of good local restaurants and street food.

It may be wise to avoid anything with ice as the ice in Kashgar is usually carried in large blocks and frequently placed on the ground so they may not be clean, but there are places around Id Kah where the ice is clean and safe, and well-known all around Xinjiang. During the summer months there are huge heaps of melons and watermelons - cheap, tasty and refreshing. The going price for a hami melon (哈密瓜; hāmìguā) is around ¥1 per kilogramme, so in total, it costs ¥2-5 per melon depending on the size. Buying, washing and cutting it yourself is probably the most hygienic way to eat these fabulous tasty fruits. It would be wise to have the melon seller to cut the melon for you, as it will be hard to find a knife.

Drink

There are not as many places serving alcohol in Kashgar as in other areas of China.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 13, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.