Travel along the “Silk Road” with
(To see the photos, click at the index to the left)
A co-traveller has made a site in Swedish with photos:
Old diary from my trip to China 1985 (in Swedish)
Texts written in italics below are translations of the travel brochure
text for each day.
Tuesday 6th of September
Turkey: Departure from Stockholm in the afternoon and arrival in Istanbul in the evening. It will be nearly 24 hours in giant metropolis where Europe and Asia are meeting. Check-in at a central hotel. Welcome dinner.
We had to get up at six in the morning to be able to catch the airport bus to Landvetter. It was a short flight to Stockholm and Arlanda in the sunny weather. There we made another check in and went through the security control, before we ate some lunch. We still had plenty of time to spend, which I used to read our guide book for Uzbekistan.
Before we went through the gate, we met our tour leader Christian Andersson and most of the other 11 in the group. The flight was delayed 45 minutes. This was normal with Turkish airlines according to Christian. The flight to Istanbul was 3 hours. Most of the time we had a good view over Europe, as the sky was clear. We arrived just before 7 pm and the luggage of Inken from Tornedalen was missing, so we were delayed further.
It had become quite dark when we arrived to Istanbul centre in a minibus. We stayed at Hotel Legend, a small and nice hotel near the Blue Mosque. After putting the luggage in the hotel room, we went up to the roof terrace for dinner, with a magnificent view over the lit Blue Mosque. The wind just made it feel nice and continental. We also had a short introduction of ourselves. The hotel kitten was begging for attention and maybe something to eat most of the time. We went into the hard beds around 11 pm with the air-conditioning turned on.
Wednesday 7th of September
Istanbul to Tashkent: The day will be spent visiting some of the most fantastic sightings of Istanbul. We will visit the places like Saint Sophia, which is 55 metres high and seen over the city, when you travel along Bosporus. It’s considered as an architectonic wonder, dressed in the finest Byzantium mosaic. We will continue to the Suleiman mosque from the 16th century before it’s time to visit the bazaars of Istanbul. We will take a flight in the evening to Tashkent and arrive early next morning.
Christina and I decided to spend the day by ourselves, as we had seen the "standard sights" the year before. We decided to see the Dolmabahce palace. After breakfast, we walked down to the ferries by the Galata bridge. To get quickly to Besiktas, we first had to go to Uskudar on the Asian side and there we changed ferry. The weather was sunny and the ferry didn't toss much, as it was pretty calm. From Besiktas, we walked to the palace.
We decided to take the big tour with both the main part, as well as the Harem part. The palace is said to have been inspired by Versailles, which maybe is true regarding the outside. The interiors are rather inspired by the Victorian era, especially with the entire British cut-glass chandelier, but also the dark heavy curtains. It's amazing large and a pity that it has been used for less than 100 year. It was built in the beginning of the 19th century and Ataturk was the last one using it. We must have seen around 100 different rooms during the two tours! There are many splendid reception and ceremony halls. The pillars in the banisters in the main stairs were made of crystal. The cut-glass chandeliers were immense and one has a weight of 4500 kg, which is the heaviest in the world. All were made in Great Britain. We nearly missed the Harlem tour, but a young woman helped us to catch up with the group. The sultan was married with 4 women and had 14 concubines. All seemed to have their own sleeping room with a small room for their servant and a toilet room.
When we came out from the tours it was noon and time for changing of the guards. After hat we took a bus up to Taksim square and walked down along the main shopping street. We changed some more money and ate at one of the cheap point-and-buy restaurants. Christina happened to get chicken for the 4th time on two days! Myself, I got a really tasteful liver stew.
At the end of the street, we went by Tünel, the metro from 1871. It only has two stations. At Kadaköy, we took the tramway. We waited a long time and tramway arrived it was very crowded, which got worse at the following stations. A few children got scared and started to cry. I checked around that there were no pick-pockets active. Finally we went off at Sultanahmet. We only had a short walk to our hotel and were happy to have avoided the steep slope up there.
We were the first to return to the hotel. As it was pretty warm, we took our luggage down to the reception and waited there beside an opened window. When the others arrived, we heard that Anders had been robbed by some pick-pockets and he went with Christian to the police station.
Just after 4 pm, we went with the minibus to the airport. Just to enter the airport we had to pass a security check. Then we had to wait until Christian and Inken had found her luggage, which she got after some misunderstandings. We made a group check in. It was over 6 pm and the flight was supposed to depart 6:45 pm, but still it wasn't boarding time. It probably was Turkish Airlines time... When we finally should go through the gate, we had to wait for Christian to show the group visa to Uzbekistan. He hadn’t needed to do this before here. Then there was another security check, which was extremely thorough. I even had to remove my belt from my trousers! Christina had problem with her pendant and hair pin.
Finally we took off for Tashkent at 7:50, just before dawn. After the security belt lamp had turned off, we got a gift. It was a pink security bag to hang around your neck, which contained pink eye protector for the night, a pink comb, a pink shoehorn, a pink toothbrush and toothpaste and not to forget the pink socks with anti-slipping rubber below the feet. We were prepared for a long night...
It was not easy to fall sleep for neither of us. We landed 1:50 am local time (GMT+5). The customs was very slow and the customs officer didn't even seem to be aware of what a group visa was... When we finally had got through we still had to wait a while for the luggage. This also needed to get through a security and luggage declaration check, with x-ray, before we finally left this rather small international airport of Tashkent. We were met by the guide Elena and the driver Vali and arrived at hotel Uzbekistan around 3:30 am and was in bed by 4 am.
Thursday 8th of September
Tashkent: After a late breakfast, we will visit the big Chorzu bazaar. The area around the bazaar is the only part of Tashkent, which is really old, although it’s partly destroyed by the earthquake, which demolished large parts of the city 1966. Otherwise is Tashkent a very Russian city and we are going o the central parts with the underground to see all outdoor cafes, street artists and urban Uzbeks on the entertainment street Broadway. Except the large Russian population, we also see many Koreans, which were forced to move here during the World War II. The feeling to be in Tashkent is very different from the visits in Samarqand and Bukhara. We will see some of the fountains and the nice opera house.
We had breakfast at 10 am and changed money. We weren’t prepared to get such a big bundle of bills. The highest value was 1000 Som, which was just less than 1 USD. Then we walked to the metro station. During the Soviet era, it was said that the stations were the museum of the people and this is still true. Unfortunately it's not allowed to take pictures due to security reasons.
We went to the large market at Chorsi, where you could find almost everything. It was best to split up for a couple of hours and Christina and I went through the stands of clothes and shoes, to reach the more exciting parts with food, vegetables, fruits, spices, but also with some handicraftsmen. As one of her sandals was broken, she utilized the service of a shoemaker who made a thorough job for nearly nothing. Meanwhile we had a conversation with his friend, who spoke a local language with a mixture of Russian. It still was no problem to communicate. Not everyone was fond of being photographed, but some even asked me to do it, like a young couple, as well as a mother and boy behind a stand. They also enjoyed when I showed them the digital photo in the display. Most parts of the market are nice and shady, which is needed in the hot sun. The market is immense, so we had to pass quickly through some parts, to return within 1.5 hours.
Then we went together to a madrassah (Islamic school) nearby. A “teacher" told us about the place and as Anders had a lot of questions there was a long discussion. The Uzbeks are Sunni Muslims and they have increased since the liberation. Afterwards we took a look at the Djuma mosque before we went back to the hotel with the metro.
We made a short stop at the hotel before we took a walk on "broadway", which have a lot of entertainment as well as restaurants. We stayed for lunch at one, which was quite empty. We tried “pilimenti” and “shasliki”, which is a skewer, plus a cake as dessert. Some of us took a photo on a bridal couple and then they wanted to include us in a picture. The bridal couple was among those who more or less entertained us with karaoke on the other side of the street. Inga-Lill had succeeded to get 10 of us for an opera evening, so Christian, Elena and she went to buy tickets, while waiting for the food.
Afterwards it was time to go directly to the opera of "Elixir of love" by Donatello, as it started already at 6 pm. The opera house is a large and beautiful building. It was only filled to about 20%, so the artists and staff were probably more numerous than the audience and the ticket price was only 1800 Som, which is less than 2 USD. The performance was quite ok, and the stage design was really beautiful, although I will never be able to appreciate the music. The lack of sleep made it difficult for several of us to keep awake all of the time.
It was dark when we went back to the hotel. Some stopped by an internet cafe to keep in touch with their family or friends. When I came back to our room I realised that the electrical contact was of the English type, although this isn’t normal for this country and the European model should fit. But it worked well with the razor contact to charge the batteries for my digital camera. It was really good to finally get into bed.
Friday 9th of September
Tashkent – Samarqand: 5 hours of bus to Samarqand. We will arrive early afternoon and a visit to Registan. Here may the history of the country be summarised as Samarqand in all times has been a focal point in the history of the world. Alexander the Great was here and it’s an important place along the Silk Road. Many of the most famous Persian scientists, poets and philosophers were living here. Genghis Khan came and pillaged Samarqand. Timur Lenk rebuilt the city again. He used it as a base on his conquests to Moscow, Delhi and Baghdad before he died on his way to Beijing. The ancestors of Timur Lenk were thrown out and went to India to create the Mogul dynasty and Taj Mahal. If Uzbekistan had been easier to reach, it had had more visitors, as there are few places, which may show such a magnificent historical architecture. The mosaic gives colour to the sterile, sand coloured minarets and the mosques are without challenge. It’s like visiting a Taj Mahal, without the masses visiting it. Nowhere else can this be summarised as at the Registan square with its mosques and minarets.
After breakfast, we departed for Samarqand at 9 am. The local guide Marat had joined us, as he was the planned guide to work for us. As most guides and drivers in these countries, he is Russian. We had yet another sunny day. The traffic was quite light on the broad streets. When we got out of the city there was a traffic checkpoint, which it seemed to be at every town and province border. Apparently it is a way of increasing the low salary of the police, although they never stop tourist buses. The main road between the two largest cities is actually going through Kazakhstan and during some of the years they have an agreement, which means that Uzbekistan rents the usage of it. Now we had to drive for another 70 km around this part. If you look at a map of the former Soviet countries, you can see that many of them hook into each other in this unnatural way, which has caused practical infrastructural problems here and there.
It is a dry but fertile landscape and we soon entered a part, which is known for their melons. They were sold along the roads since it was season for them now. We stopped to test some and to take photos. The driver took advantage of the occasion and bought quite a lot for him, as they probably were cheaper here than on the market of Samarqand.
Marat gave us an overview of the country and its history. Not least about their national hero Timur Lenk (also called Tamerlane in English), although he was guilty to a lot of genocide! The region had been conquered many times by different people, mostly because of its strategic placement for trading. The Russians took the area during the 19th century and kept it until the fall of the Soviet Union 1991, when the country became independent.
Uzbekistan is not really a democracy, whatever Marat told us. There are 5 parties, but in practice they all vote for the sitting president Karamov, who used to be a member of the former communist party. He has been in office for 10 years, although the constitution says he only can be president for 4 years. The result of this dictatorship is that the country is pretty stable compared with their neighbour country Tajikistan, where they still has a civil war. But it's a fragile situation, not least considering the last revolts in the Fergana valley a few months ago.
It has quite a lot of desert areas, but also fields for primary production, mostly cotton, although this production has drained and destroyed the Aral Sea. The cotton growing has created a catastrophe, partly because of the large irrigation from the rivers so the Aral Sea dries up. But they have also used a lot of pesticides, which have floated out in the Aral Sea and when the sea dries up, the pesticides remain on land instead. Many children suffer from tuberculosis and struma, when they have come in contact with the infected earth. The government tries to replace the cotton with wheat production and as they have a lot of minerals, they want to be able to refine all products themselves. Unfortunately they don't have enough know-how, which probably is one of the reasons for their unstable economy.
The country has about the same size as Sweden, although it has nearly 30 millions of inhabitants. There are many nomads, mostly of Turkish origin. The lowest part is about 500 metres above the sea level and the highest is above 4000 metres. The climate is quite extreme and may vary from -10 to +50 degrees and there is about 300 days of sun a year.
There are many fields, as well as trees along the road. We saw many cattle, but also donkeys with wagons on the broad road. At one place we saw people picking cotton. When we entered a valley where they produced many apples and much honey, which they sold along the road, it was time to stop for lunch. In the shady valley there were several lunch restaurants along the road. This was also the first place where we saw the traditional tables, which is a platform above the ground and you sit around the low table with crossed legs.
When we arrived to Samarqand, we first stopped at Registan, the heart of the city, just to enjoy the view of the square with 3 madrassahs around. Some guards spoke with us, offering us to climb the stairs in a minaret during the sunset. We checked in at the small family hotel Kamila (www.hotelkamila.com). It is a quite typical Uzbek house, but bigger. There are no windows towards the outside, but it has a large courtyard (in this case two), with a tree as shade. The hosts seemed to be very amiable and Christian said that this together with the walking distance to Registan were the reasons they had chosen the hotel. The room was really big, but cosier than the one in Tashkent.
