Kashgar the timeless city

The visit to Xinjiang province is incomplete without a look at Kashgar. Kashgar has a rich history of over 2,000 years and served as a trading post and strategically important city on the Silk Road between China, the Middle East, and Europe. Kashgar is surrounded by some impressive nature, Taklimakan Desert is to the east, the Karakorum Mountains to the south, Pamir Plateau to the west and the Tianshan Mountains to the north. The nature around Kashgar is wild and very beautiful…. Uighur are the main inhabitants in Kashgar, but there are also other ethnic groups as Han, Hui, Kyrgyz, Tajik and Uzbek. We jumped in the sleeper bus in Kuche, and after long ride we finally arrived in Kashgar in western Xinjiang. My wife was tired so was I when we arrived at our hotel, but we didn’t want to rest and we urged into the streets of the old City.
Kashgar the main square
From the day one we were hooked and amazed by the sounds and the smell of the old alleys, of the people in the streets, selling their goods, drinking their tea, smoking their pipes. Forget chopsticks, red lanterns and ideograms, this place isn’t like the rest of China. In the streets of old Kashgar it all looks like an old living painting, each old house, each wooden window, each old street lamp, the children’s laughter, everything just another brush stroke placed carefully on a big screen, that this old city is constantly projecting.
Old traditional houses
Alley in Kashgar
Daily scene in the old city
Shop with music instruments
We enjoyed very much our strolls in the old streets, all these traditional homes, little shops selling traditional goods, craftsmen working in the streets, etc etc. Walking the small, mud-brick alleyways of the Old Town is an exciting adventure and the old Kashgar has a lot to offer.
Interior of the Uighur house
Naang bread is the daily diet for Xinjiang people
The mutton soup we tried in Kashgar was the best mutton soup in Xinjiang
One of our best places to relax was this traditional Uighur Tea House not far from the Id Kah Mosque. Sitting on the carpet, drinking Xinjiang tea and eating freshly baked naang (local bread) inside this very beautiful tea house was for us an ultimate experience.
Traditional Uighur tea house
One of the places one has to visit while in Kashgar is Apak Hoja Tomb (also known as the fragrant princess tomb), which has a very beautiful Islamic-style architecture, where the beloved concubine of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Apak Hoja, was buried. It is located few kilometers outside the city in the Ayziret village surrounded with very peaceful gardens and trees.
Apak Hoja Tomb
Another place worth a visit is a Id Kah Mosque on the main square of Kashgar. It’s the biggest mosque in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which consists of the Gate Tower, the Courtyard, theScripture Hall and the Prayer Hall. The garden inside the mosque is very peaceful and beautiful.
Id Kah Mosque
For shopping the famous Grand Bazar is a place to go. Everything from Uighur art and craft can be found here. Beautiful carpets, silk scarfs, traditional musical instruments, The animal market which we visited on Sunday morning is a place where live stock is brought from surrounding villages and farmers try to buy or sell their animals. Even if you are not going to buy a sheep or a horse, it’s interesting to see how the local people bargain with traders. The whole market is very big, noisy and very dusty, and it feels like the time has stopped here. I have never seen such big livestock market before.
Live stock market
No doubt Kashgar is one of the cities in China that has its own unique character, city that never stops impressing and surprising and makes the traveler wants to visit this timeless City over and over again.

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Ancient Anhui villages

China is old and huge country with traces of its rich history visible in many old villages and old towns from north to south, from east to west..… Some of the most beautiful villages totally lost in time can be seen in Anhui province with Hongcun and Xidi to be maybe the most well known villages in the province, but many more ancient villages can be seen in Anhui.
Hongcun village - Moon Pond
Located in Yixian County, they are the most representative local-style residences in southern Anhui Province. With history over 600 years the houses, the alleys, the life style seems to have remained untouched by time. Most of the residential buildings are Qing dynasty but Ming dynasty houses can still be seen….
Hongcun village
Their street plan, their architecture and decoration, and the integration of houses with comprehensive water systems are unique surviving examples. The villages of Xidi and Hongcun are graphic illustrations of a type of human settlement created during a feudal period and based on a prosperous trading economy.
Nights in Hongcun are very peaceful
Anhui province was very prosperous in the past and this is clearly visible in the houses built by successful officials and merchants. Massive stone walls, tall ceiling, these house were built not only to last, but also to show the owner’s wealth and power.
Chengzhi Hall was built in 1855, it covers an area of 2100 sq.m and has 28 rooms
Many generations have lived in these well built ancient houses
Houses were not only well made, but each house was also a unique masterpiece
The history of the villages can be seen in every house, every stone street, every gate and bridge. Probably it is only the electricity and street lamps that show that the times has changed and the Ming and Qing dynasty are just a distant memories to be remembered, yet not to be forgotten. Huangcun and Xidi villages are the most famous in Anhui province, but there are many more old villages worth the visit, like Tangmo, Chengkan, Tangyue, Mukeng, Tachuan just to name a few….
Xidi village
Xidi village
Smoked Ham hanging on the wall. Very common in Anhui villages.
Not far from Hongcun is one of the nicest bamboo forests in China
Beautiful bridge in Tangmo village
Luo Dong Shu Memorial was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1538 and is located in Chengkan old town
Home made Mao toufu - hair toufu is made in many houses in Anhui

