ashgar (Kashi) is situated in the southwest of Xinjiang. From the west, this is the first point of arrival on land routes from Pakistan and Kirgyzistan. Long a vital stop on the Silk Road, this remote city some 4,000 km from Beijing, used to take up to six months to reach from the capital! This all changed in the 1930s when Kashgar became a crucial meeting point for three empires- the Chinese, the British and the Soviet Union. A haven for spies and housing some fabulous consulate buildings, this city was used as a bastion by the Brits looking west towards India, and the Soviets, thought to be plotting to absorb Xinjiang. In 1935, the city was effectively run by the Soviets until WWII when it came back under Chinese control.
Today, despite modernization and architectural decline, the city manages to meet most visitors expectations. The most striking thing about Kashgar is the Turkestan influence visible on the streets and in the homes here. This place feels, looks and even smells dramatically different from the rest of China, more so than any other city in Xinjiang. And this is no great surprise really, considering that 90% of the population are practicing Muslims and Uigur bazaars, tea houses and faces dominate the streets. What's more, this is the only city in Central Asia where the women choose to veil their faces. The old streets, restaurants and markets here are great for exploring. The city is particularly busy between May and October---jam packed with merchants and traders hot-off the Karakoram Highway from Pakistan and Kirgyistan.