After an hour of rest, we all went to the bus. We first drove to Registan so some of us might climb up the 40 meter high minaret and take pictures of the sun setting over the city. The first part through the madrassah was easy, although there were no protection around the restoration works inside, but there were a margin of a meter, so it wasn't really a problem. When we entered the minaret it was very narrow, dusty and the last part was also dark. Two people had arrived before us and it was difficult to let anyone pass in the stairway, as well as only one person at a time could stand in the small triangular hole at the top. Anyway it was worth the view, even if I strained my knees when I walked downstairs.
Then we continued with the bus to a restaurant where many locals ate. We had a gorgeous meal, but I took it easy as I had got a slightly bad stomach. Christina drank a local wine, which was so sweet that she considered it to be a good dessert wine. The bill was really low, except for the wine, several bottles of beer were ordered too. Some of the locals were dancing at the disco floor to typical Eastern pop music. The weather enough warm for shorts, although I put on a jumper later on. It was around 10 pm before we returned to the hotel.
Saturday 10th of September
Samarqand: We will do sightseeing by feet through Samarqand. Big parts of the city are very Russian, but there are also some really nice old quarters. We will visit the mausoleum of Gur Emir, where Timur Lenk is buried. We will also visit the mosque of Bibi Khanum, with its turquoise blue dome and the observatory of Ulug Beg from the 16th century.
Breakfast at the low table with crossed legs, which is difficult to feel comfortable with, when you aren't used to it. We walked over to a local bazaar at 8:30. As it was season for melons, this part of the market was immense. We estimated that it could be 500 melons in the largest piles. There were also a lot of spice, candies, vegetables and all the other things you normally can find on a market. Several in the group bought shawls from a lady, which probably gave her half a weeks income within a few minutes. Christina bought two, as she would give one as a present.
Then we continued to the old inactive mosque Bibi Khanum, which the favourite wife of Timur Lenk let erect as a surprise for him 1399-1404. The biggest portal is 41 meters high. We then continued to Registan and on the way we passed a school, where there were many children who wanted us to take a photo of them.
Instead of going straight to Registan, Christina, Anders and I went to the Cultural and Art museum. The archaeological part is actually much better than imagined. It is well organised in chronological order with nice findings of pottery, jewelleries, a few armours and weapons, ossuaries, fragmented murals etc. There is also the wooden coffin of Timur Lenk. The last half contained bazaar workshops, clothes, and some other assorted stuff. We started to feel the stress at the end, as we had promised to meet the other an hour later.
At the return to Registan, we found them in the first madrassah, where they had stopped to listen to a music demonstration. So we joined the rest of the tour, which was delayed. Unfortunately most parts of the 3 madrassahs felt like shopping centres for handicraft, although quite nice ones. Most of the place is restored since an earthquake 1970, when a lot of burnt down, due to oil lamps, which lit all the carpets quite quickly.
Afterwards we fetched Inken, who had stayed at the hotel as she felt ill. She now felt good enough to follow us to a restaurant, which is situated a bit from the centre. We ate a typical meal, which is called "Plov". It tasted good with rice, meat and vegetables, but it was greasy. Of course we started with tomatoes, onions and ended with melon, which seemed to be standard now. Even at the restaurant, the toilet was quite lousy and smelly, with just a hole in the ground, but it's something we have to get used to.
After lunch we went to Afrosiab History Museum, where Samarqand was situated from the 6th century BC to 1220 AD, when Genghis Khan destroyed the city. We were guided through the museum, which was much less interesting than the other one. Still it was interesting to listen when Marat told us the story of the ancient city. It was also very interesting to walk up on the hill where the hill-fort used to be and feel the history surge through you in the heat. The area was rediscovered and excavated 1873 by two Russian archaeologists and the vast area of 300 acres has continued to be excavated since then.
Next stop was the observatory of Ulug Bek, the grandson of Timur Lenk. He was a great scientist and held all his interest in science, which was okay as long as his father ruled. But when he came into power, he didn't perform his ruling duties to protect the kingdom, so a treacherous rebellion by his son, throw him off he throne and banned all science. Fortunately another scientist fled with all the manuscripts and other document to Turkey. The son destroyed the observatory, but he didn’t understand the significance of the sextant, so it remains intact until today. This was used by Ulug Bek to make his fantastic observations. The observatory is situated on one of the highest points in Samarqand, which helped the Russian archaeologist Viyatkin to find it 1908.
Then we went back towards the city centre and stopped at Shah-i-Zinda, which is a large mausoleum. To get there we passed through a cemetery, which felt strange for us, as they had made portraits on the tomb stones. The mausoleum is dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. Currently they are doing a lot of restorations both to the buildings, as well as to the mural paintings.
Finally we visited Gur Emir, the mausoleum where Timur Lenk, two of his sons and two of his grandsons rest. Timur himself didn't want to be buried in such a splendid mausoleum, but in a simple one in Shakhrisabz. Unfortunately he died during wintertime and it was too difficult to go up in the mountains, so he ended up here anyway.
It was just time for a short rest in the rooms after this intense day. Then it was time to leave for a family restaurant. It was another grandiose dinner, today with a much better (that is drier) wine. Christian had also arranged entertainment in form of the instrument demonstrator from Registan, who cost altogether 50 USD for us. He had also brought a fellow drummer and a young girl dancing for us. At the end of their program she wanted some of us guys to join her. Christian felt the pressure and I also joined her for a while. The gracious movements are difficult to follow and fortunately most of her movements were done at least twice in a row, but they felt random and I never understood their meaning. Probably the song was reflected in her movements. It was nearly 10 pm before we were back at the hotel.
Sunday 11th of September
Samarqand – Shakhrisabz - Samarqand (optional day tour): This is a very nice car trip to the birth village of Timur Lenk Shakhrisabz. The landscape we have gone through until now has been very flat, but here will you see bare mountains the further we go Southwards. The road is continuing to Afghanistan and this was the road the Russians were using during the war against the Afghans during the 90th’s.We will pass nice villages and can probably make a stop in a family house along the road. During the last years Uzbekistan has had problems with its identity - West or East, Islam or Christianity, but also how they will create their history, as the country only has existed since 1991. Nearly all Lenin statues has been removed and been replaced by Timur Lenk statues. In Shakhrisabz we will see a large statue of Timur Lenk. We will look around in a town, which has as long history as all the other fairy tale cities, but here are there mostly ruins. We will also make a visit to the old summer palace Ak-Saray of Timur Lenk.
We started at 8:30 driving in five taxi cabs, which should be much faster than taking the bus to Shakhrisabz, the birth city of Timur Lenk. The taxi drivers drove quite fast and I really questions some of there driving. The safety belts in the front were removed, although their lower parts were left. Outside Samarqand, we passed a market of used cars, which seemed to be immense. In the countryside there are a lot of vineyards and some other crops, among them tobacco and sunflowers. We drove 80 km/h through the villages, but the speed limit was 50 km/h. The road is generally quite bad, even if it had asphalt. Calves and goats were seen grazing along the roads. There were also many women in colourful dresses, as well as children. It became more stony and mountainous, before we went downhill again on the serpentine roads.
Shakhrisabz is a World Heritage, just as Samarqand. The centre is dominated by a statue of Timur Lenk and his palace Ak-Sarai. As it was weekend, the bridal couples more or less queued to be photographed on these spots. When we took a photo of a couple, they wanted Christina and me to join them on a photo in return! Then we visited the palace Ak-Serai, which was built 1380-1404. The portal is 38 meters high. Christina felt quite ill and got some medicine to revert a fever, so she had to rest in the shade for a while. Erik and Christian went up to take photos from the top of the portal tower, but I realised it was better to save my legs for the following days...
We continued to the mosque of Hazrati Imom, where the tomb of Timur Lenk is situated. This was where he wanted to be buried, if a snow storm hadn't hindered the transport of the corpse over the pass. There is an old platan tree since the 13th century standing. We also visited the "mosque of knowledge", which was built by his grandson Uluk Beg. There were many women, who sold handmade things, which were very beautifully done, but too colourful for our taste.
Afterwards we went to the local market. Christian and Marat shopped for our lunch. Meanwhile the other of us strolled around in the marketplace. Christina found some leather boots, which she wanted, but she couldn't find anyone which fitted well on her. On the way back we bought some water. It seemed to be difficult to find still water, as the locals probably preferred to drink sparkling water. We were early, so we rested in the shade away from the heat. Christina felt much better again.
Half an hour out of town, we stopped at a restaurant, where we ate the vegetables and melons from the market, but the restaurant provided us with grilled meat and something to drink. I was really longing for Coca-Cola after a few days of only mineral water. Christina seemed to have fever again, as she started to freeze and preferred to hurry to the hot car. During the next stop, where Christian brought some in the group on a walk to the hill top, she rested on the backseat. I and a few others just strolled around nearby. There was a shepherd’s outdoor house. He had bed under a tree, and some cooking utensils plus bags with his stuff hanging in a tree. I heard later that when the people who went to the top came back, he was taking a shower from a pipe nearby. I spent most of the time in the shadow writing my journal.
We made a final photo stop at a stone formation by the road, but it was a great view over the shifting landscape as well. When we came back to Samarqand we lost track of the other drivers and came to the hotel another road.
It was nice coming back to the hotel, but Christina went directly to the bed and fell asleep. I was glad that we had ordered dinner at the hotel together with six other in the group. I spent some time in the courtyard before dinner when I spoke a few words with the guy Echram, who probably was a son in the house. The dinner was not as good as usual and the main course was a chicken with chips. This felt very tourist adapted, but it tasted okay. I heard that Anders also had become ill and some other had had some lesser problems with their bellies. Afterwards I went up to the room to check Christina, who seemed to have gotten some sleep.
Monday 12th of September
Samarqand - Aidarkul lake: We will go by our own bus to the desert of Kyzylkum and nearby the large lake of Aidarkul. The bus trip takes most of the day and we arrive in the afternoon to a Kazakh nomad camp. We will spend the night in a yurta.
We packed our last luggage. Christina had at least slept quite a lot, although she still felt bad. The bus left at 8:30 am and we stopped in the city to buy stamps and some also needed to change money. To make it more efficient, Christian got orders and did the work himself, which probably saved quite a lot of time. I got time to write the first bulk of postcards.
We stopped by a cotton field, which seemed to be a popular interruption and we got in good contact with the workers, which mainly were women. Probably we were even stranger to them. They also enjoyed seeing the photos in the digital cameras. When we returned to the bus we were told that there was a minor problem on the bus, but bad enough to change bus, so we went back to meet a replacement bus in Samarqand.
We stopped at hotel Orient Star, which is owned by our local agency. We got tea and some nuts and dried fruits while waiting. We hit the road again at 12:30 with two new drivers, as they apparently are connected to the bus. It was decided to go directly to Nurata for a later lunch and skip the petroglyphs of Sarmysh gorge until the return. We drove on a smaller and bumpier road. The landscape became more arid. The main production seemed to be cotton and grapes. The houses are mainly made of mud. We stopped at a small village, as Marat also had gotten a bad stomach. We could see mountain ranges at both sides and many hills with mostly turfs growing on them. We also passed some larger villages.
When we came nearer Nurota, it became greener. This desert town has about 40000 inhabitants and is very old, as it was a gateway to the silk road, but since it's a bit from the main road today, it has lost it importance. We went to a nice little restaurant, which had a beautiful garden. It was "plov" together with plenty of vegetables and fruits as usual.
After lunch we went by our bus to the Panjaatha and Djuma mosques, which were founded because of a holy underground source beside it. Then we walked up to a hill-fortress, which according to the legend was built by Alexander the Great. It was active from the 3rd to the 15th century. Several boys were flying small kites on the top where we had a great view over the town. On the way back to the bus we “chatted with” and photographed a couple of old men who were playing cards.
Then we continued to the Aidarkul lake. The sand desert covers only 7% of the desert and the rest is semi-desert. Most nomads are living on cattle and sheep. When we arrived at the tourist camp just before 7 pm, we saw five yurtas, but there was also a corrugated trailer and a sun protection over a table with chairs. Christina and I shared a yurta with Jan-Olov and Beatrice. It was dark, but with a half-moon, when we were served dinner. Christina and Beatrice went to bed directly afterwards, but the rest spent some time by the newly lit fire and looked at the stars. I went to bed around 10 pm.
Tuesday 13th of September
Lake of Aidarkul: Between Samarqand and Bukhara many people were travelling along the part of the Silk Road, which was called Shah Rah or the road of the Kings, which connected the most prestigious cities in Transoxiania. We will go to a camel breeding farm and from there we will make a day tour on camels. We will ride to the lake of Aidarkul and there are possibilities to take a bath. We will spend another night in a yurta.
