Sunday, August 10, 2008

Aug 10 - Kashgar and the World Famous Sunday Market (Rev)

We got a slow start because the local food was starting to interfere with Mike's digestion. Watched morning Olympics and harvested more wash. Got down to breakfast about 9:45 BT (7:45 XT). This time the dining area was filled with tourists from all over. We sat down at a table with Italians. They were in the middle of a trip from Tashkent, through Kyrgyzstan, now in Kashgar, then eventually to Urumqi, Dunhuang, Golmud, Lhasa, Tibet, and ending up in Nepal. They gave us advice on what to see in Kyrgyzstan, and one of them suggested sending home the camel we were about to buy on a magic flying carpet, which we should also find at the market. Just yogurt and tea for us.

By 9:15 XT we were ready to go out. Our goals for the day were to see the historical sites, the Sunday Market, the separate Sunday Animal Market, take photographs of clothing and food, change some remaining RMB into Kyrgyz som, and buy water and food for tomorrow's long bus trip. Mike's personal goal was to keep his underwear clean, having taken two immodium and a cipro.

Carol was wearing a long skirt and long sleeve loose top. Mike had on the white skullcap which he had purchased in Hotan. We decided to first walk to the Id Kah Mosque in the center of town. The street around the corner from the hotel which goes to the mosque, passing through a small market area. As we approached the mosque, Carol put on her net cap and scarf. She waited outside while Mike went in first. Mike could have gotten in free as a Muslim Turk, if he had identified himself as Muslim. He paid the 20 RMB instead. The mosque is approached through a large shaded tree-lined courtyard. The mosque itself is quite small, and made of relatively plain wood construction and design. Carol went in afterward (not being challenged at entry): she enjoyed walking in the cool garden and merely peered through the windows into the mosque.

Just wearing a long skirt and long sleeves does not make you a local woman. In Hotan the prevailing style was absolutely mismatched patterns. Here in Kashgar, tulle, sequins, embrodiered gold medallions, and glitzy net layering over shiny underskirts is the prevailing style. The gaudier the better. Deep, deep red, wedding gown white, vivid turquoise, acid green, etc. Heaven knows how these women keeps this polyester clothing clean. At least sitting next to some of these women on the bus, one senses that they don't. Another difference between Kashgar and other previous cities was the large loose-weave brown cloth that some women use to completely drape their heads (not even an opening for the eyes).

We decided to continue walking toward the Sunday Market. This took us across the street into an extensive food market, many blocks long. Restaurants were plentiful, and we saw the preparation of all sorts of dishes and breads. The large flat bread so common to this area is prepared by rolling the dough into a flat bread, giving it several twirls like a pizza, crimping the edges, then stamping the bread center with a design with a pronged tool that produces a design. The bread is then pasted to the inner wall of a nan oven, and pulled out with a hook when ready. Smaller rolls, stuffed buns, and bagel shaped rolls are also cooked on the inner walls of the nan oven, and pulled out hot. Several days earlier, Mike had tried a fresh, hot, bagel-shaped roll, and found it fairly heavy and tasteless. It looks like a bagel, but it is not a bagel.

As we were walking, we walked past a restaurant, where outside there were three guys preparing food. One was tending a huge pot of pilav (polo), with pieces of lamb shank, and a yellow vegetable. It looked so tasty that we sat down for a bowlfull and a pot of tea (a big 8 RMB - by this time we were feeling that 8 RMB was a lot to pay for just one bowl of food and tea). One of the others was making meat stuffed pastry, which he steamed in large stacked wood steamers. The third was cutting up very fresh lamb for skewers, placing a small piece of fat between the meat chunks. As we watched, orders for this food came from inside the restaurant, and from elsewhere on the street. As we sat, we photographed a number of interesting dress styles of the women walking past.

Maybe 45 minutes later, we proceeded on. All along the street were crowded 7 buses, going from one end of the Sunday Market to a point almost to the mosque. That point was near where we had stopped for our first meal, and watching the buses turn around, backing out into the small street, was amazing. The street eventually became residential, and finally opened onto a boulevard, across which was the first part of the huge Sunday Market. On this street we saw almost no other tourists.

