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Outside entrepreneurs feeling at home in Kashgar, no slow days yet

Updated: 2018-07-28 01:32

On a summer day in July, the old town of Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is packed with visitors, despite the scorching heat. In an alley, merchants shout and children scamper about, enjoying their summer vacation.

Among the street vendors, Zhang Saxia's drink shop stands out due to its flowery facade. The 25-year-old entrepreneur from Sichuan province has also decorated the interior with local handicrafts she has collected and handmade postcards that feature her photography.

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 ($1.04 billion) have transformed the decrepit houses and rendered them earthquake-resistant while also maintaining their traditional Uygur style.

Today, the old town attracts many visitors from both home and abroad.

Last year, when Zhang first visited the city, she said she instantly fell in love with it. "I came here and I felt that I never wanted to leave," she said.

After finishing her trip, she returned to her hometown of 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, savoring its slow-paced lifestyle. "The experience made me want to set up a business here so that I could truly engage with the city and its people," Zhang said.

In May, Zhang opened her shop, which soon became very popular among tourists and young locals.

At 9 am every day, Zhang heads out for supplies. She usually munches on a crusty pancake — a local specialty — 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 am.

A typical day finishes after 11 pm when all the customers have left, and she said she has yet to experience a truly "slow day", despite initially appreciating the slower pace of life in the city.

When business is less bustling, Zhang likes to snap local scenes with her camera.

"Many images of my customers and street scenes from Kashgar have been sent all over the country via my postcards," she said.

While she was talking with Xinhua, three of Zhang's friends stopped by her shop for tea. One of them, Chen Liang, is the founder of a youth hostel in the old town who came to Kashgar a while back to seek new opportunities.

"Since last year, more people have come here to start their businesses. We have shared our experiences and become friends," Chen said. "People open clothing shops, street stalls and other stores. They like the tourism resources and the lifestyle here."

Zhang said: "The locals' smiles attracted me, and in the future, I hope to help more people learn about and like this city."

Kashgar's tourism bureau said the city received 1.57 million tourists in the first half of this year, up 29.8 percent year-on-year.


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