Kashgar Guide

In mid summer this year, the community of private tour guides was abuzz with the news. A writer working for the almighty Lonely Planet guidebook had entered XinJiang, and was headed this way. “Keep your eye out for him,” they told me, “and call me if he comes!”

Elvis Ablimit landed a favorable mention in the guidebook many years ago, and lived up to his name as a reliable carpet dealer and tour guide. It made him his living. But nowadays, he complains that other dealers are claiming to be Elvis. One tour guide advertises himself this way: “I’m not Elvis, but I can still help.” Another tour guide, was recommended by Lonely Planet in more recent years and less-than-modestly advertises that fact with a large Lonely Planet logo outside his office.
What is it that keeps tour guides scrambling for their spot in the guidebook?
In 2007, Kashgar’s tourist industry was booming. Locals with a talent for language and understanding of Western culture were leaving their dead-end jobs and joining the ranks of tour guides, trekking guides and mountaineering guides. Many had everything that it took, especially enthusiasm. Some opened their own offices, others worked by approaching tourists on the street.
In 2008 and 2009, business was terrible for tour guides. 2010 was better, but still left many guides longing for the days when they began their careers. Will they have to find other jobs?
We have found it an unexpected pleasure to get to know some of Kashgar’s tour guides. Of course, there are some who are dishonest, and we hear too many stories from unsatisfied tourists. Some give in to pressure to provide cheaper tours, leaving much to be desired in the way of quality. These leave many a tourist paranoid and stingy, feeling cheated even before they hire a car. But there are still Kashgar guides who will give you exactly what they offer – quality service. Some are straight and polite. Others are fun and relaxed. They are professionals whose talent and knowledge of the area will complete your adventure.
There’s no denying the power of a good guidebook. When I finally did meet the legendary Lonely Planet writer, I had no doubt that his final draft would benefit hundreds of travelers. And I hope that my friends in the tourist industry were able to find him and get the publicity they deserve. We all hope to see lots of travelers in 2011.

Note: This article contributed to our blog from Gallery Cafe in Kashgar when they left from Kashgar middle of  last summer 2011. We missed Gallery Cafe!

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