Sorry for not posting recently we`ve had a lot of work. There is plenty of new material in the pipeline.
Kashgar: What was and is No More
A Photo Video
The photos for this photo video were taken in the City of Kashgar in the Province of Xinjiang, Western China. They were taken during two visits; the first time in November 1990 (not 1999 as we mistakenly put on the video) and the second in August 2002.
In 1990 the center of Kashgar was dominated by the old mud brick Uyghur city with the large Id kah Mosque and the huge adjacent square at its center. Apart from the huge statue of Mao and a few empty department stores the Han Chinese presence was small. The only tourism was made up of travelers heading to and from Pakistan.
By 2002 things had already changed a lot. A modern Chinese city had built up around the old historic city and cars had predominately replaced donkeys and horses. Chinese tourists and western tour groups were also arriving in large numbers especially for the Sunday Market. The fascinating animal market had been moved out to a tamer location on the outskirts of town.
Getting to and from Kashgar was now easy and comfortable by plane or train. The 3 day bus journeys to Urumqi or Turpan a thing of the past. Interestingly individual travelers were few and far between due to the political situation in Pakistan.
Since 2002, much of the old city has been demolished and been replaced by the sterile white tile buildings that can be found all over China and much of Asia for that matter. What remains has become a tourist zone with a ticket to enter.
Hotan / 和田 /خوتەن
Hotan: These photos were taken in August 2002 in Hotan, Xinjiang, China. They are from the massive weekly Sunday market, one of the biggest in central Asia. Much of what you see here probably doesn’t exist anymore. Hotan has changed. The clothes people wear and the artisan trades are fast disappearing. Above all, Hotan is no longer so remote. What was once a hard 600 kilometer bus ride through the desert is now an easy train ride from Kashgar.
The Music on the video is from a Uyghur group called Qetic. The song is called Tarim.
I am uploading a couple of Uyghur songs that I’ve got hooked on recently.
The first, by a group called Qetic, is called Izlidim. It’s an incredibly beautiful and catchy pop song. I’d love to know what the lyrics mean (can anyone help?).
The second is a far more traditional song; Tar Kucha. The video that accompanies the song shows parts of the disappearing traditional life of the Uyghurs and has some interesting images of (correct me if I´m wrong) old Kashgar, much of which has now been demolished.
If you want to catch a bit of Uyghur music while you are in Beijing try the 31 Bar on Houhai Lake. Most nights a group of young Uyghur musicians get together for an informal session of mixed Spanish and Uyghur music. The musical talent of these guys is something to behold. Drink prices are normal Houhai prices: 20/25 yuan a beer.
In recent weeks a number of articles have appeared in the international press, warning us about the imminent destruction of the old historic quarter of the city of Kashgar. Kashgar is an oasis town in the Western province of Xinjiang, inhabited by Uyghurs, Muslims of Turkic origin. Historically, it was one of the most important stops for the caravans on the Silk Route, and its Sunday Market was, and is, renowned.
According to these articles, the Chinese Authorities’ pretext for demolishing Old Kashgar is to protect the residents from the risk of earthquakes and generally improve their living conditions. The mayor of Kashgar has deemed the old buildings to be unsafe and decided that the residents should now live in new ones. The New York Times sums it up perfectly with the title ‘To Protect an Ancient City, China Moves to Raze It’.
My reaction is one of horror, Continue reading “Mourning Old Kashgar”
City of Jade / City of Anger
Hotan is remote. It is one of those end of the world places beyond which begins one of the world’s largest deserts, the Taklamakan, an enormous area of sand dunes and barren rocks forming some of the most hostile terrain on earth. Boiling in summer, freezing in winter, towns like Hotan hang precariously to the desert’s outer ring, hemmed in by the looming Kunlun Mountains that rise up to the Tibetan Plateau. Over the centuries, many other once thriving oasis towns like Hotan have succumbed to the advances of the Taklamakan, and their half hidden remains lie buried in the sand, a poignant testimony to the harshness of the environment.
The immense region of Xinjiang, situated in the far West of China, is its largest province. Xinjiang shares international borders with no less than 8 different countries; from North to South these are: Tajikistan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Within China, the region borders on Gansu, Qinghai and Tibet….
For mor go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China
This article was previously posted on our Webpage: holachina.com (not blog) in 2002
Xinjiang 新疆 China
Update: You can no longer stay actually on the lake as we did in 2002. You have to stay at a tourist camp a few kilometers away or in a nearby village. Lake Hanas has in recent years become a huge domestic tourist destination especially in summer.