We didn't get more than five camels, so the group was split and the first one went by camel to the lake and the rest of us went by bus. The lake was really warm and lovely to swim in. Lena G, Christian, Elena, Marat and I were playing some kind of volleyball for over an hour before I got tired of it. When the other had arrived, we had a light lunch with some local fish. After lunch Christina, Jan-Olov, Beatrice, Lena A and myself went back on the camels in the strong afternoon sun. The sky was intensively blue and it was quite hot, although now and then we had a slight wind to cool us off. The first guy led three of the camels. My wanted to be first, Christina’s had diarrhoea but it still wanted to eat whenever he could reach a bush and Lena’s was the small one. Lena complained that she got camel shit on her, as her camel was behind Christina’s, so the guy walking with the camels had to hold all three directly from midway, which was more troublesome for him.
We returned to the camp after just over 2 hours. The rest of the group including Elena and Marat went out, as Inken didn't want to go. We enjoyed the desert in the shadow eating nuts of different form and drinking a lot of water. The last group returned already after an hour, due to a misunderstanding. Christina and a few others tested the very simple shower, which didn't sprinkle much, but enough to get some dust off.
We had dinner at sunset, i.e. 7 pm and after it we sat around the camp fire. A guy was all the time putting on too much wood and Christian who had collected quite a lot of it, was getting tired on him and tried to fix the fire himself. There was a really good Kazakh guy who was singing and playing for us and we could see at the locals in the camp that they really appreciated him as well. We could even hear that his songs were a kind of storytelling and a few of them was summarised by Elena for us. We Swedes were asked to sing something and of course we started with a schnapps song, but as usual we weren't good at remembering lyrics for other songs. A few of us were even up dancing, but it was difficult on this ground. Ruben let the Kazakh guy listen on some Swedish folklore music, which he appreciated. We sat up until nearly midnight and we still weren't the last to go to bed.
Wednesday 14th of September
Lake of Aidarkul – Bukhara: We must say goodbye to the camels and with bus will we continue to the next fairy tale city of myths, to Bukhara which is a real pearl. It’s big enough to not become a museum and in a well-preserved shape, so you will feel as you have left this century. The entire town centre is complete and there are no other place in the region, where you will get the feeling how the cities were during the time when the Silk Road was active. There are over 140 buildings, which are protected of cultural reasons and it’s a great own to get lost in. We will visit the minaret and mosque of Kalon. The minarets are from the 12th century and give you a great view over the town. The mosque is also fabulous and fully comparable with the more known Registan in Samarqand. Here is also a lot of great mosaic.
After packing we left already at 7:45 am waving goodbye to our hosts. It took a couple of hours on a fairly bad road, passing Nurota and turning in Navoiy, before we reached the Sarmysh gorge. There a minibus met us, slightly late. It took us a few more kilometres on a dwindling gravel road. There are plenty of petroglyphs all around the gorge, many similar to those found in Sweden or elsewhere in the world. Many of the carved images were either humans or animals. It's said that one even looks like a cosmonaut! After some photos we went back with the minibus, as this stop had been planned two days ago, but skipped due to the bus trouble and we was already late.
We went back to Navoiy for lunch on a restaurant. It started to feel a bit repetitious with tomato, cucumber and onion salad as a starter. As main course we got nice meat of sheep, maybe slightly oily. We now really felt that it would be hot today. We said goodbye to Elena, as she should return to Samarqand by bus and then we continued towards Bukhara.
We stopped by the restored ruined of the caravanserai Rabat-i-Malik. It had been a quite large one and it had also been used as a fortress. These guest houses were able to host a full caravan with up to 100 persons and their goods and camels.
The next stop along the route was a pottery factory. We were first shown a small museum guided by the owner. He was the 6th generation potter and he had been on international fairs in Europe and the States with his ceramics. There were also samples from other parts of the country. Then we went to the workshop, the glazer and the oven. The mill which makes the glazing is driven by a donkey, but it is only used once a month. We finished the visit with a cup of tea and some nuts. I saw a couple of men in the courtyard, who were trampling grapes to produce wines.
Although we continued around 4:30 pm, it was still very hot outside in the sun. We were glad that we hadn't ridden camels today! In Bukhara we went directly to the private hotel Sukhrob-Barzu to make a quick check-in. It's in the heart of the city nearby Lyab-i-Hauz, which is one of the very few remaining pools in the city. The pools the city used to be renowned for. We first made a walk around the pool and Marat also talked about a poor timeless jester type called Hojanasruddin, which had a statue near the pool. We stayed in the Jews quarter, which were built during the 12th century. Marat also talked about the Hannaku madrassah for pilgrims and Nadar Devon Begi, built 620. The old city itself is one of 8 world heritages we will visit on our voyage.
Then most of us sat down at a restaurant near the pool for something to eat. Christina got an enormous chicken shaslik (skewer), although other types were smaller. You could apparently never guess the size of them. We sat there chatting with Christian until after 10 pm and the other dropped off one by one. We left when Marat came and joined him
Thursday 15th of September
Bukhara: Sightseeing by feet in the old town. We will visit the most important areas starting at Labi Hauz, a nice square with one of the many pools. Until 100 years ago there were over 200 pools around the town. The kids of the town use to flee the heat by taking a bath in them. Then we will visit the unusual Char Minar with minarets, the mausoleum of Ismail Samanis and a Caravanserai, where the caravan people used to stay over the night.
Today we had an unusually good and big breakfast. even better than the one in the yurta camp. We went out for sightseeing at 8:30 am. It was already getting very hot. Today we mostly walked around in the old parts of the city. There were much more other tourists here than elsewhere, especially Frenchmen. Cold drinks and souvenirs were sold everywhere.
We started at an old caravanserai from late 18th century nearby the pool. There is also silk weaving, so Christina wanted to come back when we had more time. We passed the Sarrafon Hamman from the 16th century. These baths were mostly situated near the work places and bazaars. This is nearby the first of the three remaining "toqi" of originally five from the 16th century. This one was for the moneychangers and is called Toqi Sarrafon. They are situated at the main crossings where people used to pass to and from their jobs. They are covered places with a dome and they had 4-5 exits. Nowadays they are selling places for different souvenirs, like mats, adornments, silk wares, knives etc.
Beside it we saw one of the many channels, which used to be in the city. They used to supply over ten pools in the city, but most of the pools are now removed, due to the many epidemics they caused. We visited the Magoki Attor mosque, which originally was built during the 10th century and inside its carpet museum you could see the different archaeological layers.
We continued to the "Toqi Telpak" where they used to sell hats. As these places used to be working places, so they never got any ornaments. All of us men followed Marat into an active Hamman, where some local men were bathing in the heated rooms. We stopped by a blacksmith, who made scissors and knives and we bought one as a gift to Wilfred.
Next stop was beside another madrassah of Uluk Beg, but we entered instead Abdukazizkon, which is more like a souvenir centre. Upon a small tower it had a stork nest, which used to be very common. Christina found a nice aquarelle painting, which a young boy had made. We continued to the last Toqi called Zargaron, which was used for jewel merchants. It had a tremendous acoustic.
Next stop was the Poiy complex. We entered the active djuuma mosque from the 15th to 16th century, which was very quiet, as there were no sellers inside. Half of the group, including myself, went up in the 46 meter high "Kalon" minaret, from where we had a great view over the city. There I also saw the citadel called “Ark” for the first time. This is the highest minaret in Uzbekistan and it was much more accessible than the one in Samarqand.
Then it was time for lunch and we went by bus to a local restaurant in the suburbs. I felt that I started to become tired of the food, with different salads as starter, a soup and finally some kind of grilled meat.
After lunch we went to Registan square to see the "Ark" fortress, which has an immense exterior. Unfortunately the Bolsheviks destroyed a lot of it around 1920. There were as usual many souvenir stands and at least you could be glad that the most of the souvenirs in Uzbekistan feels genuine with very little plastic stuff. The interior is much less restored then the facade. There is a mosque, with tree wooden columns, which now has been turned into a manuscript museum. We also went into the large coronation hall with a lion guarding the treasury. As most people didn't enjoy archaeological museums, we avoided it and were given the opportunity to come back tomorrow to see it.
We were getting tired in the heat while continuing by bus some quarters to the Bolo-Hauz mosque and Abdullokhan madrassah. Then we entered the Samoids recreational park, with a typical amusement park since the Soviet era, to see the mausoleum of the Samonid dynasty during 9th to 10th century. We also saw the museum, on the spot where Job (in the bible) had hit his staff and a spring of water had emerged from the earth.
After that we returned to the hotel with the bus, to prepare us for a dinner and folklore evening. It started already 6:30 pm. The food was quite okay, the folklore dance as well and it was mixed with some kind of fashion show. The best with the show was the little daughter of one of the dancing women. She was around 7 years old and in the background she really well imitated the grownups on the stage. We walked back around 9 pm.
Friday 16th of September
Bukhara – Tashkent: A free day to stroll around in Tashkent on your own. We may recommend the market place, as well as visiting one of the old bath houses. Maybe you will look at one of the places, which sells mats. Here are plenty of Bukhara mats, which actually are made in Turkmenistan, despite the name. In the evening we will continue by train.
At 8:30 pm we went by bus to the local market. For a while we walked together with Marat for the fabrics stands, but we realised soon that seven persons together was too much and we broke up from the group. The meat market was interesting with a whole dead sheep without skin. They seemed to be less used to tourists there. We strolled around for a while and bought some bread and fruit.
When we had had enough of the market, we went to the Ark to see the archaeological museum. A guy offered to guide us and he was actually good at this and we also enjoyed the museum. Maybe we also would have missed the part upstairs without him. Then we took a second tour without him to take a closer look at some things.
Later when we rested on a bench outside he came back and offered to show us the view over the city from the fortress wall, but when we had come halfway he told us the price of 5000 Som for this. I felt ripped off and insulted by him for this and refused to continue or even listen to him when he lowered to 3000 Som and we immediately left the Ark.
We went slowly back through the souvenir stands in the shadow to Lubiy-Hauz, where we stopped for lunch on a restaurant. I had the best “Plov” so far and Christina ate fried noodles with a fried egg. Then we went back to the hotel, but Christina felt restless and we went out again and then we sat down in the shadow below the trees for a while before we headed back to the hotel. It was very calm and we were only interrupted by some boys, who wanted to talk English with us, but they didn't know much more than "what is your name" etc.
We went back to the hotel to enjoy the air condition for a while before it was time to go down with the luggage and wait for the bus. The railway station is about 25 km from the centre, which felt unusual for me. There were children begging when we went out of the bus and said goodbye to the driver and his co-driver.
The station of Bukhara seemed to have been recently built, as it is very shining. There were several private sellers of drinks and chocolate on the platform. We were there about 45 minutes before the departure at 6:45 pm. We got really nice compartments for two persons, so I assume it was first class. It was quite hot on the train until the air condition started as the train started to roll.
We just ate some fruit and biscuits together with tea, which was served from a samovar in the wagon. When Christina went to brush her teeth, she stopped by one of the compartments, where she for the first time heard Ruben tell bad stories in a funny way, accompanied by local alcohol. Although, she mostly laughed for the way he told the stories, he enjoyed that she laughed more than the guys. We could enjoy a near full moon through the window, before we went to bed. This is probably the most luxurious night train I have experienced myself.
Saturday 17th of September
Tashkent – Fergana: We will take a bus to the Fergana valley. Now we are going through the most fertile region of Uzbekistan, as well as the most populated. There we will see what has made the country known lately, that is the cotton cultivations. Uzbekistan is one of the largest cotton exporters in the world, but as it requires a lot of water, they have been hard on the lakes of the country. Somewhere we will stop by a cotton farm. We will also visit ceramicists in Rishdon, more than 20 km from Fergana.
NOTE! Due to the insecure situation in Uzbekistan, the program has slightly been changed to avoid the Fergana valley. We will instead fly to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. As the Swedish Foreign Department had dissuaded Swedes to go to this area, the travel agencies insurance is void, if they hadn’t followed the advice, even if they thought it to be safe enough.
We had both had quite a good night’s sleep, although we often woke up when it stopped at a station. We were on time 7:10 am, which surprised Christian. A bus was waiting for us outside the Tashkent station. It brought us to a small B&B for breakfast and then we continued to the airport.
We had to wait a while on the small airport, which is smaller than Landvetter in Gothenburg. According to the display we guessed that there are only about 15 international flights per day. About half of them during night time, probably because of cheaper fees when passing air territory of other countries. It wasn’t possible to do a group check in, so Christian checked us in one by one at the counter.
The customs control was surprisingly quick and after three more checks of our boarding cards and one more x-ray, we boarded the small plane of Altin Air (Kyrgyzstan company), which only had 48 seats. We actually took off 12 minutes before 11:55 am, which was the scheduled time. The plane AN24 RV seemed a bit rough with slightly loose seats and there were no security demonstrations. The flight just took over an hour.
