Thursday, 25 July 2013

Altun Orda - something special if you happen to find yourself in Kashgar

Kashgar is an eye-opener of a city in China's North-west Xinjiang province.  With the vast majority of the population being Uigher and almost all of these strictly Muslim, it is poles apart from the rest of the country.  I was energised by the attitudes and ideals of the people, amazed at the way they manage to hold onto traditional life in a country that has become so passionately power hungry.  Don't get me wrong, I love China and found my 2 month journey to it's corners to be one of the most inspiring and exciting of my life.  China was absolutely fascinating for quite a few reasons but mainly because I could never predict what was going to happen next, even in pretty normal situations.  Whether it was the military-like early morning uniform inspection of the McDonald's staff outside it's Beijing airport branch, the elderly couple sitting next to you in the park all of a sudden jumping up and performing a 30 minute ballroom dance number or the woman at the back of the bus deciding it would be a good idea to shove orange peels up her nose to ward off motion sickness, entertainment was around every corner.

Kashgar and it's folk welcomed me with an honest smile and I felt that I really got to know the place.  The (weekly) Sunday or Livestock Market is a must see.  A short distance from the centre of town, people from all over the region arrive by car, truck, donkey-cart, bike and on foot and they bring with them every example of being that would fall into the livestock category.  Sheep lined up to show off their neatly trimmed backsides and an open area where you're able to take a donkey or camel for a test-drive, it's not your ordinary market.

The cuisine is also very different with an interesting mix of delicacies and cooking methods from the tribes of Central Asia.  I fell in love with the way they prepare their lamb and mutton, slow-cooked and tender with strong cumin and chilli flavours.  These great plates of food can be found on every corner but the highlight for me was a restaurant called Altun Orda, near the Seman Hotel.  Altun Orda or 'Golden Palace' lives up to it's name with an intensely ornate and golden interior.  The lamb kebabs were heavenly and for my wife the veggish spagesh gush siz (veg spaghetti without meat) was just as good, if you're into that sort of thing.  It's unbelievably reasonable with a menu that has a massive array of Uigher specialities and the traditional music from downstairs and the opulent surroundings provide a wonderful atmosphere for locals and tourists alike.        


No comments:

Post a Comment