From a vast desert, arid plains and huge mountain ranges, to a long history, ethnic variety and a distinct traditional culture, Xinjiang has much to offer a...

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From a vast desert, arid plains and huge mountain ranges, to a long history, ethnic variety and a distinct traditional culture, Xinjiang has much to offer a traveler.

There is a small tourist infrastructure in place. And while you will see some western tourists in Xinjiang, most of the tourists are Han Chinese, who make up more than 90 percent of China’s population, visiting from other parts of China.

Xinjiang is relatively inexpensive. You can often eat a meal for less than $2. You can get a three-star hotel room for about $30.

See www.sinohotelguide.com or www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/kashgar.htm.

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Flying there can be expensive — and difficult. I had to book a ticket to Beijing and then purchase the round-trip from Beijing to Kashgar, a major city in the south of Xinjiang, after I arrived. Cost was around $600 for the Beijing-Kashgar round trip.

The capital of Xinjiang is Urumqi, a city of between 7 million and 8 million people. You can visit a McDonald’s in Urumqi, buy a pair of Nikes and watch Volkswagens by the hundreds drive by. It’s also very polluted. Uighurs constitute less than 20 percent of the population, and reside primarily in the south of the city.

To best experience Uighur culture visit Kashgar and the other oasis cities along the southern border of the desert.

Visit one of the Sunday markets in the south. Kashgar’s is good, Hotan’s and Yarkand’s are even better. People come from miles around, many on donkey carts, to buy and trade. If you’re lucky you can even see camels in the animal market.


— Ron Wurzer,

special to The Seattle Times