Saturday, 8 June 2013

Chani Bagh

"In the early years of this century Chani Bagh was distinguished by its lavatory. It was a 'Victory' model with a sturdy mahogany seat, the only flushing thunderbox for two thousand miles".

So starts the chapter about Kashgar in William Dalrymple's excellent book "In Xanadu: A Quest".

If Colin Thubron painted the pictures of Central Asia that brought Deefor on this trip, than Dalrymple did the same for Kashgar. His tale of his time here in the last days of communism is superb as is his description of the Chani Bagh itself.

Built as the residence of the British Consul it was an outpost of Empire in which the Consul's redoubtable wife entertained and played tennis with the ladies from the Russian Consulate.

In Dalrymple's book it was a decaying doss house for Pakistani truck drivers and aging hippies. Now it is a rather good, if shabby, Chinese restaurant around the corner from our hotel.

Lots remains from the 1908 building but the colonial atmosphere has been somewhat spoiled by someone erecting a 26 storey hotel right in front of it leaving no trace of the memsahib's original Chani Bagh (Chinese Garden).

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