The Old Town surrounds the center of Kashgar, with the Id Kah Mosque rising at its center. Use the north-south thoroughfare of Jiefang Lu to orient yourself and then head east or west into the thick of things. Roaming among the narrow alleys flanked with simple brick houses and suffused with the aroma of lamb and buns, we saw a picture of Uygur people's lives quietly unfolding before us.
One of the best parts about the old town of Kashgar is the atmosphere. It is a market town and people come from all over to trade here. Uyghurs, Han (garden variety Chinese), Hui (Muslim Chinese), Kyrgyz, Kazak, Tajik, Hunza (from near Tashkurgan in the direction of Pakistan) and Pakistanis fill the town to conduct business. There are many Pakistani restaurants to cater to that group and I decided to eat there most of the time. The curries were mild and tasty, if a little cheaply-made. You will be especially impressed with the friendliness of the Pakistani clientele, and had many interesting convesations.
Pious old Muslims greeted each other on their way out of mosques after afternoon prayers. A young woman sewed attentively at a window, paying no attention to what was happening outside. An old Uygur man read in his little shop even though noisy passers-by like us came and went. Bun-makers put flour pasta into the stove and skillfully fetched out the well-baked ones with a long iron stick. Children who could not speak Mandarin came up to us, smiling and posing at the sight of our cameras. When we showed them the just-taken pictures on our digital cameras, they smiled shyly, excitement in their eyes.
The best part of our experiences in the old town was that nobody really cared about us - there was neither curiosity nor overflow of hospitality, even though our non-stop picture-taking had betrayed our identities the minute we stepped in. Tired of the commercialization in many tourist attractions, the old town in Kashgar made us feel at home in an environment that was complete foreign to us.
Modernity is, of course, changing the face of the city and much of Old Town has suffered the consequences, whether it be in the form of character-draining makeovers of old adobe houses or the imposition of an RMB 10 entry fee to visit the far eastern section of Old Town, but the wild and ragged spirit of the place persists despite efforts to sanitize and regulate. Give yourself an hour or two to simply wander and explore and you'll be rewarded.
China tours inclusive of visiting Kashgar Old Town