Although our time in China was a bit stressful due to the issues with customs and permits, we did get to see a bit of far western China (Xinjiang) and experienced the culture.
Tashkurgan is a small city 120km from the Pakistan border. A lot of the people are Tajik, and their dress is quite distinctive. Red seems to be the dominant colour, but all the clothes are bright. There seems to be a mix of western/modern and traditional. Many women wear very short skirts, mixed with traditional hats and vests.
Tashkurgan is an ancient city of the old silk road. The old city stood until the early 1900's, but it appears Chinese progress took over during the 20th century. The remains of the old stone city are now preserved in places, but it appears to be cut in two by a highway.
We were surprised to see the good road turn into 100km of dust, rubble and potholes on the way to Kashgar. The video quality is poor due to the dust, but the size of the bridges the Chinese are building is amazing.
Kashgar is also an ancient silk road city. We were shown the "old city", which is in fact a rebuilt section of the city made in the old way. The bazaar has been trading for 1000's of years, and is a huge undercover area. Other than that Kashgar is a new, modern city with wide streets for cars, smaller side lanes for electric scooters and footpaths which seem to be shared by scooters, pedestrians and cars looking for parks.
We were taken to visit the Sunday animal market. Local farmers bring their cows, sheep, goats and donkeys to trade. An unusual tourist stop, but we saw more tourists there than anywhere else.
Much of the population of Kashgar is Uyghur minority. They also have a traditional dress, many though dress in more modern, but very conservative clothes. Women mostly wore dresses, stockings and high heeled shoes. Uyghers are Muslims, so head scarves are common. There seemed to be a lot of children, many seemed to be with their grandparents. Young girls were noticibly dressed in "girly" dresses, lots of lace, bows and frills. Also noticible was the very short haircuts of young girls, we were told this helped them to grow!
The police and military presence was everywhere. As foreigners we were left alone, but random checks, especially of young males was common. Generally males walking or riding past were stopped, asked to show their ID cards then asked to produce their mobile phones which were checked by the police.
Much of the internet is blocked. We were unable to access facebook or anything associated with google. Several searches were blocked, and skype was difficult, although we could make calls via skype.
Kashgar is surrounded by hills and desert. The is very little rainful. The fine dust from the desert blows in and settles over the city. Thankfully it did rain while we were there, and eventually the dust settled.
There is very little English spoken in Xinjiang. Most people speak Uyghur and Chinese. We did meet a lovely girl who wanted to practice her English. She took us to the People's Park, and we later spent a nice afternoon with her.