One of the main things I wanted to see out in Xinjiang was Kashgar's Sunday market. Although I heard a lot of travelers out there say that the market isn't as "pure" as it used to be and that they were disappointed by it, spending a few hours at the market lived up to my expectations.
I wrote a bit about my experience there at a feature on Chinatravel.net:
"You know, I don't think it is possible for us to get farther away from home than where we are right now," my brother said. I nodded and laughed. We were at the Kashgar animal market, in the middle of a dirt field on the outskirts of town. Men with long white beards schmoozed over cattle, boys tried to impress their elders by keeping their animals in check, and farmers hauled newly purchased goats and cows (no pigs in Muslim Kashgar) around in three-wheeled tractors painfully small for the task.Here are some of my favorite photos of the faces that we saw that morning:
We'd just come from the largest outdoor market in the world, the Kashgar Sunday market, where every week tens of thousands of people from the region surrounding Kashgar descend upon the city to buy, sell, and barter.
We'd gotten to the market early, at 6:30 a.m. I'd forgotten that Kashgar time is two hours off the official standard Beijing time. Though painfully early, the market was already abuzz, with sellers setting up for the onslaught of people that was set to arrive in the coming hours. Fathers barked orders to sons, daughters helped their mothers lay out silk, and a handful of buyers wandered about looking for early-bird specials.
By 8:30, the energy in the air was electric. As an ancient Silk Road trading post, the market is a Kashgar tradition that goes back many centuries, and it was obvious that the people of Kashgar are virtuoso buyers and sellers. Simply watching the action was an incredible experience, as market-goers haggled over silk, carpets, Iranian saffron and hand-crafted knives, just to mention a few of the dazzling array of goods for sale.
After a full morning of prime people watching, it was off to the livestock market, its Kashgar cowboys and Uighur goatherds, for a taste of rustic Xinjiang.
I can't recommend Xinjiang highly enough to independent travelers. Just go out there. It's amazing.