We arrived to Bishkek the capital of Kyrgyzstan just after 2 pm local time (GMT+6 due to DST) and the passport control and fetch of luggage was very quick here. The guide, Larissa met us outside. We changed money before we went out to the two minibuses. Porters tried to help us and wanted money for their aid, but Christian refused as he already had said no to them a couple of times.
It is nearly half an hour trip to the centre of this big city with a million of inhabitants. We first checked in at hotel Alpiniste. As the city is situated on only 700 meters over the sea level, the climate is like a really warm summer day. After Christian had handled some affairs with the agent, we went by a bigger bus to the city centre and went off at the president's palace, which also is called the White House. It was here the riot occurred a few months ago, which made the president abdicate. Too many thought he was corrupt and the result was a new election, which went peacefully. We continued along the main street, looking at some monuments. The Lenin statue was removed just after the election, but there is still the statue of the heroine of the people, which symbolized a good worker during the communism era.
The walk ended at the big store Zum. We bought some postcards there, but all the other souvenirs and stuff just made us panic, so we went out and walked slowly back and sat down to rest for a while. Lena A and Inken passed by and we joined them. At a telephone office we tried to phone home. Christina heard the voice of Wilfred, but he apparently didn't hear her voice. After a second try we gave up and went to the large square, where it currently was a beer festival with some modern music on the stage.
Nearby was the restaurant Orient, where we should meet the others. This is the favourite restaurant of Christian in Bishkek. While we were waiting together with Lena A and Inken the other started to drop in, but when all had come we moved inside as some didn't like the music and the pollution from the traffic.
Christian ate together with the agency manager to plan the trip and as we ordered different thing it was chaotic for the waitresses, which Christian said were new for him. When we finally got the main course everyone except one got a cold plate. We ate the food anyway, but they didn't get any tips at all. We were back around 9:30 pm and I packed my bags. Christina didn’t feel well and went directly to bed.
Sunday 18th of September
Fergana – Osh: The Silk Road, wouldn’t be the Silk Road if there weren’t some mulberry trees. Fergana has in all time been famous for its silk and we will visit the largest silk factory of Uzbekistan in Margilan. We will then continue towards Osh in Kyrgyzstan. You have to take into account that the passing of the border will take some time. We will then arrive to the next largest city in Kyrgyzstan during the afternoon.
NOTE! In the changed plan we will fly from Bishkek to Osh and then continue as planned.
The clock rang already 5:30 a.m. Christina also packed her stuff before we had an early breakfast and went to the airport with our bus. When we arrived, the check in hadn't opened yet. The check in became chaotic, as they wanted to weigh all luggage, including the hand luggage and everything above 15 kg together should be paid for. Christina and I were probably the only ones who succeeded to get below this limit. Totally the group had exceeded with 70 kg ā 20 Sum (0,5 USD). We should had left at 8:20 am, but we started to board just after this time. It was fresh on the platform as it was cloudy with some wind. On board a family had taken our places, but they had to move. Aboard it took time to start and they seemed to be counting people, and finally we left, but we never found out what the last problem was. We took off at 9 am. The plane was a Russian TU-134 and much bigger than the one yesterday. We were only served coke or mineral water in a plastic mug plus a small package of biscuits. Now and then we had a good view over the snowy mountains and further southwards the view were over large fields, as the Ferghana valley is the best agricultural area in the region.
At the arrival we first went through the outdoor gates. There we waited until a door opened and we went through it back to the airfield to point out and get our luggage directly at the back of a lorry. It was checked that it corresponded to our tags before we could leave. This is actually more secure than normally on an airport, but not really efficient. We had to split the group in two minibuses, as a big bus never would be able to take us around on the small roads later on. The weather was warm and sunny here in Osh. The city has a big mixture of people, mostly with Kyrgyz, who are of Mongolian origin with a language related to Turkish, but also Tadzhiks, Uzbeks and a lot of minorities.
First we went to the guesthouse Kristal and checked in. As we had had an early breakfast it was decided that we should start with lunch, where we got "lagman” (with noodles), "pilemini" (like ravioli). Christian expressed his relief that there weren't any vegetarians in the group, as it's difficult to get food without meat, except buying it yourself at the market. The people in these countries don’t really understand vegetarians.
Afterwards we took the minibuses up to "Suleiman's too", a small Islamic shrine on the top of a mountain, which the city surrounded. We stopped where the road ended and than continued by feet. Christina avoided the last steep part. I saw some Muslims praying by the path in a small cave. The shrine is very small, but the nearly 360 degree view over the city is brilliant and it was also nice with some wind in the heat. Ruben, Erik and Christian continued to the highest top without stairs, but Ruben soon turned around because the cliffs were a bit to slippery.
When we came back down the museum had opened. It was situated within a cave system, so it was lovely chilly inside. There where some objects, as well as reconstructions of ancient people’s life in the area, although I've seen many better prehistorically exhibitions... On the way back we got in good contact with some locals, which we photographed. Then we went back to the hotel.
Christina and Inken decided to take a rest, but the other of us went to the market, which is among the largest in Central Asia. All things you might need on daily basis seemed to be there. Some of the guys in the group were testing different Kyrgyz hats, which took time so I decided to leave them. Later on I found Anders, whom I walked with during the rest of the market. There were meat, vegetables, fruit, rice, clothes, mats, reparations, pets etc. We chatted with some people with a few words in Russian and gestures, as very few knew any English at all. I was getting thirstier, but avoided the local syrup mixtures and I didn't find water until the end of the market near our guesthouse. Then we had been on the market for nearly 2 hours and the time had just flown away.
Meanwhile Christina had had a good rest. After I had a shower it was time for dinner at the hotel. We just had a soup and Plov. Inken and Anders started some Swedish schnapps songs to the vodka some drank. After dinner we went out for a walk along the quite dark main road. We bought some water, but it was also nice to get some fresh air before it was time to go to sleep. It was pretty dangerous to cross the street in the darkness and we nearly got run over. For the first time we had a few drizzling, but they soon disappeared. After packing and some reading we went to bed.
Monday 19th of September
Osh – Toktogul: In the morning we will visit the enormous bazaar of Osh. The bazaar is one of the largest in the Central Asia. With a rented bus we will travel through the probably most dramatic landscape during the voyage during 3000 km. We will cross the mountain range of Fergana, which is a part of Tienshan. Several passes over 3000 metres will be passed. There are several beautiful lakes along the road, especially the Toktogul lake where we will stay in a simpler hotel during the night.
There was some panicking when we should start as Christian said it probably would be difficult to find water during the next few days, so several of us wanted to buy more mineral water. To quicken this Christian got money and went to buy them himself.
The first part is like the rest of the Ferghana valley, i.e. very fertile with a lot of farming. There were a lot of works to broaden the road, as this is the main road to Bishkek, i.e. between the two largest cities in the country and Bishkek is very dependant of the vegetables from this region. Unfortunately it seemed that they had teared a lot of the road and put on gravel, but very short stretches had got any asphalt yet. This was done by money from an Asian foundation, which Japan sponsored a lot. There was quite a lot of traffic sometimes, but not worse than our drivers often drove on the left side if the road was better there.
Our first stop was the little town of Ozgen, which has a minaret from 11th century and a beautiful mausoleum from the 12th century, a few of the things which remained after Genghis Kahn pillaged this city. The mausoleum is portrayed on the 100 Sum bills.
We stopped to take a photo of a bus stop, which is formed like an open pumpkin. It's common that their bus stops are designed in different ways. We made another stops when our drivers wanted to fill up with diesel. They visually checked the diesel on a couple of stations by putting some in a plastic bottle, before they were content to fill up, including several plastic cans. They sealed the cans by putting some plastics over the hole before they put on the lid!
Several times there were cows or sheep on the road. Often with a man on a horse herding them and of course he carried the typical Kyrgyz hat.
By the Naryn river at Tas-Kömur we made a late lunch stop and on a very tiny road restaurant, we had a delicious trout together with tea and nan-bread. It was getting hot again as usual. The common toilet was a shed down nearby the river. It wasn't the nicest one to visit.
We saw many places where they sold diesel or did vulcanization. I can image that many of the passing cars needed help with this. We made a short photo stop at the Southern part of lake Toktogul in the sunset, before we drove the last part to our hostel, some kilometres North of Toktogul, a town named after a famous Kyrgyz bard. The staff of the hostel had panicked when we arrived so late (about 7:45 pm), so they had rented the reserved rooms in the main building, so all but five of us had to stay in an annexe at least 500 meters up in the small forest behind the hostel. We first had dinner in the main house in a hall, which more looked like a hunting lodge.
Our bedroom was very simple and the shower in the corridor lacked warm water and as it was quite cold for the first time, we weren’t keen on using it. Before we went to bed at 11:30 pm, we spent some time with the other in a common room downstairs. Ruben told another bad story, which Christian translated more vividly to Larissa, who translated it to the drivers in Russian. One of the drivers just commented “That was a long story”.
Tuesday 20th of September
Toktogul – Suu Samyr – Son Kul lake: We will drive another 385 km along more dramatic roads and we will arrive late by another beautiful lake. We will spend the night in a yurta.
We really had slept well, as we had warm blankets and cool rooms. We departed at 8:15 am and today Larissa went with our bus. She told us a lot about the country. It felt like a totally new landscape and we made a lot of photo stops during the day. The fauna contains a lot of trout in the rivers, mountain goats and the rare snow leopard. The landscape contains a lot of snow covered mountains, green and brown hills but also a lot of flat plains. There are many yurtas everywhere. They are selling "koumis", which is fermented mare's milk. Cow shit is dried to become fuel. In some places they also have an old railway wagon in corrugated iron as living quarter. It was slightly chilly with a mix of sun and cloudy weather.
We made a stop at the small village Suusamyr at 2200 meters. It has 6000 inhabitants and the main job is sheep breeding. It was partly destroyed by an earthquake 1992. We took some photos of the villagers. Just outside the village is a memorial over the former house of a local hero called Kasham Kor, who died 1955. He is said to have been 2.30 m height and extremely strong.
We passed along a river, which had a small bridge where cows crossed at that moment. The graveyards we saw along the road are very special with small houses in bricks or clay over the tombs. Some look like yurtas in iron work. The mountains and the hills showed a great variety in colours.
We went through Aral village where we saw many children in school uniform, which still is typical for the rural villages, but doesn't exist in Bishkek. We stopped in Chaek for lunch. Behind that café, there was the least nice toilet shed so far. It smelled quite a lot and as usual just a hole in the ground with planks at both sides to stand on.
After stopping to take photos of one of the remarkable graveyards, we turned into a smaller gravel road. It was in bad shape and once the driver even chose to take a parallel smaller road in the fields. Probably was the road destroyed by the many lorries we met with coal from the coal mine of Kara-Chesi. The mine area is quite broad and is controlled by one person connected to the government. The owner was changed when the regime changed, but the new one is probably as corrupted as the old one. Most is exported to Turkmenistan, so the country must import other kind of energy from Kazakhstan!
The roads were very rough and a few times we passed a river bed. The road uphill had a lot of serpentines and the highest pass was at 3380 meters. It was sunset when we arrived to the yurta camp by the Song Kul lake at 3080 meters. It seemed to be less for tourists here as the yurtas had traditional equipment. We shared yurta with Jan-Olov and Beatrice again. We got a "plov" for dinner before we went to bed already at 9:30 pm, as it was to dark to do anything special. I woke up several times to turn around, as it was quite hard on the ground with just a “shardyk” carpet and a couple of blankets below us. It seemed as we were sleeping in one of the puppets tent, as he came in and warmed up Christina’s feet, which she enjoyed as it was pretty cold.
Wednesday 21st of September
Son Kul lake: You may trek or ride in the area around Son Kul. The mountains are over 3000 metres high and a suitable excursion target is a lake situated on 3500 metres height. You choose yourself what you want to do. We will spend another night in a yurta.
It seemed to have been frost during the night. We went up 7:15, but didn't have breakfast until 9:00 due to a misunderstanding, but it didn't matter, as it still was quite cold outside. It was nice just walking around looking the daily life with the sheep, horses, dogs and donkeys. The family was doing the cooking outside in a simple stove and a kind of samovar for the tea, where they put the wood within. Otherwise they mostly seemed to use dried shit from animals.
Some in the group went riding. Christina had decided to just stroll around and myself, I went with Christian, Lennart and Erik for a few hours walk on the hills to get a nice view over the lake. We started at 10:50 am. I felt the lack of exercise when we climbed the highest part during the walk at 3255 meters, but we rested there for half an hour in the sun. Christian even fell asleep for a while. When we returned we walked beside the neighbouring yurta camp near the lake and continued along the lake. It was too marshy to reach the lake and go for a swim. We were back in time for lunch at 1:20 pm.
