Kashgar was an important trading mecca on the silk road ( a historic trading route between the middle east and CHina ) . It is also the start of the Karakoram highway, which traverses the Karakoram/Himalayan range into Pakistan.
In the end i picked up a cheap flight to Kashgar from Urumqi, which saved me an epic bus journey across the desert. The Kashgar airport is surrounded by sand mountains. I half expected R2D2 and C3p0 to appear at the edge of the runway as we taxied towards the minimalist terminal.
Kashgar is still a trading centre for buyers and sellers from CHina through to the middle east. I learnt this first hand, as i later shared the back of the bus with all sorts of random goods that were purchased at the Sunday market, and were to be delivered to stores throughout Pakistan.
THe sunday market is a crazy place, with lots of interesting looking people yelling at each other in a bunch of different languages. I saw some strange things, like a buyer and seller brokering a trade of cattle on the back of a cow (using the cow as a table). And another guy trying to get a cow to jump off the back of a truck, which was probably 1.5 m off the ground. The cow didn't look happy.
There is stuff going on all around as you fight your way through the crowds of people. If i stopped to look at something, i would all of a sudden find myself surrounded by curious locals, who would look at me funny, and start inspecting my bag, watch, guide book - anything that was exposed.
At one point i found myself in the path of an optimistic who was blitzing it down a narrow alley on the back of a donkey cart, closely followed by a pursuing police car with its sirens blaring. I quickly jumped into a fruit stall to avoid a collision. Everyone was cheering the donkey dude. I was backing the police car to take out the donkey myself. It reminded me of when people try to run away from police helicopters.
Most of the people here are not chinese. THey are called Urgher people. Their features are something inbetween Chinese and middle eastern. THe Xin Ziang province (in which Urumqi and Kash are located) unwittingly found itself to be part of the Chinese empire after its leaders were mysteriously killed in a plane accident about 50 years ago. Since then, the Urghers (my spelling may be wrong) have pretty much been shafted by the Chinese. THey get the shtty jobs and the CHinese are apparently doing as much as they can to prevent kids from learning the language. I can say all of this now that i'm not in CHina ( a guy i met got booted out of CHina for talking about this stuff with the locals ).
THere is much more sensorship in China than i thought. THe newspapers always tell positive stories about great things the government has done etc. Nothing bad ever happens in CHina, according to the local media. Half of the internet is blocked, including my blog, and anything about Tibet or anything remotely political (BBC site etc) .
I have some great pictures, which i may post if i can find a computer that works properly.