Across China: Kashgar old town attracts young opportunity seekers
URUMQI, July 17 (Xinhua) -- On a hot summer day in July, the old town of Kashgar in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is packed with visitors despite the scorching heat. Down an alley, merchants shout and children on their summer vacation play.
Among the street vendors, Zhang Saxia's drink shop stands out due to its flowery facade. Inside the 30-square-meter shop, the young entrepreneur from Sichuan Province has decorated the room with her "Kashgar memories" including postcards she made herself and local handicrafts she has collected.
Kashgar's old town dates back more than 2,000 years and is now home to more than 200,000 residents. Since 2010, renovations costing 7 billion yuan have transformed the decrepit houses and rendered them earthquake-proof while maintaining their traditional Uygur style.
Today, the old town attracts many visitors from both home and abroad.
Last year, when 25-year-old Zhang first visited the city, she said she fell in love with it instantly. "I came here and I felt that I never wanted to leave," Zhang said. After finishing her trip, she returned to her hometown Chengdu, quit her job as an English teacher and returned to Kashgar.
Zhang spent the first few months traveling around the old town in Kashgar, experiencing a slow lifestyle. "The experience gave me the idea to start a business so that I could truly engage," Zhang said.
In May, Zhang opened her shop which soon became very popular among tourists and local young people.
Every morning at 9 a.m., Zhang travels across the city to buy stock. She eats a crusty pancake, a local specialty, for breakfast while walking briskly through the alleys. She needs to get her shop ready before the old town officially opens to the public at 10:30 a.m.
A typical day finishes after 11 p.m. when all the guests have left and she had never seen a single "slow day" like what she used to imagine.
Zhang's neighbor Zulpukar said at first, he was worried about the girl from the big city. "But she fit in very well," he said.
When business is not as busy, Zhang takes out her camera and rests under a mulberry tree in front of her shop. The landlord's son looks at Zhang's dog Sangni trying to touch him, but when Sangni barks he immediately shies away. Zhang records the moment with her camera.
"There are more and more customers and images of Kashgar have been sent all over the country via my postcards." Zhang said, "but I get busier every day and there is not enough time to make new postcards," she said.
When talking with Xinhua, three of Zhang's friends came to her shop for tea. One of them, Chen Liang, is the founder of a youth hotel in the old town and was also one of the earliest entrepreneurs who came to Kashgar to seek opportunities.
"Since last year, more people have come here to start their businesses. We have shared our experiences and become friends," Chen said, adding, "People open clothing shops, outdoor shops, etc. They like the tourism resources and the lifestyle here."
"The locals' smiles attracted me," said Zhang, "in the future, I hope to help more people learn about and like this city."
According to Kashgar's tourism bureau, in the first half of this year, the city received 1.57 million tourists, up 29.8 percent year on year.