Getting to Lake Kanas
Lake Kanas / Ha na si hu 哈纳斯湖. A slightly more ambitious expedition will take you from Ürümqi to Hanasi Hu, or Lake Hanas, in the Altai region, close to the borders with Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. In fact, the majority of the population in the region is Kazakh.
First, you need to take an overnight sleeper bus from Ürümqi’s main bus station to Bu’erjin, the capital of the region. Most probably, taxi drivers will be waiting for you at the bus station, to arrange further transport up to the lake, as there was no public transport at that time (2002).
We got together with two other travellers and hired a jeep for about Y400. Before setting off, our helpful driver first took us to the Public Security Bureau (PSB), as foreigners still need a special permit to visit the area. In spite of what the CITS (China International Travel Service) in Ürümqi had been trying to tell us, this was an extremely painless operation lasting no more than 10 minutes.
Lake Kanas: Need a permit
After this, the actual ride to Lake Hanas took another 3 to 4 hours, due to bad road conditions and large scale construction works, meant to improve them.
Arrival at Lake Hanas is at the tourist camp, or settlement, that has developed at the lake front. Accommodation here is quite basic and your best bet is probably a Kazak yurt.
In the evenings around the yurts there is singing, dancing, drinking and plenty of barbecued meat on sticks.
Anyway, apart from the lack of creature comforts, the lake – which is of an incredible turquoise blue – and its surroundings are stunning.
Lake Kanas / Ha na si hu 哈纳斯湖: Hiking
From the village, you can climb a peak near the lake, up to Guanyu Pavillion 观鱼亭 (2030m), from where there are spectacular views over the lake, the mountains, dark pine forests and grasslands。(There now appears to be a rather hastily built and untasteful new structure acting as a look out post). Pity! Sometimes beauty is in simplicity.
From the view point you can see the snow capped friendship Peak (Youyi Feng 友谊峰) in the distance. The part that rises up from Mongolian territory makes Friendship peak Mongolia’s hightest mountain. Just two and a half kilometers beyond Friendship Peak is another peak, Mount Kuitun ( 奎屯山; Kuítún shān), which marks the international boundary between China, Russia and Mongolia.
There are plenty of other easy day hikes that you can take through the grasslands, stopping off at some of the yurts that sell refreshments. Or, if you prefer, you can hire a horse for a day or half-day. The common sight of nomads herding flocks of sheep and Bactrian camels provides a genuine pastoral charm that’s difficult to replicate in the rest of China.
It is also possible to make excursions to other valleys and villages further afield, but you will have to hire a car and driver.
Additionally, you may need a permit for some of these places, so take this into account when applying in Bu’erjin. The scenery in the neighbouring valley of Hemu Hanas 和木, and around the stone village of Bai Kaba is said to be particularly stunning.
Back in 2002 the entrance ticket (men piao 门票) cost a steep 100 yuan and that was when one euro got you 10 yuan. Be assured that the entrance ticket costs a lot more now.
Eating and Sleeping
The settlement that has sprung up in the lake area is quite chaotic: it’s a mixture of yurts, tourist hotels, guest houses and cabins, spread around a couple of meadows and muddy lanes. (See above for more recent info).
In spite of the increasing influx of tourists, especially since the construction of a nearby landing strip for small planes, facilities for tourists have not really kept up.
The yurts and many of the guesthouses don’t have any toilet or washing facilities, and the whole village has one large block of (unlit) public toilets, extremely hard to find your way around in after dark, especially since there are no street lights either. (This has now changed)
When we got there, we were told that foreigners were not allowed to stay in yurts (officially) and that we had to find a place with permission to take foreign guests. However, all the decent-looking places were full and we had no other option, but to stay at the actual PSB- run guesthouse! (Nothing unusual about that; in China it is quite normal for members of the armed forces to be involved in business and other lucrative schemes).
There we paid around Y180 – after protracted haggling with a young soldier – for a bare room, no washing facilities except for a cold tap outside, and an outdoor latrine. We were however, right on the lake.
If you prefer a bit more comfort, your best bet is probably to visit either the CITS or a private travel agency in Ürümqi and book a hotel through them, though they will probably want to sell you a complete tour.
Transport: to get back to Ürümqi, you have to make arrangements with one of the jeeps or taxis (most of them have business cards and mobile phones these days) to pick you up in the morning and take you down to Bu’erjin in time for the sleeper bus. There are several, but most of them leave in the late afternoon.