{NY Times}


Kashgar, On China's Silk Road
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF;
Published: May 15, 1994


HIMALAYAN INTERNATIONAL TOURS, 121 Lexington Avenue, New York, N.Y. (212-564-5164), has a 25-day Silk Route Adventure trip that begins and ends in Bangkok, with stops that include Lanzhou, Xining, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang, Turpan, Urumqi, Kashgar, the Karakoram Highway and Islamabad: $3,890 a person, land only. JOURNEY TO THE EAST, Post Office Box 1334, Flushing, N.Y. 11352 (718-358-4034), offers two Silk Road itineraries. The 20-day Essential Silk Road starts in Beijing and ends in Hong Kong, with stops that include Urumqi, Kashgar, Turpan, Dunhuang, Lanzhou and Xian: $4,085 to $4,185 a person, depending on departure date, including air fare from the West Coast (East Coast departures are an additional $250). The 23-day Complete Silk Road starts in Islamabad and ends in Beijing, visiting Peshawar, Swat, the Karakoram Highway, Kashgar, Urumqi, Turpan, Dunhuang, Lanzhou and Xian: $4,130 a person, land only (air fare from the East Coast is approximately $1,520).


KASHGAR ON YOUR OWN
Nicholas D. Kristof's advice for independent travelers:
Most tourists go to Kashgar as part of package tours. If you go on your own, you must first fly to Urumqi, where you may have to spend a night. If so, the best place to stay is the HOLIDAY INN, 168 North Xinhua Road (telephone: 991-218-788; fax: 991-217-422). A standard double room is about $90, and may be booked in the United States by calling 800-465-4329. In Kashgar itself, the KASHGAR GUEST HOUSE, 7 Tao Guzi Road (998-22367), lacks air-conditioning, but rooms are reasonably comfortable and there is hot water in somewhat run-down private bathrooms. The Guest House is, however, out of town and convenient only to the Sunday market. The SIMAN HOTEL, on Siman Square (998-22129), is more centrally located and has similar amenities. Prices at both places are the same: $21 a night for a room, whether a double or single. Also similar and quite central is the KASHGAR QINIWAKE HOTEL, 93 Siman Road (998-22291; fax: 998-23087). All of the hotels have restaurants, sometimes two: one called a "Muslim Restaurant," serving local specialties, and another serving pork and Chinese dishes. The Kashgar Guest House has a set meal at the Muslim Restaurant ($4.50 a person), but it must be ordered several hours in advance. JOHN'S INFORMATION SERVICE AND CAFE, on Siman Square opposite the Siman Hotel, is an outdoor cafe with English menus and English-speaking staff. The food, which is mostly Chinese, is pretty good, and a meal costs less than $3 a person, including beverage. The local restaurants offer meals for less than $1 each, but don't expect much. Dumplings and meat buns, for example, contain mostly gobs of lamb fat. Rice pilaf is a bit safer, and so are skewered meats and noodle dishes. Avoid local water and ice, and stick to tea, soft drinks, or beer. Xinjiang, the local beer, is potable. Most hotels rent bicycles for 35 cents an hour. Donkey carts are also ubiquitous, but they are as uncomfortable as they are cheap. You'll need to negotiate the fare; $2 should take you anywhere. Taxis must be booked through your hotel; I paid about $7 to hire a taxi for a couple of hours to visit the Abak Hoja Tomb. The best times to visit Kashgar are spring and fall, although I found summer to be hot but bearable. Winters are cold.