During the afternoon we got some extra blankets, as several had complained that they were freezing during the night. They had probably been borrowed from the neighbours. I just wonder if they weren't freezing themselves now. I wrote the last postcards, although they wouldn't be posted until Larissa had returned to Bishkek. It was nearly dark when we had dinner and it was getting cold again. After dinner the mother of the family sang some Kyrgyz songs and her daughter participated in one. The mother was dressed in a traditional dress, where you could see the koumis cup in the embroideries. Lena A said it was 6 degrees outside the yurta now. We sat chatting in the yurta together with Christian until the children cleared the table later on. Still we went early to bed.
Thursday 22nd of September
Son Kul – Tash Rabat: We drive another 150 km and arrive at Tash Rabat, which is a very old caravanserai (caravan stop) within the walls. This Caravanserai is from the 15th century and we stay nearby it.
It had been frost tonight again, but we hadn't frozen except a draught that Christina had felt. She had again been warmed by the puppet dog. After breakfast we took farewell of the family. It was getting warmer again when we departed. After passing the pass we went down about 1000 meters on serpentine roads with trees which looked like cypresses, before we came into a valley. The first village is we passed is the one that the yurta family lives in during the winter. Around it were many people harvesting hay now. Soon we came out on the main road from Bishkek to Naryn, which was in a really bad condition.
Naryn is squeezed in between the mountain ranges, so the city is stretched out. We stopped by an art museum, so we could spend some of our money in their souvenir shop, as this would be the last place and there are no possibilities to change them at the border or in China. Some of us were happy to find a western style toilet in the basement. We had lunch with a new plate called "rouliette". It was chicken meat rolled in an omelette, all filled with cheese and mushrooms. It was even served with mashed potatoes. It was the best meal we had gotten in this country. It was slightly cloudy, but soon it became sunny again when we continued Southwards. We met many lorries on the dusty road, which were leading to the Chinese border. We had about 300 km to drive and we arrived at Tash Rabat around 4:30 pm.
The camp is part of "Shepherd's Life", an organisation founded with aid of Switzerland to promote tourism in yurta camps. We straight away went with one of the buses up to the old caravanserai. It is situated at 3080 meter and was built during the 15th century, but there have been settlements from the 10th century. The building has 30 rooms and was restored 1984, but unfortunately a lot of modern concrete was used. Inside the building there is a well and it is also said to be a secret path to a view point. Outside of the caravanserai on the dome were several goat kids climbing. We went a bit uphill to get a better view over it. On the hillside there were several edelweiss flowers, but they were pretty dry now. We just wished that we could have been there earlier, as this place was worth strolling around for a while and even climb a bit higher to get a better view. Christina wondered if this could have the original path over the pass and we later got confirmed that there is a path, but it could only be used by horses, as there is no real road. On a map you can see that this actually is a shortcut towards the Torugart pass.
Christian had sent away the bus with most of the other after just 20 minutes, but we decided to walk down together with Anders, which also Erik and Christian did later on. In the camp Ruben returned, as he and Larissa had been out riding for a while. I spoke with a group of five Frenchmen. They had planned more or less the same route as we had. We had dinner in the little house, where it was planned that Erik and Anders should sleep. The rest of us were split between a male and a female yurta tonight. After dinner I spoke with one of the daughters of the family. She was studying information technology at the university and she got my email address, as she wanted some photos of Tash Rabat for a tourist project at school. It was extremely dark with shining stars in the sky when I went back. I had to take a step at a time, as Christina had got our only lamp.
When we went to bed Anders arrived to reclaim his bed, as it showed that the family also should sleep in the house. Erik tried to sleep outdoors, as he had a good sleeping bag, but at midnight it became so cold, that he went back to the house.
Friday 23rd of September
Tash Rabat – Kashgar (China): Today will we go through the notorious Torugart pass (3752 metres height), which is the border between Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang (called Sinkiang during the time of Sven Hedin) in China. The road is often considered the most exalting you may travel on in all of Central Asia (at least among the opened ones). Take into account that the border pass may be awkward. We will arrive to Kashgar in the afternoon.
It had definitively been frost tonight, as someone even had seen ice in the brook. We had breakfast already at 6 am to be among the first at the border to China. The landscape was similar to the day before, which was good since after the first checkpoint it was totally forbidden to take any photos. The other minibus got a flat tire and meanwhile two other of the tourist buses passed us. After a few more kilometres we came to the passport and customs control of Kyrgyzstan. We went pretty smoothly through it. There were a lot of overloaded lorries along the road. Many of them carried used iron to melting foundries in China. After another 2-3 km on an even worse road, we eventually reached the border.
At the border through Torugart pass we had to wait until a Chinese bus came and fetched us. There the height was 3750 meters. Most of the other groups were fetched before us, but it was nice and sunny outside so it wasn't a big problem. The view had beautiful mountains on both side of the border. We also got some apples and snacks to "survive". Finally our bus came one hour late. Apparently they had coordinated with another group, which were continuing into Kyrgyzstan and we departed 2:45 Chinese time (GMT+8). We had a temporary guide, as only guides registered in Kashgar were allowed to go to the border and fetch people. Just after the border they made a quick visa control, before we continued on the worst roads so far. Hopefully they will be better as they were doing a lot of road works. At several of the curves, there were signs, which said it was mandatory to hoot. We saw several small villages, cattle and shepherds. All the houses seemed to have been constructed with clay. We drove through a valley with a currently small river beside us.
Tien-Shan is the largest autonomic province in China and it has been occupied in the same manner as Tibet. Actually this is the former country of East Turkmenistan. Taklamakan is the next largest desert in the world after Sahara. The surface of the province is about 4 times the one of Sweden and it is inhabited by many minority people.
The weather changed from sun to clouds and then to rain. After two hours we finally reached the real border and customs control at 5:30 pm. We had to fill in a health declaration and then customs officer came and checked us with a strange device. It was like a red light they pointed towards our foreheads and we guessed that they were checking if we had fever. Nobody of us had seen such a device before. It took about an hour before everybody was through the passport and luggage control and there were just a few of us who got questions about the luggage and none were searched, so it went smoothly.
Several people outside wanted to change money but were refused on recommendation by Christian. We drove soon through a small town, where the houses looked as they were of better standard. We also saw many people using bicycles here. We went through much more forest now. Kashgar has 330000 inhabitants and agriculture is the most important occupation here. The city has the biggest market in Central Asia and it has existed for about 2000 years on the same place. 50% of the citizens are employed by the government and about 5% are out of work. The roads are of high standard and the city seemed to be quite modern when we entered it.
We checked in at hotel Qinibagh, which seemed to be a big tourist hotel and the Chinese tourist bureau CITS is just beside it. It was nice to have the first shower in 4 days and then we went to a really good restaurant beside the hotel. Our guide Zhao Ben had finally joined us. He nowadays lives a large part of his time in Canada, but he still is a Beijing registered guide and has an apartment there. Before we went to bed Christina rang home to her son from the entrance floor. It turned out to be pretty cheap, even to a mobile phone. We had a couple of strange calls from a woman who spoke Chinese on our room phone during the evening before we went to bed, but we assumed someone had called the wrong room, as she didn’t understand English.
Saturday 24th of September
Kashgar: Kashgar is another real classic town along the Silk Road. On the road to Dunhuang and Xian, it was here the travellers had to choose whether they should take South or North of the enormous Taklamakan desert, which extends from this place. We will do sightseeing by feet in the old town of Kashgar and we will se the enormous mosque Id Kah, which may contain up to 20000 visitors in the inner court. We will also visit the tomb of Abakh Hoja, which is the best preserved architecture of Kashgar. Typically Kashgar also has one of the largest preserved statues of Mao, in the middle of the modern part of the town.
We didn't wake up until 9:30 am, but it felt early due to the fact that all of China has the same time zone, which gives dark mornings, but daylight until late in the evenings. We took a walk around the quarter and noticed that a lot of old poor areas still existed and it was just along the main road everything seemed to be modern. Here the streets are quite busy, but the people were very friendly and curious. We bought fresh bread at a bakery to start the day with. We noticed that most were written with both Chinese signs and Arabic script. Back at the hotel we made a short sightseeing to the ancient British consulate behind the hotel. The consulate was built 1908 during the time MacCartney as a governor here.
At noon we had a combined breakfast and lunch before it was time for sightseeing. After the meal some went up to their rooms. We started at the consulate and when we came back to then entrance Ben still hadn't popped up. He had said to Christian that he only should fetch a friend. After 20 minutes Christian decided that we should go without him, as he couldn’t be reached on his mobile phone.
We first saw a part of the old city wall, which is very thick and built of bricks and clay and it is at least 500 years. We walked into the remains of the old city. Many doors are remarkable decorative. Out on the main street was the commerce very lively with everything you might need. Here Ben and his female friend Liang Jin joined us. We wanted to enter the Id Kah mosque, which was built 1442, but it was currently praying time.
We continued along another commercial street, which also had plenty of blacksmiths. We also saw some bird cages containing birds. At People's square there is a big statue of Mao Zedong and there were some celebrations of the province occupation, as its current government is 50 year next year. Back at the mosque we could enter it, but some of us had first to cover arms and legs.
After the mosque we took four taxis and went to Abakh Hoja tomb, which was built 1640. It's also called the Fragrant Concubine’s tomb. It contains 72 members of the royal family from five generations. It's compared to Taj Mahal, which I would say is a big exaggeration. I would have preferred if it had been in the original version before the restoration, when they introduced a lot of colours. There was also a "tourist camel" in the garden, for those who wanted to take a photo with the tomb in the background. We had just started what Christina jokingly later called “a study in Chinese tourism”! You can see similarities to how Japanese tourism works.
Afterwards we went to a museum just beside, which is called "The Cultural Relic Exhibition of Appak Hoja's tomb", which is small but contained a mummy which has well-preserved clothes, which fascinated Christina a lot, as well as two elder silk dresses. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos and we couldn't find any pictures of it. The mummy has been found in the Taklamakan desert.
We took a taxi to the hotel for an hours rest before we walked to the centre again to find a restaurant for the dinner. We saw several beggars along a street, which surprised us a bit. When we had eaten we went out in the wrong direction and didn't notice it. Someone had set up a shooting place at the pavement and four of us guys tried it and succeeded 10 out of 10 all of us. When we came to a big commercial square we realised that we must have gone the wrong way, but most of us thought it as a bonus to see some more of the evening life. We went back and took the correct way to get a night photo of the mosque. Back at the hotel we went to the consulate behind the hotel to have something to drink before it was bedtime.
Sunday 25th of September
Kashgar – Urumqi: Today is the large Sunday market, one of the highlights of the voyage! It’s apparent that Kashgar in all times has been a meeting point for different people in the region. Normally there are near 50000 people who come here and you will meet Tadjiks, Kazaks, Uygures and many other people. All of the city become a big market place, but maybe is the cattle market the most enticing. Here you will see men test riding horses, checking the teeth quality of sheep. Our train will depart at 4 pm from Kashgar to Urumqi and the voyage will take 24 hours.
We departed at 8:45 by taxis to the cattle market, so we should be there before most other tourists. As people and their animals were just arriving, we ate some bread with tea as a small breakfast. It was fun to see all cattle, sheep, donkeys and other animals, which were bought, sold, herded or loaded on lorries. Apparently the market had been well promoted, and soon we could see tourists being herded with flags in the area. We had fun watching a sheep herd passing a lorry. It was difficult to get the panicking sheep to go the correct way.
With taxis we went to the other big market near the centre. Christina was most fascinated with the many kinds of fabrics in all colours. Neither of us had ever seen so much fabric at the same place. The market had of course all kinds of stuff like fruit, meat, vegetables, tools, chests etc plus several kinds of food stands. One of the fun places was the parking place for donkeys with their carts. We stumbled upon Anders when we had seen the most and we went back together in a taxi to the hotel.
We had lunch at the hotel, where we heard a lot of firework outside the hotel entrance. It turned out to be for a marriage at the hotel. At 3:45 pm we went by bus to the railway station, which is quite far from the centre. The train departed at 4:49 pm according to the schedule. We had a clean and nice hard sleeper wagon, which meant that we had no doors on the compartments. The compartments had two bunk beds on each side. We shared our compartment with Lena G and Inga-Lill.
First we passed quite a lot of trees, probably poplar and there were also some fruit trees. Then it became more and more a gravel desert with turfs of something green. They had tried to plant something to bind the sand around the railway. Along one of the sides we most of the time had a mountain range, while the other side mostly was bare with some cliffs or smaller mountains now and then. We just had an instant noodle soup bought on the station plus apples and biscuits. Hot water is available in the train for free. We sat chatting in a compartment until around 11 pm. Christian, Anders and I also chatted with a Japanese guide, who had to check the compartments of her group every time there was a stop at a station during the night, as the compartments were open. Christian had many times pointed out that the security of our valuables, especially passports and tickets was a responsibility for everyone, but apparently this guide together with her Chinese local guide had much more responsibility. We also noticed the next day that they must have checked in their luggage, as they only carried a small packing when they disembarked the train at the same station as us.
