Karakoram Highway: Kashgar
Kashgar is famous as a crossroads market at the western edge of the Taklimakan desert in China. A critical junction along the silk route, it has historically been the meeting point for vendors from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, Kazakhatan and china.
The 'native' people here called Uygurs (pronounced wee-gar, which makes me smile every time I hear it) and they have a look that is distinctly different than the chinese that we encountered in the east last year. In fact, other than the presence of chinese characters on every sign, it would be easy to think that we are somewhere other than China.
Women's fashion here is comprised of big hair (tastefully decorated with a colourful scarf), gigantic glam sunglasses, high heels, and a dresses or a fancy blouse/skirt combination. Sequins and rhinestones encouraged. It is like we arrived at a convention for airline hostesses from the 1960's. These Jackie-O look-a-likes zip around on noiseless electric scooters, making the whole experience even more twilight zone-ish.
Men's fashion is substantially less sensational, marked very simply by a four cornered hat, decorated according to the area from which they come. They sit around a drink tea and roll cigarettes, which I guess is pretty much what I've seen men do in a lot of places between here and europe - but the hats just make it look cooler.
Every meal has offered an opportunity to discover a new facet of Kashgar's diverse culinary offering. Handmade ramen noodles. Fresh, hot, clean, delicious dinner for two for under $3.50 (how is that even possible?) Kebabs of all sorts. Dumplings and soups and fresh nan and meter long green beans. And saffron tea. And garlic! And spices!
We took a day trip out to Shipton's Arch - a geologic feature about an hour and a half drive and another hour and a half hike outside of the city. The Uighar guide (Karesh) was sweet enough to pick up a watermelon for us to enjoy at the top of the hike. Unfortunately, Karesh hadn't considered how to transport the thing up the hill, which meant that he and Gerry took turns gripping the enormous and awkwardly smooth and round fruit up the hill. It was like one of those sadistic crossfit exercises with a medicine ball.