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Blog  |   Silk Road Part 1 : China

It’s now been a while since I’ve added anything to my blog, largely because it’s been an incredibly busy year so far but also because there’s already enough noise and ego out there on the internet. However I thought I’d make an exception to share some images from my recent trip, as it’s an amazing part of the world that few people know much about (which was my main reason for travelling there in the first place). I took a heap of photos and liked so many of them that I decided to separate them by country. The first is China and in particular Xinjiang province.

After leaving Japan in 2007 it was my plan to travel from China via the tarns-Mongolian railway in to Russia, however when I left in November it was too cold to travel in that part of the world. Since then it has been in the back on my mind to visit Mongolia, however after starting to plan a trip there early this year it changed in to a trip along the old Silk Road instead, and ironically avoided Mongolia altogether. The appeal of the Silk Road was that it had a similar nomadic culture to Mongolia in Kyrgyzstan, ancient cities and architecture in Uzbekistan, and offered a glimpse of a very different China in Xinjiang province.

I was last in China 7 years ago in 2005 and was returning to the first two locations: Beijing and Xi’an. Both cities had changed remarkably (as expected), and were both much more modern and larger. Beijing especially felt less grey and ‘communist’, and in places felt a lot like Japan (just a lot more stinky, chaotic, polluted, and far less polite). Most of the time in these cities was spent ticking off the big tourist sites for a second time, and a lot of time was spent walking around and exploring the streets.

After Xi’an the real travelling began and the Silk Road officially started. Many of the following days were spent on sleeper trains watching the landscape dramatically change between cities, farmland, mountains, and desert. Turpan was the first stop in Xinjiang province and felt like almost like a completely different country to China. The people look more Central Asian and are Muslim (Uyghur ethnic group), the local script is closely related to Arabic, the architecture references Islamic architecture more than traditional Chinese, and there’s definitely no fried rice or lemon chicken on the menu (plenty of mutton however). The highlight for me were the nearby flaming mountains that are part of Chinese legend and incredibly dramatic.

After more train travel Kashgar was the 2nd town visited in Xinjiang. There are even less Han Chinese in this area and it didn’t feel like China at all expect for the largest Mao statue in the country across the road ‘peoples’ square which was full of armed police (this blog has probably now been blocked in China for mentioning it). The big event in Kashgar is the Sunday animal market where an assortment of animals including the odd Yak were traded. But the highlight for me was the night market which came to life at sunset when Ramadan ended and hoards of ravenous people devoured most of the food in sight.

Anyway enough writing and time for the photos. The next stop was beautiful Kyrgyzstan which I’ll look at in the next post.

The photos are in chronological order, but instead of telling a narrative I’ve simply selected the best looking shots. The best way to view them is via the slideshow link below. I’ve also put a map below showing the rough route travelled (over 4,000km!)


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