Monday 26th of September
Urumqi – Turpan: After the arrival to Urumqi, we will continue directly to Turpan, which is another 3 hours away. We will arrive in the evening.
We went up just before 8 am and had breakfast in the restaurant wagon in two shifts, as we wanted someone to look after the luggage. The noodle soup had a very strong taste of coriander and I decided that I don’t like this spice. We also had 6 types of pickled vegetables and a boiled egg.
We continued on the winding railway. Several times we saw it in the other direction, so I suspect it was that they wanted to avoid too steep slopes and sometimes a river which might flooding when its high water. We mostly saw dark gravel and mountain ranges far away and a few buildings here and there made of clay and many partly destroyed. We went out at the platform for a few minutes, when the train stopped in Yurgol, 798 meters over the sea level. It looked fun when all wagon stewardesses stood outside their wagon looking in the same direction.
We arrived at Daheyan around 1:30 pm, as the train went directly there without train changes. Two minibuses were awaiting us there and took us the 55 km to the oasis of Turpan. The roads had 2 lanes in each direction and were fully separated for each direction. As they also are straight and in perfect new shape it took only about 45 minutes to reach our Tulufan Jinxin hotel The only text we found in English was that it is “designated to foreign visitors”. Everything else is written in Chinese!
After check in we made a short walk to a restaurant nearby for a late lunch. Most of the plates today were pretty spicy, which wasn't to everyone’s liking, but I enjoyed it. Afterwards we had couple of hours to rest and take a shower before we met again at 6:30 pm. Lena G felt so bad so she chose to stay in her bed and Ben should fix some noodle soup for her, so she got at least some nutrition.
All the other of us went to "people's park" where we sat and looked at children in different ages rehearsing dances for the 50 year celebration of the Chinese occupation of Tien-Shan. When Ben caught up with us, we continued through the park to a long marble set road covered with grapevines. It looked really cool. Christian thought it looked beautiful too, but he had a memory of a dirt road like those in the old town of Kashgar and the night food market beside it. In general the town seemed to be very modern in its style.
We walked to the other end of it to a hotel, where some in the group bought tickets for a folklore show the next evening. At the end of the road we also saw that some of the old town remained, as people seemed to live much simpler beside a dirt road here. It was getting dark when we sat down at a small restaurant for something to drink. Later we also ordered some dumplings, as all of us still were quite filled up. This must have been the cheapest dinner on the trip, as it summed up to less than one USD per person!
We went back through the park and continued by the nightly food market, which could have been a good place to eat at and then we continued to our hotel. It was really lit by neon lights now. Christina and I sat in the reception for a while and wondered why there were so many smoking and drunk Chinese guys around. When we went up, we met Christian who was on his way out to get some water to Lena G, who still felt quite weak. He mentioned that he was sure that the first floor was used as a brothel. It explained both the Chinese men’s behaviour, as well as a woman we had seen just when we went out of the hotel earlier. When turned up to the stairs, we saw into a large room, where there seemed to be several woman sitting on a sofa, but one actually lay down embracing a big teddy bear. This more or less confirmed what Christian had said. We went to bed around 11 pm. Two times a Chinese woman was calling and woke us. When we spoke with Erik in the morning the day after, we realised that it was someone at the brothel offering their services. Erik had heard the word massage in the otherwise incomprehensible call. We also realised that the two phone calls at the Qinibagh hotel also were about the same thing. We had actually seen the massage entrance at the hotel and joked about it then.
Tuesday 27th of September
Turpan: Turpan is a real oasis along the old Silk Road. With all its beautiful frescoes, desert landscape and grape creepers is it probably the nicest town in Xingjian. The town is nice, but its main attractions are a bit further outside the town. Today will we spend all day for sightseeing in the old own of ruins called Gaochang, which earlier was the capital for the Uyghurs, when they moved here from Mongolia in the 9th century. We will visit an old place of tombs nearby the capital with old mural paintings, as well as the Buddhist cave paintings of Bezeklik, which is a small taste of what you will see in Dun Huang. Along the road to the cave paintings, we will pass the “Flaming Mountains”, which are sandstone mountains in a very reddish colour, which make them look like they are on fire.
The breakfast was the worst ever with one fried egg and white bread plus tea. I can understand that Christian wanted to avoid include it in China. When we came down from our room after breakfast we saw a man in company with a young woman in a red dress having keys hanging from her armpit, something I noticed on another woman yesterday. We saw the man go into a police car and drive away when we sat in the bus and soon another police car arrived. We wondered if the policemen got something for free at the massage institute or if they even got part of the gains from the business to keep away. Who knows? We also later got to see that you could rent the rooms per hour at this hotel!
Lena G was quite bad now with fever around 40 degrees, so Christian decided to stay in town and check her every second hour or so, if she needed to go to hospital. Inken had also checked her, as she is a retired doctor. So Ben went with us alone a bit late to the "flaming mountains". They are situated a bit outside, Eastward of the oasis. We were stopped as a company of soldiers were running over the road. Ben had just taught us the phrases for “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye” in Chinese and Inken took the chance to praise the lovely small boys and loudly use the new phrases when they passed and we rolled over of laugh, except for Ben who didn't seem to understand anything and the lesson was suddenly ended. In the suburbs of Turpan we could see that there are many old shabby houses left, although they have been removed from the centre.
We saw one of the many of refineries and several oil pumps a few kilometres outside the town. The strangest thing we saw were thousands of houses a few more kilometres outside the town, which nobody ever had moved into The driver said that they had been built by the government, but nobody wanted to live there.
We stopped by a tourist centre for the "Flaming Mountains", which is a dreadful tourist trap, and we understood it was especially built for Chinese tourists, as everything was written in Chinese. One episode from the story of “the Monkey King” happened here, so they had made a relief of the story in an underground museum. There is also a model of the mountains with important places marked and a museum about the European discoverers and archaeologists like Sven Hedin and Albert Stein. A young woman told us some about it translated by Ben, but it wasn't really informative. Next place was an immense souvenir shop to pass before we went out beside a big thermometer. Nearby here is the hottest place in the word measured at 82 degrees Celsius. We had to go up at touristy place with camels and a few more sellers and had to walk a bit towards the mountains to get good pictures of it, but it was getting a bit late in the morning to take good photos. It is said to be better at the sunset anyway and we could just as well have made a short photo stop anywhere along the road.
Next stop was at Gaochang, which was an important city of the Uyghars during 80 to 1250 AD. It was their capital and built of clay with an enormous wall around it. The town is about 2 km long. Outside there are plenty of souvenir stands, but we went directly in. Some of us decided it was best to take a donkey cart to the other end on a dusty sand road. We first investigated the old temple before we slowly walked back. Most of the city is in ruins. It's a really fascinating place, but you must imagine how it was. Outside we bought some booklets and when we wanted to buy drinks they tried to insult us to pay double price of it, but they soon realised that it was of no use.
We continued to Beziklik in the middle of the mountain range to see the Buddha caves with frescoes, although Albert von le Coq removed a lot of them. Six of the caves were opened. Of the total of 83 caves are only 40 of them open to the public. I was glad that we had got 45 minutes there and I could probably been there for longer time.
It was time to go back to Turpan for lunch, which we had at the same restaurant as yesterday. They had really good food, but slightly too hot for some persons. Christian joined us at the end. We had a short stop at our room.
Christian went with us by the bus to the Emin minaret. It is 37 meters high with a base of 10 meters. It was built 1777-1778. It is a lovely place to just stroll around. Around the area we saw several of the typical houses to dry grapes in. We continued to another part of the town, where we could see how the irrigation system works. Through underground passages are the water led from the mountains to Turpan, which has been done for 3-400 years. This place is called Ayskar Haji Karez and is a good demonstration of how it works with models and one used channel. You just had to avoid all the souvenir shops, but still it was worth a visit. But as too often Ben had misunderstood where we should have gone, as Christians intention was to go to one of he sources of the water and not to the end.
Back at the hotel we had some time to remove the desert dust. It was a free evening for everyone and some in the group went to the folklore show, which they later said they appreciated very much. We went with Ruben and Christian to the night market after 8 pm to get something to eat. It was getting dark when we arrived. Most of the people there were Uyghars and their food is slightly different. First we had a kilo of chopped lamb meat, which he just chopped with bones and all after it had been grilled. It was served with a delicious spice mix. We also bought spicy skewers, which made a woman angry at us, as she was a partner of the table we sat at and we had bought them elsewhere. The guy with the lamb meat calmed her down and Christian and Ruben bought from her later on. We also bought some dumplings in another stand. We sat there chatting until around 11 pm and then we went playing pool outdoors. The pool board had a slight slope towards one end. We were apparently the attraction of the day and many of the locals were curious too look at us when we were playing. We played three games until 2 pm plus that Christian squeezed in two games with locals on another table at the same time. At the way home we bought some noodles for breakfast plus cookies and a bottle of wine for the train. We wasn't in bed until 2:30 am.
Wednesday 28th of September
Turpan – Dunhuang: A day to take it easy in Turpan. Around midnight we will take a bus to Daheyan for 90 minutes, and there we will continue another 12 hours to Dun Huang.
This was a free day in Turpan, but we had decided to go Jiaohe (also called Yarkhoto) together with Christian. But the other Lena had also become ill during the night and Christian decided to postpone the trip until noon, so we got a couple of extra hours sleep. When most of us checked out before noon, there was a lot of chaos as they wanted to get paid for towels, which were extremely dirty and a pillow cover, on which it was some nose blood. Christian took care of it, although it seemed crazy, not least the prices, as it was more than for new towels.
At noon we first put our luggage in the room of Lena G and Inga-Lill and then went by taxi together with Christian, Anders, Jan-Olov and Beatrice to Jiaohe. This name means "confluence of two rivers", as this old city is situated on a 1650 meters x 30 meters plateau between 2 rivers. It was active from 108 BC to the 14th century. It is much better preserved than Gaochang and you can easily see the streets as well as the houses. Among the buildings there are some watch towers, a monastery, a pagoda and several stupas, but only one was still quite high. Some drizzling fell when we were there and later it went over to a light rain, but it was immediately soaked up by the dry sand ground. We stayed there one and a half hour before it was time to go back home with our taxi drivers.
Back at the hotel Christian continued to Gaochang with one of the taxis, while the other of us went to the same restaurant as the day before, to get some lunch. Erik was already there eating. It was difficult to get what we wanted or even to know what we wanted, but finally we succeeded to get something to eat. Meanwhile Lena A and Inken had joined us.
After lunch Christina and I went to the museum of Turpan, which is situated just a block from the hotel. First we wondered what kind of museum this was, as we only saw a two storey exhibition of dinosaur skeletons and images, as something for children. But then we found a big exhibition of mummies from the province. Some had well-preserved clothes and two of the mummies had even the skin preserved in a very leathery form. As usual all information was in Chinese and the only thing we could interpret was if they were males or females. There was also a big room with objects from Gaochang and other excavations, which were interesting to look at. Christina found an interesting but expensive book, so we had to find a bank to change money first. It seemed as Bank of China was the only to do it. By asking we finally found out which queue to use, as nothing was marked in Latin letters.
We went back to the hotel and sat reading in the reception for the last two hours before we fetched our luggage and went by bus to the train station of Daheyan. Christian paid 5 yuan extra per person so we could wait in the first class waiting room, as those sitting there would go out to the platform before the rest of the passengers. The reason was that he still only had a faxed copy of the tickets and an agent from the tourist office in Urumqi (starting place for the night train) should come with the train and he had 10 minutes to handover the tickets and then we could board the train with our luggage. We shared the soft sleeper compartment with Ben and his friend Liang Jin, who actually could speak some English, but she was a bit shy to try it. She had recently started to teach Chinese art in Minneapolis, so we wondered how she managed this, but it was part of a summer camp where Americans learned Chinese.
The train departed around 6 pm and we spent some time in the compartment of the guys. They had bought some really awful Chinese liquor to test and we had a bottle of local Turpan wine called "camel bell" with a label, which was lovelier than the wine. Those in the compartment were tired, so Christian and Ruben came into our compartment for a while before we went to bed 11:30 pm.
Thursday 29th of September
Dun Huang: We will arrive in the middle of the day to Liuyuan, from where we will continue by bus another 2.5 hours to Dun Huang. Along the road we will pass ruins, which are earlier versions of the Chinese Great Wall. We will drive to the enormous sand dunes, which are just outside the town. Here you will see another type of desert than you’ve seen earlier during the voyage. It’s cool to walk up on the high sand dunes and look down on the Half Moon lake, which is in the middle of the dunes.
