When he's not helping others empower themselves, life coach / writer / photographer / all-round super-motivated guy, Jeff Tan gets busy with getting the most out of his own life. Splitting his time between Shanghai and Singapore, his personal tag line is "dream it, live it." And he's a man who very much practices what he preaches. Jeff has kindly taken some time out to share his recent travels through Kashgar, one of the most remote and beautiful parts of China. So without further ado, we turn things over to the man himself.
Mention Kashgar and all sorts of different images come to mind: the Silk Road, Uighurs (I had a hard time pronouncing this—“we-ker”), lamb, sweet and juicy fruit, crowded markets, Muslims, deserts, lakes, mountains and interesting architecture.
And yes, you'll find all these—and more, as I did when I went on a recent trip to the ancient city of Kashgar (or Kashi as it's called in Chinese). Kashgar is a two-hour flight (or a 24-hour train ride) from Xinjiang's capital city of Urumqi, and when you get there, you're transported to another world! Made famous as a commercial center along the Silk Road route that connected Europe to China about 2000 years ago, Kashgar is today a rich cultural and multi-ethnic melting pot that's a must-see-before-you-die place!
What really made my trip special and memorable were the people, breathtaking scenery, and a look at a completely different way of life, all in one place.
The picture above is a typical tea and spice stall in Kashgar’s largest market, the Central Asia International Grand Bazaar. There are about 5000 stores selling everything from clothes, underwear, knives, electronics, white goods, food, nuts, dried fruit, fresh food and fruit... I spent an entire day in there! If you look closely at this picture, you’ll notice this very typical stall sells tea, ground spices (cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, turmeric), and also dried up snake (bottom left) and a variety of dried lizards (bottom right)! "I'll have one kilo of tea, 300 grams of snake, and a few dried lizards please!"
Across the road from the market is Kashgar’s famous Old City where people still live in the same type of house their ancestors did. You have to pay an RMB 30 entrance fee (comes with an English or Chinese-speaking guide) or just walk in yourself without paying the fee!
Kashgar's Old City is supposed to remain relatively intact as the local government intends to preserve it for tourism, though many similar old areas have recently been torn down.
Above, the inside of a typical home in the old town. Long, narrow and dark, the focal point is the cooking area.
Despite the poverty visible everywhere in the Old Town, kids always have a way of having fun, and this pretty girl spent hours blowing bubbles and having a great time.
It was 38° C (100° F) that day and I was amazed to see this very dapper gentleman in his coat, vest and hat walk down the street with his buddies. It somehow reminded me of a scene from The Godfather! Was I in Kashgar or Sicily?
A veiled beauty with large, dark and deep piercing eyes really caught my attention, especially as she was holding her baby, sending an SMS on her cell phone, and crossing a madly busy street at the same time.
Lake Karakul is one of the most famous and picturesque lakes in all of Xinjiang, yet the journey to the lake was far more memorable. This is one such example about an hour away from the lake where nature’s forces combined to make postcard-perfect picture. I stood here transfixed for a good 10 minutes just taking in colors that I’d never seen in sand, water and hills before.
Another really interesting place to visit is the Taklamakan Desert. The sun shone brightly everywhere that day but for a brief moment, due to nature’s forces again, this unusual hue was cast in one direction. It’s as if someone was slowly dimming the lights and I could imagine what it would feel landing on an uninhibited planet! Then it was lights on again and I was back in the hot and bright desert.
On almost every street corner is a stall selling piles and piles of Uighur flat bread called nang. Notice the intricate patterns on each piece—a work of art each one!
Another common sight—bagels, bagels and more bagels.
Sadly, I wasn’t brave enough to try street food like this—a lethal combo of noodles, spices, hot sauce, even hotter sauce and a variety of soya sauces (helpful hint—if you do fancy street food, don’t look at how they wash the plates!)
My favorite memory of Kashgar—the kids!
For more about Jeff, check out his website REV Training and Coaching.Editor's Note: China Through My Lens is a regular photo series featuring the work of photographers and avid travelers living in China. Photographers are asked to share five to ten of their favorite photographs of China with short explanations of each photo. The idea is to share each individuals's unique focus and view of China—moments they were able to capture through their camera lenses. Contact us if you would like to show China through your lens. Much thanks to Jeff Tan for taking part in the series.