We were skeptical of the Sunday Market, because many guidebooks describe it as having become too touristy. We had seen many markets, especially the lively bazaars in Hotan, and we knew what to expect, and that we were unlikely to see anything different here.

We entered the market from the unofficial end, not the one where tourists pay for entry. We plowed through, approaching the side where most tourists enter, and when we first started to be addressed in English, we gave up and got out. After all, everything in this market was Made in China, anyway. We saw one uncanny replica of a Tanglewood shirt that was also MiC. To be fair, there were vendors selling the pots and other utensils used in the street vending business, and vendors selling the stampers for making embossed flat breads.

It was not approaching 1 pm XT, and we walked awhile to catch the 16 bus, which is supposed to end at the Sunday Animal Market. The ride takes a several km trip into the far SE part of town, on a bumpy, more rural, poplar-lined road. The bus dropped us off exactly where we were supposed to be.

This market caters to local rural people, and sells animals, their gear, melons, vegetables and cooked foods. The entry area was for the sale of goats. Then we passed into the sheep area, with plenty of the famous fat-tailed sheep. The melon sellers were off to the side, huge fields of different kinds and colors. We saw a goat chomping away at the inside of a half of a watermelon rind. We also saw the "parking lot" for the donkey carts: several of the donkeys served as very effective cart alarms, braying at the top of their lungs. At the end of this area was the fertilizer collector, maintaining a sizeable mound of goods.

In an enclosed area off in another direction were the cattle, hundreds of them. Then we passed into another sheep and goat area where animals were being sheared before leaving with their new owners. But where were the camels?

Finally, at the far corner, we found 4 camels. Maybe we were too late, but it was clear that the camel of our dreams was not there. We would have to forgo purchasing one and flying it back to the States. These seemed to be remainder camels.

We walked back to the street. Mike had seen a large number of guys getting off the bus at the stop before the end, where there was a large used car bazaar. So we walked over to this bazaar. At the entry were a number of metal fabrication shops, producing decorated entry doors for houses. Past these "BlaKsmith" shops, were the car market.

Mike claims to be the only tourist ever to fly 8000 miles to see and photograph the Kashgar Sunday Used Car Market. Anyone else out there who disputes this claim, post your photos.

Between the "BlaKsmith"s and the cars, Carol noticed food vendors twirling out fresh noodles, and pots of stew. There was also a different kind of pilav, with raisins. So at 1:45 pm XT we sat down for tea and a bowl of laghman (noodles and the stew) and a bowl of pilav (actually called polo), topped with two lamb chops. This was a family run business, and we saw at least 4 kids from the family serving, bussing tables, and sweeping the room, while the parents presided outside.

The food was very tasty, and the bill was only 12 RMB. We asked about the yellow chunks of vegetable that we saw in the rice, both this morning and here. The proprietor identified it as "sebzi," which happens to be the general Turkish word for vegetable that Carol had learned. Calling it vegetable didn't clarify matters a whole lot.

Took a very crowded 8 bus back to town, and got off one stop before the Id Kah Mosque. Walked into the business area of this old neighborhood. There were craftsmen producing metalware, and wooden steamer baskets for the restaurant trade. We sampled a Uighur-labeled Coke, a tri-colored popsicle, and two large fresh figs, served up on a fig leaf. Talk about biodegradable packaging. We passed a vendor with a cart of bunches of the stubby yellow-white carrot objects. We asked him the name, and he said "Sebzi." Carol's Uzbek dictionary also identified "Sabzi" as carrot. Mystery solved.

We got back to the hotel maybe around 4:30 pm XT, and just relaxed. We saw the Italians, getting ready to fly to Urumqi. They had been at the animal market earlier than us, where they had seen 6 camels, one of which may have been our intended. Too bad, so sad. You snooze, you lose.

It says something about Kashgar that the Sunday Market has only 6 camels, but well over 500 used cars.

Did our packing while it was still light. Went out for the final water and munchie run (no need for dinner), and changed 200 RMB into 1000 Kyrgyz som with a street money trader hanging out by the hotel (the actual rate is 5.09, so we didn't do too badly).

Internet and to bed. Off to Kyrgyzstan first thing tomorrow - inshaallah.

1 comment:

lapinlap said...

Why do you need a camel?