We had slept unusually well when we arrived to Liuyuan around 9 am. It was quite chilly, but sunny when we entered the bus to Dun Huang. The local guide Lily met us. She could speak quite good English, but she spoke so quickly that it made her difficult to understand. Christian and Ben fixed water, muffins and biscuits for breakfast before we continued on the worst road we had travelled on. It was really tiresome, as the driver kept quite a high speed on this very bumpy asphalt road. We made a photo stop beside a piece of the old Great Wall, made of clay. It was quite a bit to walk, so it took over half an hour. Totally the 130 km took 2 hours except for the long photo stop.
Dun Huang is within the Guochang province and has a population of 108 000 and about 61 000 are living in the town. Most people are working with agriculture and cotton is the main crop, but we never understood how they could get enough water for this in an oasis. Before 1979 this was merely a big village, before the government decided to build up a modern town and forced many to migrate to this place.
We checked in at Yang Guan hotel in central Dun Huang. It was a real chaos, as several rooms still wasn't cleaned, which the staff blamed upon that we were early. But in several rooms either the toilet or the shower was broken. Later on we and two other had the toilet lid or ring broken without any real carelessness except maybe a few more kilos more than an ordinary Chinese person. Our shower didn’t give any warm water except when it flowed along the water pipe.
We first had lunch at the hotel, which wasn't as tasteful as we were used to. As Christian and Ben were going to bring Lena G to a hospital, Lily went with the rest of us on a minor guided tour to the market. Christina decided to stay at home to rest, as she felt tired. It was nice to see the vegetable, fruit and meat market plus the big food court, but then I decided to go by myself for a while. One street seemed to only contain souvenirs, but they were apparently for the Chinese tourists rather than for Europeans. Another street seemed to be filled with shops for mobile phones.
At 4:30 pm we all went by bus to the sand dunes of Minsh outside the town. For the first time we saw a sand desert. It was a hefty entrance fee of 80 Yuan and it looked more like an amusement park than a nature reserve. It felt mostly like an interesting study in Chinese tourism, as there were plenty of them everywhere. I together with Erik, Ruben and Lennart went to walk on the edge of the dune. I thought it enough going from 1160 to 1260 meters height. Lennart turned down there and the other two had long time ago continued much higher. I continued down on another edge, before I decided to descend diagonally on a steep sand slope down to the area of the Crescent Moon Lake. This is only is a stinking small pond beside a minor temple. I strolled around the area and looked at Chinese and Japanese tourists taking photos beside the pond, walking up on stairs and going down on wooden boards, hang gliding, and of course riding one of the over 200 tourist camels. The Japanese seemed always to carry a mouth protection, especially when they were riding. I walked slowly back the 1200 meters to the entrance after having made a quick look around the temple beside the pond.
Christina and a couple of the others had taken the motorized wagon to the pond, as Lily had said that it was 3 km to walk, but she hadn't said it was both ways, so they were surprised that they already had arrived after passing a single dune. She had pointed out the lake and they had decided to take the opposite direction, which made her sour. Christina had laughed all he way back just thinking of how the tourism worked here.
Anders and Per had taken the one hour trip on camels up to one of the sand dunes. They had also climbed the stairs of another dune, as the Chinese tourists in their caravan had decided to stay there for a while. Anders had also tried to go down on one of the wooden boards for a cost of 5 Yuan.
When I was back, Christian, Inken and Inga-Lill had arrived from the hospital and they had been there for a while. Lily tried to convince some to go to a carpet demonstration, but Christian decided that there was no time and only two persons were interested anyway. We went back to the hotel to change shoes and then we took the bus to another restaurant. It was definitively better than the one at the hotel. We tried a speciality for the region, where they mixed the meat with hot stones to cook it beside our table. When we were finished we were the last guests and nobody in the staff were allowed to leave until every guest had finished, so we could see how they closed down really quickly after us. It was quite cold when we came back before 11 pm.
Friday 30th of September
Dun Huang: This is probably the place, which summarises the Silk Road in the best way. On the way to or from Xian, everyone stopped here to choose either the Northern or Southern route of the Taklamakan desert. The routes were then reunited in Kashgar. When Sir Auriel Stein found the hidden caves year 1900, he must have been incredibly impressed. He not only found the many caves with Buddhist mural paintings from 3rd to the 13th century, but also manuscripts in 17 different languages. Some of the languages are extinct today, so the treasuries are impossible to value. To visit the caves with the mural paintings is like walking in a fantastic art museum. The colours are incredibly well-preserved and the fantasy richness is total. Here you also will see the extent of the Silk Road, as you may trace influence from Tibet, India, Persia and even Roman.
The breakfast at the hotel was quite awful. Most only ate a boiled egg and a dough bun plus some rice soup. The tea wasn’t even warm. The pickled vegetables were not really popular. Christian arrived from the hospital where he had slept in a chair beside Lena. He had been relieved by Ben again. At 8:30 it was departure time to the Magao caves. It was quite cloudy and chilly when we left, but it would be sunny soon again.
Our English speaking guide was called Mary and she had studied history and Buddhism for several years at the university, so this turned out to be the absolutely best guiding so far. She had made a good selection of 10 caves to show us and had a lot to tell about each of them. We had low expectations after the last places we had visited in China, but this was a really great experience. Many of the caves are still in a good shape, even if just a few of then had been restored. The caves are from three different periods. The early caves are from the 4th to 6th century having Indian influence. The ones from 7th to 9th century are from the high Tang period and the late ones from 10th to 11th century have Tibetan influence. We also saw the cave where most of the manuscripts were founds. In cave 96 is the 5th largest Buddha in the world. It is 35 meters high. Although it was forbidden to take photos, we saw several Japanese tourists taking pictures with a mobile phone. The Buddha was in open air until 1928, when the government decided to protect it with a roof and a wall. In most caves there are a few Buddha statues, but the paintings on the walls and on the ceiling are really gorgeous. Of the 492 caves are only about 20 opened for the public. We visited the caves numbered 94, 96, 172, 148,130, 249, 428, 23, 17 and 16.
Outside the cave we saw an exhibition of some findings plus a copy of a few caves. I went back and took a few photos of the outside of the opened caves and met the Frenchmen from the Turpan station and spoke with them before I had to hurry back to the bus. We also made a short stop to take a photo of some caves along the road, which aren’t available to visit.
Halfway to town, we also stopped to take a photo of contemporary tombs, which are in the middle of the gravel desert. We went to another restaurant, which had specialised in a so called hotpot and smiling dumplings. We had a boiling pot in the middle of the table with one part of spicy soup and the other one non-spicy. A servant woman put in vegetables, dumplings and meat to be cooked in the different parts and then served us it when it was finished. It was a nice variety, but not a gourmet lunch, as the food mostly tasted of the soup. That is it was either very spicy or tasted nothing.
We went back to the hotel. Some in the group took the possibility to go by taxi to the carpet factory. We decided to rest a while and then we took a walk on the market, as Christina hadn't been there yet. Christian had to arrange a few things at the hospital, so we didn’t have dinner until 8:30 pm at a nearby restaurant. Afterwards we bought something to eat for lunch tomorrow. Due to logistics problem, we had to see the terracotta army immediately after arriving to Xian. We packed and went to bed after 11 pm.
Saturday 1st of October
Dun Huang – Xian: A flight to Xian in the morning. After check-in at the hotel, we may familiarise ourselves with Xian, the classical capital of China. The city was capital for over 1000 years and was a model to build Kyoto, Nara and several other Asian cities. The first day, we will mainly look around within the city walls. We will visit the city gate and walk a bit on the wall. The area around the mosque has been restored and is very beautiful today. We will also visit the large Wild Goose Pagoda, which is a very important temple. It was to this temple Xuan Zang returned after he had walked to India and return with holy Buddhist scripts. His translations were a base for the spread of the Buddhism in China and became a school of its own. You may read about his travels in the book “The Voyage Westwards” or as it’s also known as “the Monkey King”, which is a classical book about the Silk Road. Xian is transferred to a large market during the evenings. There are plenty of small kitchens along the streets. Xian is also known for its “jiaozi”, which are small Chinese bundles of dough.
Even if we went by a morning plane, we had the standard times of 7:30 for breakfast and 8:30 for departure. It was a short trip to the airport and the check-in was quick. The flight departed at 10 pm and should take 2 hours. We got a fairly good lunch at the flight, although Christian didn’t dare to promise it beforehand. We arrived on time around 12:30 and a wheel chair met Lena and an English speaking woman took her to the hospital. The rain was pouring down outside when we lifted our luggage into the bus. The driver seemed to be afraid of rain, so he just opened the luggage compartment for us and then he took cover in the bus instead of helping us.
It took over an hour before we arrived at the terracotta army exhibition at 2:30 pm. It seemed to rain even more now and Christian went out with Ben buying tickets and as it was quite a long walk, he was soaking wet when he returned. He decided to buy cheap umbrellas to all who didn’t have one and it also was a good way to keep away all other Chinese with umbrellas. I also soon found out it was a good way to keep the thousands of souvenir sellers away! In many places the water floated like a small river with 2-3 cm water, so I was happy being barefoot in sandals and having shorts, as it was around 20 degrees, so I didn't freeze. Halfway we took an electric car, to save our feet and getting less wet.
For the seven of us who liked guided tours Christian fixed one called miss Wang. She spoke unusually good English, but quite fast and she knew her subject, so we were content with her. First we were in an exhibition hall to see a couple of water geese in bronze, but also two bronze chariots. The first one was equipped to protect the second one with crossbows and arrows. We wondered when they started to use the crossbow in China, as this wasn't used in Europe until more than 1000 years later.
The creator of the terracotta army was first emperor called Qin Qi Huan, who lived for 49 year. He is also known for being the one who unified China with a common currency and the signs, which are common for all dialects in Chinese. But he is also known for burning books and sending people to working camps. The first area with terracotta soldiers was found by a farmer 1974, when he was digging for a well. The second was found 1976 nearby. There are about 8000 warriors and horses found in an area of 22 000 square meters. They had bright colours, but all has mostly faded away. They were standing under a roof with bronze weapons in their hand. An interesting thing is that the weak bronze edges of the weapons were strengthened with an alloy, which wasn't used by Europeans until the 20th century. It took 700 000 people 38 years to build it and the average size of the statues is 1.80 metres. A later emperor broke into the tomb and destroyed most of the statues, so they have been restored from these fragments.
We started with the first found pit, where quite a lot of statues are restored now. Unfortunately you can’t come close to them, probably as many people are using flash, even if that is forbidden. We thought it was many people here today, but the guide said it would be three times as many tomorrow... On the way to the second pit we tried to avoid the souvenir shop the guide forced us into, but she still tried to sell books and other stuff. In the second pit you can see quite a lot of the roofs. We were back at the entrance at 4:40 as agreed, even if it had been quite in a hurry. Now we just had to force our way through all souvenir stands towards the bus. The umbrella was a good protection and you could only imagine how it could be a sunny day…
The highways around Xian are well marked in Latin letters as well as in Chinese and there are several toll fees along the road. Around 6 pm we arrived at Jiefang hotel, just beside the railway station and the city wall.
After check in, we all walked quickly to a hotpot restaurant, called “2068”, to have dinner. It was a really modern part we passed through with many shops. Here it was mainly grocery stores, probably because of the nearby railway station. Although this hotpot restaurant had self service, one of the young servants helped us a lot to fish up the cooked food, which we apparently had problems with. When we walked back the rain had ceased for a while. We could also observe that they had good fire exits and even fire alarms in the room, so the hotel has a relatively high standard. It was slightly noisy from the street of cars and loudspeaker from the railway station. After getting a long shower in hot water again, we went to bed around 11 pm.
Sunday 2nd of October
Xian – Beijing: Early in the morning we will travel to the terracotta army of the old emperor Qin. This will take most time of the day. There are several excavation sites and you may look at films about how the army was found during the 70ths and how the excavations were done. In the afternoon there will be spare time to stroll around in the streets of Xian. Maybe you will visit the provincial museum of Shaanxi, which probably has the best treasures of Chinese objects from this era. We will take an evening train to Beijing.
We had a long night sleeping in hard beds before we left the luggage in the room of Christian just before 10 am. We ate breakfast in a small self-service restaurant connected to the hotel with a corridor smelling awfully. This city has had rain for the 11th day in a row.
Ben tried to arrange taxis outside, but all the drivers refused to take anyone except if you wanted to go to the terracotta army, even if you paid a higher price. Therefore we had to go out in the rain and find taxis at a nearby taxi station. They seemed to use taximeters in this city. We were supposed to go to the Wild Goose Pagoda in four taxis, so we were surprised to see Ruben crossing the street near the pagoda and our taxi continued to the other side, but it turned out that their taxi that had driven to the wrong place. Christian had to go and fetch them.
The pagoda has a lot of interesting carvings in both colourful stones and wood, plus it is also an active Buddha temple, so we saw several monks around. Some Chineese burnt incense. Nobody in our group wanted to climb up in the 65 meter high stupa originally build 652 AD. We must have been there over an hour, jumping in and out of the rain.
