Though the wide, main streets brought in by the Han threaten Kashgar's atmosphere, for now much of the old town remains unchanged. However redevelopment has already begun so you should make sure you experience old Kashgar, before it disappears forever. For the meanwhile though, the dusty alleys, colorful residential doorways, and mud-brick walls remain as they have been for decades. Kids with henna-dyed feet and fingernails will approach you speaking a few words of Chinese and English; men with donkey carts trudge down narrow passages; bakers arrange round large slabs of nan in coal ovens built into the ground. At prayer time, a rush of feet shuffle toward the local mosques. A family might invite you in for a cup of tea on their carpet-lined porch within a residential courtyard. Spending time watching how citizens of Kashgar live is one of the most rewarding experiences on the Silk Road.
Unfortunately, the experience has been dampened a bit since the government turned over the management of several tourist sites to a Han company. Ticket booths now front certain neighborhoods in the northern old town, charging anyone who looks like a tourist ¥30 for a two-day pass. You can avoid this fee by choosing to explore the southern part of the old city; enter from either the southern side of Ordaisnki Lu (just east of the junction with Jiefang Bei Lu), or coming from the Central Asian Market head up Azailaiti Lu and climb the small hill through the park. Ordaisnki Lu is a narrow, busy commercial street where coppersmiths beat out pots, while street vendors sell boiled lamb's heads, fresh yellow figs, Hami melon, and rotisserie chicken. Proceeding west toward Jiefang Bei Lu, old men sitting on rows of old iron benches watch Uighur music videos while drinking a yogurt-and-ice concoction. Just before you reach Jiefang Bei Lu, there will be an alley to your left. Proceed south and you'll see hat vendors touting a range of eclectic styles, ranging from fluffy sheepskin caps with earflaps to tall, narrow white-and-black felt ones worn by Kyrgyzs to cowboy hats popular with Chinese tourists. Following this road down, you'll continue through a weave of streets that will eventually spit you out on Remin Dong Lu. Walking west on Remin Dong Lu, you'll pass Peoples' Square and the notorious, giant Mao statue that is also one of the largest in China. You'll see some Uighur couples taking pictures in front of it.
Kashgar Sunday Bazaar (Kashi Xingqitian Da Shichang) -- You might expect the world's most famous open-air market to be safe from the meddlings of bureaucracy, if only in the name of financial gain. But you would be wrong. The Bazaar is now two bazaars. The animal market now takes place elsewhere and the original site is now a covered bazaar marked as CENTRAL ASIA INTERNATIONAL GRAND BAZAAR. Nevertheless, if the Ivan Bazaar is all about livestock and the men who come to buy and sell them, then the Sunday Bazaar, as the market is known, is the place to see the ladies of Kashgar eagerly snapping up glistening garments. The market operates every day and is a good place to haggle over hats, pashminas, or musical instruments, but if you want to see it at its liveliest, then Sunday is the day. While the bazaar can initially seem a little touristy, the deeper you delve into its passages, the more local it feels. Bus nos. 7 and 20 serve the bazaar.
The livestock market, squeezed out by the imperatives of modernization and property development, is located several miles southeast of town, next to a four-lane motorway. Known as the Ivan Bazaar, it still feels like a bazaar. Efforts to herd all the traders into an enclosure are cheerfully ignored by small traders, who haggle on the road outside, blocking traffic. Ignore demands for payment on entry, unless you have donkeys to trade. Bearded Uighur men in traditional blue-and-white garb sharpen their knives and trim their sheep; small boys wearing Inter Milan stripes gorge themselves on Hami melons; Kyrgyz in dark fur hats pick up and drop dozens of lambs to test their weight and meatiness before settling deals with vigorous and protracted handshakes. No fewer than 10 people act as witnesses.
Arrive early before the tour buses and while the market is still setting up, when the light is perfect for some unforgettable photography. Shelter under colorful awnings during the midday heat, enjoying tea, buns stuffed with minced lamb (samsas), and bagels. Taxis (¥10), noisy three-wheelers (¥3), and donkey carts (¥2) connect the Kashgar Bazaar with the Ivan Bazaar; or simply rent a bike and follow the crowds.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.