This week in the Guardian (http://bit.ly/40eTeY), Tania Branigan reports on the tragic plans to destroy the 2000 year old city of Kashgar in Xinjiang (the Uighur province of western China)
This Silk Road city, once a crucial piece in the ‘Great Game’ where Britain and Russia vied for dominance in Central Asia has now been declared by the Chinese government to be unsafe. Following the massive death toll in the Sichuan earthquake last year it has been decided that Kashgar’s old town would not stand up to a similar disaster and that the buildings (many up to five centuries old) are a fire risk. 85% of the old town will be demolished. Tania Branigan writes:
“This is the last chance to experience this incredible world; tearing down the old houses will rip apart the fabric of life here. Without courtyard homes, many women will no longer have outside space to go unveiled. Artisans will make way for modern stores. The danger, said one exile group recently, is that the area will become “an open-air museum of Uighur culture”.
There are already fears that the influx of Han Chinese into the area will erode traditional Uighur culture. This city, where Central and East Asia meet has long been an essential destination for Silk Road enthusiasts and will remain so, but if you can get there before this happens you really should.
The travel round-up has a Central Asian theme this weekend with Helen Anderson reporting in The Age (http://bit.ly/yVkeK) of her trip from Tashkent (in Uzbekistan) to Ashgabat (in Turkmenistan.) Talking of her experiences of Tashkent, Helen describes Uzbekistan as a “very un-Muslim Muslim country” and talks of vodka and belly dancers as well as a nightclub where parrots roam free in the toilets! The journey goes on to Samarkand which was conquered by Alexander the Great, destroyed by Gengis Khan and then built back to its rightful place as intellectual and trading capital of Central Asia by Tamerlane. The article describes neighbouring Bukhara, however, as “the best place to see pre-Russian Turkestan” as so much of the old city remains, from Madrassas and Mosques, to a Royal Fortress and caravanserai.
If you want to experience the wonders of the Silk Road, and to see Kashgar before so much history is lost here are a few great options from The Imaginative Traveller:
And also some fantastic suggestions from GAP Adventures:
This final option does not include Kashgar as it heads west rather than east from Tashkent and ends in Iran.
Also in the Guardian (http://bit.ly/HBXLf) this week a look at surfing lessons in Portugal. Gemma Bowles looks at the challenges and tribulations of becoming a surfer but also identifies a fantastic spot (and bargain) for a surf camp!
Gemma visited Figueira da Foz, located between Lisbon and Porto, where she found, where there are around 12 excellent surf spots within a 20 minute drive from the town, with waves that are suited to any skill level from expert to beginner. Paintshop Hostel in town offers a weekly deal where for 351 euro you can get 10 hours of surf lessons, equipment hire, and transport out to the best spots as well as accommodation in the hostel and breakfast every morning.
The deal is stunning and the hostel is perfect. Gemma describes it as simple yet funky, with an option between a dorm bed and a private room. The hostel is comes highly rated on HostelBookers where accommodation only is available from 18 euro per night.
Also, if you want to couple a week of surfing with a trip around in Portugal then HostelBookers has a summer sale on at the moment which includes Portugal. Take a look at all the destinations and discounts (upto 70% off) here:
Still on the Med, in Malia (Crete) Marina Fanouraki is fast becoming a local heroine after dousing the nuts of a British tourist accused of molesting her in a club with Sambuca before setting him on fire. The Greek student claims that the British man grabbed her from behind before waving his tackle at her and asking for sex. She admits throwing the drink at him but denies lighting him afterwards. Of course there are two sides to every story and his friends in the Telegraph (http://bit.ly/3MKsAG) deny the allegations saying that Stuart Feltham had actually just bumped into the girl on the way back from the bar and had not been exposing himself. Whatever the truth of this case, British holiday makers are certainly getting a bad reputation abroad, and the Times (http://bit.ly/2NJt2q) reported this weekend that the mayor of Riga plans to bring in special tourist police to crack down on stag groups in the Latvian capital.
If this story isn’t enough to put you off, GAP Adventures has great discounts on two Greek island sailing trips in the last minute special section at the moment. 8 days sailing in the Greek islands, starting and finishing in Santorini for £382… just be careful where you wave your bits!