September 27, 2012

Welcome to Xinjiang, China’s Wild West


The smell hits me as soon as I step down from the train in Kashgar: a scent of melons and pomegranates, an odour of livestock, a whiff of spice and a waft of grilling kebabs. It is the perfume of Central Asia, letting me know that though the flag fluttering in the clear blue sky above the station concourse might be unmistakably Chinese, I have arrived in another world. Welcome to Xinjiang, China’s Wild West.

Text and Photos by Tim Hannigan

Xinjiang province is vast, fully one-sixth of China’s huge landmass. A land of deserts and mountains with an indigenous population of Turkic Uighur Muslims, and a history traced with the trade routes of the old Silk Road, it has always leaned more to Samarkand and Bokhara than to Shanghai and Beijing. Today it is a place where the romance of a past of camel caravans and cultural collision lingers. Even the names of the geographical features here have a tantalising resonance: the Kun Lun, the Tien Shan and the Taklamakan.

As I step out of the station in Kashgar, a city steeped in history, I catch sight of a distant line of ethereal mountains, levitating over the desert horizon. Excitement lies ahead.

Kashgar was once a key junction on the Silk Road, the two-way trail that carried goods, technology, ideas and religions back and forth between Europe and Asia. Roads from the east were forced north and south around the Taklamakan, the world’s second-largest shifting sand desert, only to rejoin at Kashgar. And if there was ever an identifiable point on the Silk Road where east met west, then this was it. Buddhism, Manichaeism, Nestorian Christianity and Islam, all of them at one time or another dominated here, while Turks, Mongols, Chinese, Indians and Arabs all added their own dash of spice to the melting pot. This was an international city long before anyone had coined the term “globalization”.


Five Star Pleasure


True Oriental Experience

Steeped in tradition and elegance, the Venice Simplon Orient-Express epitomises the grandeur of rail travel.

Solo Heritage

There’s no doubt that culinary adventures are highly tempting and often become the reason for a trip.

The Living Legend

After watching a fashion show one hot July, I continued onward to Paris, endearingly nicknamed “The City of Light”.


A Thousand Years of Romance

A city of ancient bridges and walls, of love and lovers: that is Prague.

Mandalay, True Excotism of Asia

A journey to Mandalay (Myanmar) a true excotism Asia,an unforgettable experience.

The Emerald of Borneo

Vibrant, yet peaceful. Modern and timeless. A fusion of majestic opulence and traditional respect. This is Brunei.


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

What is 10 + 4 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)