Inken and Lena went back to the hotel and Christian and Inga-Lill went to the hospital, while the rest of us continued by taxi to the bell and drum towers nearby the city wall. There we first went to eat at Defachang restaurant, which was established already 1936. We were all convinced that this was one of the top restaurants we had visited during the trip. The bottom floor had a simpler touch, but the upper floor had more class and of course more tourists. It is situated just a few meters from the bell tower.
After lunch we walked to see the two towers and then we walked back mostly along the outer part of the city wall, but it felt quite far in the rain. We just had time to buy a few things in a grocery store before we went get our luggage. Christian and Inga-Lill came just after us and it had been decided that Lena needed treatment for at least 10 days. She had become worse of the strain being up and walking during the travel to Xian.
As we stayed nearby the railway station, we just had to walk to the train, which departed just after 6 pm. This was a hard sleeper wagon with six beds in each open compartment. You could see many feet sticking out in the corridor while sleeping. We got in good contact with a couple of families from Xian, who was going on holiday in Beijing. It was the Chinese national day the day before and most people have a week holiday now, as well as they have at the Chinese New Year. Liang Jin helped us translate for a while and we had English lessons with the boys, and they seemed to know quite a lot of words even if they only were 7 -8 years old. The grandmother seemed to at least speak a few words in English. At 10 pm they turned off the light off and we sat chatting with Christian for a while before we also went to bed. These were quite uncomfortable and I woke up several times during the night.
Monday 3rd of October
Beijing: We will arrive in the morning. After check-in at the hotel, we will make sightseeing in the city to the “Tian’men”, which leads us to the “Forbidden City”. Here you may spend several hours if you wish. The guide will make a short introduction to the palace of the emperor. If you want to spend more time, we will recommend that you hire a portable guide with Roger Moore as a guide.
We arrived on time at 6:00 am and took taxis to the Jing Du Yuan hotel, which was a bit outside the centre of Beijing. Three of the taxis managed to go in a caravan and went first to the wrong hotel and there were some confusion before they found the right one. We got breakfast at the hotel, but couldn't check in before noon, so we took taxis to "The temple of Heaven" park, which is one of Christian’s favourite places in Beijing. There are everyday plenty of people playing double handed badminton, feather ball, doing tai chi and qigong and stretching themselves. It was really fascinating to walk around just looking at them in the sunshine. There were also several people who had brought their birds in cages to the park and let them sing together with other birds. We also heard a man singing to himself and he did it well.
After the park we walked 3-4 km to a shopping area with antiquities. Ben went with Christina, myself, Inga-Lill, Lena and Inken to another area where we bought silk fabrics. We were a bit late, so we took cycle taxis back to the meeting point for lunch. As every restaurant seemed to be occupied, by Chinese tourists, so we had to wait for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile Christina and I went looking into some of the souvenir shops. The sellers outside was a bit forceful, but we ignored them.
After a god lunch we went with Christian, Ben, Lennart, Per and Ruben to the Forbidden City. It seemed as all Chinese people had gathered there today. We five entered and I strolled around with Christina. Even if I had been here 20 years ago, it was like a new experience. First of all there were much more people, but also more colours than I could remember, as they had restored quite a lot. Also you couldn’t enter any of the halls nowadays, so we had to take a look from outside into the throne rooms etc. The area is so immense, so even with so many tourists you can find less crowded spots. We walked around for nearly 2 hours, before guards with megaphones wanted us to leave as they were closing down at 5 pm.
Ben and the others were already waiting for us outside and we took taxis back to the hotel. It was rush hours so it took a while to get out of the central city, also as Tian’men was closed due to festivities and the drivers had to take another road. These drivers also had problems to find the correct exit from the highway and we had to go through several older remaining quarters, which was interesting. We still had to walk a bit, as this was quicker then take a new detour. We just had 20 minutes to get ready before it was time to leave again. Somebody of the others had already brought our luggage to the room.
Christian’s friends Li Jan and Jan Cun had arrived to the hotel and together with them, Lennart and Ruben we went to the city and the Donghuamen night market, which Christian called the scorpion market. This was along one street and really crowded, so we first hesitated to enter. Anyway we tried many of the creeps: Scorpion, Silk-worm, Ground-beetle, Dragon Moth, Cicada, Grasshopper, Sea star, a big unidentified Fly, Snake, Frog legs, Mussels and a Centipede. All were fried and spiced. Most of them tasted like greasy chips. Christian’s friends didn't try anything, but Li Jan seemed to document every bite with his digital camera. We teased some European we saw there to try a bite, but nobody wanted it. We ended the meal with kiwi and strawberry.
After this interesting experience, we went back with Lennart and Ruben, as it had been a long and tiresome day. As it hadn't been much food we ate some cookies and drank juice at the hotel, before we had to pack for the flight home the day after and went to bed around 11 pm.
Tuesday 4th of October
Beijing: Optional day tour. Those who want to visit the best preserved part of the Great Wall will leave early in the morning. This part is called Simatai. There might still be some time for shopping before the return home. We will have a goodbye dinner fly just before midnight.
We went up after 6 am and put our stuff in Christian’s room 6:45. We had a quick breakfast and then Christian and nine of us went off in the shiny weather to Simatai and the Great Wall. We had to go this early since another group from “Världens Resor” the y before had taken four hours to reach their destination because of heavy traffic.
We seemed to get through the traffic with a good flow, so we arrived at Simatai just over 2.5 hour later. After paying the entrance fee we went to the cable car, to save time and muscles. Christian, Per, Ruben and Erik went by feet, so they started to climb from the lower towers. At this part of the Great Wall the landscape is really dramatic and you could see the wall and its tower along the edge from the bottom. You got an even better view from the open two person cable cars. Christina didn't really like them, as the security was really low, with just a gate, which you could open yourself. It took about 20 minutes and it was a nice breeze in the air.
Then we took a mini-train up the mountain, but the last bit we had to walk on rough steps. Anders and I went in advance. Both of us had an old lady following us. She both tried to guide us and sell books and was really annoying. Finally we were on the wall and had a splendid view. We continued up to the next tower and a bit more and if the time hadn't been so scarce I would liked to walk even higher. Down at the first tower I continued and found Christina and Inken, who also had come up now. When I just had decided to go back, first Erik and then Christian turned up after climbing all of the way from the lowest tower.
On the way down I caught up with Christina and Inken again. They had also two old ladies following them, so I shouted a while to them in Swedish and finally they let go, so we could peacefully continue to the mini-train and cable car. It was a nice tour down and we were just some minutes before the meeting time. Fortunately there are quite few souvenir sellers at this place and the tourist buses seemed to just have arrived, so it's really a place to recommend if you want to see the Great Wall. But there are several empty newly built localities, so they are apparently preparing for more shops and tourists here as well. The climbers were just 10 minutes late and we went to a nearby restaurant by bus for lunch.
The bus tour back was as interesting and dangerous as the tour to the wall. The driver made many overtaking on the inner lane, which wasn't allowed. When we finally arrived at the hotel at 5 pm, we gave the driver spontaneous applauds. There wasn't much else to do at the hotel but reading until 6:50, when we walked to a restaurant. We had a Beijing duck and Anders held a short speech to thank Christian for the great and adventurous month. Jin Cun also joined us during the meal.
We walked back and fetched our luggage and a bus took us to the airport, where we arrived just before 10 pm. It was quite quiet at the airport at this time and we said goodbye to Ben. The formalities were quite quick and the flight departed at 11:55 pm. The only strange thing which happened was that, at the security check, they opened and checked all bottles and those who contained any kind of alcohol were taken care of. Christian got pissed off and wanted first to talk with their superiors and then in turn theirs. When they still refused to let him keep his bottles, he made them pour out the content when he looked.
Wednesday 5th of October
Travel home: We will in Istanbul at 4:30 am and we will continue back to Stockholm, where we will return during the afternoon.
I ignored the evening meal on the plane and went straight to sleep, but it was both an uncomfortable and worried sleep, so I didn't feel thoroughly rested when we were woken up before 4 am Turkish time (4 hours back). Christina had worse to sleep than me and she had also been up to stretch during the night. We landed at 5:15 am, which was more or less on time.
There were several hours of to wait in the transit hall until 10:35 when the flight to Stockholm should depart. We walked around in the shops, which are quite expensive, spoke with our friends or just read for a while. At 9 am we gathered in the bar to, as we said, celebrate that Inken had her birthday the next day. She got a bottle of Danish liquor as a present from Christian.
Lena A was the first to depart, as she went with another flight to Copenhagen. The other of us continued to Stockholm, where it was surprisingly warm and sunny. Erik and Inken followed us to the domestic terminal where we checked in. Christina and I ate lunch at a restaurant… a real Swedish pizza! We arrived in Gothenburg at 4:40 pm and had to wait an hour for the airport bus. We finally arrived at home at 6:30 pm, which is about 24 hours after the departure from Beijing.
Summaries and reflections from the voyage
GPS data along the Silk Road (collected by our guide Christian Andersson):
Galata bridge, Istanbul: (050907) Position: N 41° 01.061´, E028° 58.256´
Tashkent: (050908-050909 & 050917) Position: N 41° 17.334´, E069° 15.837´
Registan, Samarkand: (050909-050912) Position: N 39° 39.265´, E066° 58.566´
Samarkand (the hotel): (050909-050912) Position: N 39° 39.958´, E066° 58.256´
Shahkrisabz: (050911) Position: N 39° 03.428´, E066° 49.736´
Nurata: (050912 & 050914) Position: N 40° 33.166´, E065° 40.817´
Camel camp: (050913) Position: N 41° 03.684´, EO65° 57.363´
Aidarkul beach: (050913) Position: N 41° 01.625´, EO66° 02.763´
Navoij: (050914) Position: N 40° 08.833´, E065° 20.874´
Sarmysh (petroglyphs): (050914) Position: N 40° 18.414´, E065° 37.002´
Rabat-i-Malik: (050914) Position: N 40° 07.370´, E065° 08.896´
Buchara (the hotel): (050914-050916) Position: N 39° 46.330´, EO64° 24.418´
Labi Hauz, Buchara: (050914-050916) Position: N 39° 46.415´, E064° 25.205´
Bishkek: (050917-050918) Position: N 42° 52.465´, EO78° 36.244´
Osh: (050918- 050919) Position: N 40° 26.906´, E072° 47.425´
Üzgen: (050919) Position: N 40° 46.066´, E073° 17.962´
Tash Komür (grilled fish): (050919) Position: N 41° 22.153´, E072° 14.223´
Toktogul: (050919) Position: N 41° 52.649´, E072° 57.361´
Chiychkan: (050920) Position: N 42° 07.157´, EO72° 48.444´
Song Kul lake: (050920-050922) Position: N 41° 45.846´, E075° 08.305´
Tashrabat (yurta camp): (050922-050923) Position: N 40° 49.841´, E075° 17.885´
Tashrabat caravanserai: (050922) Position: N 40° 49.378´, E075° 17.382´
Torugart passage: (050923) Position: N 40° 35.470´, E075° 24.952´
Torugart pass: (050923) Position: N 40° 33.109´, E075° 23.648´
Kashgar: (050924) Position: N 39° 28.510´, E075° 58.793´
Id Kah mosque, Kashgar: (050924) Position: N 39° 28.350´, E075° 59.120´
Mal bazaar (livestock market), Kashgar: (050925) Position: N 39° 26.396´, E076° 01.936´
Daheyuan (Turpan train station): (050926) Position: N 43° 09.211´, EO88° 52.523´
Turpan: (050925-050928) Position: N 42° 56.800´, E089° 10.674´
Emin Minaret: (050927) Position: N 42° 56.057´, E089° 12.219´
Gaochang, outside Turpan: (050927) Position: N 42° 51.462´, E089° 31.855´
Flaming Mountains, outside Turpan: (050927) Position: N 42° 55.043´, E089° 30.231´
Jiaohe, outside Turfan: (050928) Position: N 42° 57.139´, E089° 03.710´
Liuyuan (Dunhuang train station): (050929) Position: N 41° 06.373´, E095° 30.294´
Chineese Wall, outside Dunhuang: (050929) Position: N 40° 27.180´, E094° 54.287´
Dunhuang sand dunes: (050929) Position: N 40° 05.164´, E094° 40.704´
Magao caves, outside Dunhuang: (050930) Position: N 40° 02.367´, E094° 48.396´
Terracotta army, Xian: (051001) Position: N 34° 23.514´, E109° 16.661´
Xian: (051001-051003) Position: N 34° 16.623´, E108° 57.538´
Forbidden City, Beijing: (051003) Position: N 39° 54.720´, E116° 23.449´
Donghuamen night market, Beijing: (051003) Position: N 39° 54.846´, E116° 24.112´
Chinese wall, Simatai: (051004) Position: N 40° 39.712´, E117° 16.564´
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