Life on the Silk Road
Kashgar – a true desert town – is located in the center of Uighur country and is one of the most remote cities in China. For the culturally adventurous, Kashgar presents an array of exciting activities. Once a prime stop on the Silk Road, it has retained fairly authentic bazaars and livestock markets. Nomads, farmers and traders of all types convene to sell their traditional wares as well as an array of tourist goods. Children will be fascinated by the chaos of the livestock market, while adults can take the opportunity to buy fairly inexpensive and well-made carpets at the Sunday Market. A trip to the old town reveals small adobe homes, winding streets and the scents of traditional Uighur cuisine. Though Kashgar is a vibrant experience on its own, it is also a convenient stop on the way to Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan or more remote destinations.
The Travelers: French/Dutch Alex and Noëlle Smulders and their children Ivar (14), Etoile (13) and Asia (12).
How They Did It: Wild China (6465 6602) is an adventure trekking company in Beijing. It’s not budget travel, but when venturing off the beaten track, Wild China’s knowledgeable guides are invaluable. English-speaking Uighur (natives of Xinjiang) guides and all flights, transport, accommodation, meals and guides were included in the package.
Carnivore Club: In this meat-lover’s paradise, the family gorged themselves on foot-long lamb kebabs. You can order from a menu containing different parts of the sheep, and as the animals are often slaughtered right before cooking, you can be assured the meat is fresh.
Culture Shock: The Sunday livestock market is the biggest in central Asia and is a must-see experience, according to the Smulders. Be warned: Animals are sold for meat and it all happens on-site. The market is astonishing in size and atmosphere and overwhelms the senses. The crowds are thronging and the parking lot brimming – not with cars, but with donkeys and their carts!