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Dege

In the very western Sichuan and only few kilometers from Tibetan borders lies Dege town. Two kind of travellers come to Dege , those who want to enter the Chamdo prefecture of Tibet or those who want to see the famous Bakong Printing House and Monastery. Me and my wife Yixue wanted to see the Printing House of Dege and witness the Tibetan traditional way of printing Tibetan scriptures so we jumped on very old minibus in Seda and started our bumpy ride to Dege. All roads in western Sichuan are in terrible condition, but I didn’t know how bad it was ‘till we got there.
Crossing the mountains
Crossing the mountains
Dege is cut off from the rest of western Sichuan by the Chola mountain (6168m) and coming to Dege means taking minibus ride on a very bumpy dirty road that goes up and over the 5050m high Trola Pass and the bumpy road gets bumpier all the way to Dege. After long ride we arrived late in the evening to Dege, both very tired looking for a place to rest our tired bodies. We found an old Tibetan hostel with some basic but warm rooms and we were happy that finally we could have some rest. We slipped under the blankets and we fell asleep before our heads touched the pillow.
Bakong Printing House
After long sleep we woke up into brand new day and there was this beautiful sunshine that made us forget all the unpleasant bumpy travel the day before and finally we were ready to explore the place we came here for - The famous Bakong Printing House.
Traditional way of printing
Traditional way of printing has not changed over the years
Traditional way of printing
Traditional way of printing has not changed over the years
Storage Chamber
Storage Chamber
Storage Chamber
Storage Chamber
Printing Blocks
More than 217 000 wooden blocks are in the Bakong Printing House
Printing Blocks
More than 217 000 wooden blocks are in the Bakong Printing House
Printing Blocks
Printing wooden blocks
More than 217 000 engraved blocks of Tibetan scriptures are kept in the Printing House. These text includes Tibetan ancient works about astronomy, medicine, geography, music and Buddhists classics. A history of Indian Buddhism is kept in the house, comprising of 555 woodblock plates it is the only surviving copy in the world written in Hindi, Sanskrit and Tibetan. Local Tibetan people can enter the house for free but outsiders must buy a ticket. Inside the monastery dozens of workers prints more than 2500 prints each day, still using the old traditional way of printing where ink, paper and blocks fly through the worker’s hands at lightning speed. There are also other chambers like the storage chamber, paper cutting chamber and the main hall of the monastery itself , protected from fire and earthquake by the guardian goddess Drölma (Tara). There are many Mani stones outside the house and local people circle the House doing kora every day
Also northern of the Printing House is 1000 years old Tibetan Gonchen Monastery with some friendly monks. It is a very nice walk up, if taking the old little street and turning left and right all the way up , one can enjoy some very beautiful traditional Tibetan houses while walking to the monastery. Not far from the Gonchen monastery on the left side there is a Tibetan school and residential area for young and friendly Tibetan monks.
Gonchen Monastery
Gonchen Monastery
Gonchen Monastery
Gonchen Monastery
Getting to Dege isn’t funny ride, the whole road is very very bad and probably the worst I have seen in China, but we really enjoyed our trip to this very western side of Sichuan. Not too many visitors make it this far to this part of Sichuan , but it is really worth to visit and explore this little town and pay a visit to their unique Bakong Printing House
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Tulou – Earth Buildings

I always wanted to visit this southern part of Fujian where are some of the most unique historical buildings, made by humans and finally I made the trip to Fujian where some of the most astonishing Earth buildings can be seen. Tulou (Earth buildings) buildings were made by Hakka people when they came to Southern provinces from north west China.
Tianluokeng Tulou cluster
Warm in the winter and cool in the summer, these building were made to last and around 30 000 of these buildings survive ‘till today. Many of these buildings are still inhabited and they look more like fortress than ordinary houses in order to protect themselves from bandits and wild animals. There are neither round Tulou or square Tulou, and some of them have more small buildings within the main large building. Some are small and others are huge in size.
Ru Sheng Lou
Ru Sheng Lou
Ru Sheng Lou is the smallest building of all
Many of these bulidings are large enough to house entire clan, and they did and still do. Everyone living inside would have the same surname and the whole Tulou community would look like a small village surrounded by high round walls. The biggest building is the Chengqilou built in 1709 and is often called The King of all Earth buildings. It has 400 rooms and once it had 1000 inhabitants. It has many passageways like circles within the outside walls and in the center there is a central shrine, looks like a village within a village, simply breathtaking.
Chengqi Lou
Chengqi Lou is the King of all Tulou
One of the oldest buildings is Yuchanglou as it dates back to Yuan dynasty built in 1308 by the Liu family clan. The outer ring is 36 meters in diameter and has five stories. Each floor has 50 rooms.
Yu Chang Lou
Earthen houses are made of earth, stone, bamboo and wood, all readily available materials. After constructing the walls with rammed earth, branches, strips of wood and bamboo chips were laid in the wall as "bones" to reinforce it. The end result is a well-lit, well-ventilated, windproof, quakeproof building that is warm in winter and cool in summer. When visiting these buildings I highly recommend to stay overnight in some of their rooms. It’s a wonderful experience to stay in these mud houses and enjoy the hospitality of the local people.
Zheng Cheng Lou is the Prince of Earth buildings
Zheng Cheng Lou is the Prince of Earth buildings
The Gate of Zheng Cheng Lou
Walls made of rammed earth, bamboo and wooden sticks, these buildings were made to last.
Central shrine where people pray to their ancestors also serves as a TV room
Tianluokeng
Tianluokeng
Tianluokeng
Gate of Yi Nan Lou
Taxia village
In 1986 American spy satellite above the Fujian province spotted large, circular-shaped buildings. With typical Cold War paranoia and the limited satellite technology of the time, the U.S. government suspected that these strange buildings might be nuclear missile silos. The CIA sent spies to have a closer look at these buildings only to find out that they were actually mud buildings inhabited by local people.

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