Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More impressions from Western China

Well, I have been a busy bunny this month and have been remiss in reporting my observations from my trip across China!
So here's just a few more pictures from Kashgar.

Kashgar is home to one of the largest statues of Mao Zedong in the world. As you can imagine, in the heart of China's largest autonomous region of predominantly Uyghur people, this statue is not particularly well-loved.
the massively awkward Chairman towers over Kashgar

 I loved this couple! The man was all smiles, pointing to my camera and gesturing for me to take a picture of him and his wife. As soon as I was ready to shoot, he would stand straight, solemn, and stoic, refusing to smile . . . then he'd giggle like a little boy when I showed him the pictures!

I know I already posted a picture of this little beauty earlier, but I was just so captivated by her sweet, shy smile!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Still more Kashgar memories

We slowly wind our way through Old Town Kashgar, stopping here and there to buy scarves and hats and sample meat-stuffed naan.

We eat fresh sesame seed Uighur bagels as they're pulled hot out of wood-fired clay ovens on the sidewalk.
hot bagels!

We stop at a cart selling Houma melons and watermelon, 1 yuan a slice - that's about 16¢ - and gorge ourselves on the sweetest watermelon, slice after slice after slice, the juice running down our chins and spitting the seeds into the street, before we notice that we're smack-dab in the middle of a three-way road, cars and motorbikes and donkey carts and traffic whizzing past us on all sides, which just makes us giggle and makes the watermelon taste all the sweeter.

Betcey and Steven in a watermelon frenzy

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Old Town Kashgar

The streets of Kashgar are alive with cars, taxis, donkey carts, motor scooters, and electric bicycles. They pay no heed traffic lanes or directions, and it's not unusual to see mothers with 2 or 3 children - babies, even - zipping in and out of traffic on their scooters.

The people we've seen are as interested in us as we are in them - this is an area that gets very few tourists.
We were spontaneously invited into a home where women were sewing clothes in bright silk brocades, padded with sheep's wool for winter warmth.
This young girl was winding yarn around her feet to form into skeins
such a winsome beauty!

Children run up to us yelling "Hello! Hello!" - no doubt, the only English they know - then run away giggling.
Old men follow us down the street and point to our cameras, posing for pictures and smiling proudly when we show them their images.
I loved this green-eyed man - kinda looks a little bit like Paul Newman, doesn't he?

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Volatile and beautiful and exotic and noisy and scary. Truly, it's as if we have arrived in another world.
We're greeted at the airport by police carrying AK-47s.
Actually, I wouldn't know an AK-47 from a Winchester rifle, but whatever - they were scary-looking machine guns.
picture from . . . I did NOT want to be taking pictures of cops with guns!
Only a month before our visit, Kashgar was the site of rioting and violent attacks. There was - and is - ongoing unrest between the local Uighur and Han Chinese populations.
Here's a brief and simplified explanation of the situation.

So, upon our arrival, we were a little . . . unsure of what to expect. It was a very quiet ride from the airport to our hotel. I'm sure we were all wondering if this part of the journey was a good idea.

It was, indeed. 

Kashgar turned out to be one of my favorite parts of our 3 weeks in China.

More on that tomorrow!

Flying to Kashgar

Flying over the magnificent Tien Shen mountain range in the very farthest reaches of Western China.

The very name brings to mind adventure, mystery, exotic foods, bustling marketplaces, ancient architecture, donkey carts, and old men with long beards and elaborately embroidered hats.

And so it was all that and more . . . more on that tomorrow!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves

The Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves are a complex of 77 grottos dating from the 5th to the 9th centuries in a remote area of the Taklamakan Desert of Western China.
Each cave is decorated with murals of hundreds and hundreds of Buddhas covering the walls and ceilings. Some paintings are naive, others artistically stunning. 
(No photography is allowed inside the caves, so this is a picture I pulled from  Wikipedia)
Sadly, the vast majority of the murals were damaged beyond repair, first by local Muslims who gouged out all of the eyes, later by European explorers, who removed many of the frescoes and sent them to museums in Germany. These large pieces were destroyed by the bombings in Berlin in WW2 . . . so they are lost to the world.


I have no idea what these signs are trying to tell us!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Ancient City of Gaochang

The ancient city of Gaochang, in Xinjiang Province of Central Asia, was built in the 1st century BC.
You can click on any of these images for a larger view!
It was an important site along the Silk Road as a political, economic, and cultural center, connecting China with Central Asia and Europe.

We rode in a donkey cart to the far edges of the ruins - Lazy American tourists!
our donkey cart driver and her son
Inside the walls of the city was this lone musician, creating a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack to our visit.

A few of the buildings have been restored, like this prayer center.
I was captivated by the writing that covered the entire surface of the building . . . until it was pointed out to me that it was only modern graffitti!

The city was decimated and abandoned in the 14th century due to warfare between the Uighurs and Mongolian aristocrats.
"no pitting" . . . I think they mean "no pissing" on the walls.

Peace out!