So it’s official! Later this year, I’ll finally be travelling the Silk Road. After several years of dreaming, and a fair bit of planning, it’s happening at last! I’ll be travelling overland from the Middle East, through Central Asia and into China.
I’ve wanted to do this trip for so long because it’s the part of the world which I know nothing about. To be honest, until I started researching this trip, I couldn’t tell you where Turkmenistan was on a map. I knew nothing of Zoroastrianism, ancient Persia, the different styles of Islamic art and architecture, or the dozens of different cultures and ethnicities that make up all of these nations. I didn’t know that Georgia was where wine was first made, or that the Caucasus Mountains that run through it and its neighbours Azerbaijan and Armenia gave us the word ‘Caucasian.’
I now know that Armenia was the first officially Christian state, that Oman had a trading empire that extended all the way over into Zanzibar, and I can now confidently write ‘Kyrgyzstan’ without needing spell check. Just by planning this trip I’ve learnt so much already, and I can’t wait to discover more! I’m looking forward to changing my opinions and better understanding these parts of the world.
This is the part of my blog where I’ll be organising and concentrating my posts from my big trip as I go along. Stay tuned!
Read posts about my travels through the Middle East, Central Asia and China
- Travelling West to East Through Uzbek History - I’ll be honest, when I saw Registan Square in Kuala Lumpur’s Islamic Museum, I wasn’t just amazed at the architecture. I was actually really excited that Samarkand was a real place. I knew nothing about Uzbekistan, nor could I name a single city there – but years ago, I read a novel by Jonathan Stroud … Continue reading Travelling West to East Through Uzbek History
- The Other Side of the Border: Not Quite Tibet, Not Quite ‘Chinese’ - Somewhere in the plains of southwestern China lies an arbitrary state border that supposedly marks out Tibetan territory. Far on the other side of the Tibetan plateau, the ‘Chinese’ side, lies one of the largest Tibetan monastery complexes. Labrang monastery is actually expanding, and already hosts around 5000 monks and scholars. This was one of … Continue reading The Other Side of the Border: Not Quite Tibet, Not Quite ‘Chinese’
- No Photos Past This Point: Experiencing the Hammam - Whilst in Azerbaijan, there was talk of going to one of the hammams on ‘ladies day’ – these are the female only days, and men get their own days as well. I chickened out, I’d never had one and wasn’t sure I wanted to walk around with no clothes on around strangers. The closest I’d … Continue reading No Photos Past This Point: Experiencing the Hammam
- A Gas Crater, Desert, Ruins, and Probably the World’s Strangest Country - ‘Where?!?’ ‘You mean Turkey?’ ‘Is that even a real country?’ These questions are, well, not entirely unjustified. Turkmenistan is one of the world’s least visited countries, being number 7 on that list. To put that in perspective, North Korea and Afghanistan both get more tourists. Above: A park in Ashagabat, with the world’s largest indoor … Continue reading A Gas Crater, Desert, Ruins, and Probably the World’s Strangest Country
- More Than Just Eurovision - I’ll admit it: the main reason I wanted to go Azerbaijan was to see Baku, the place I never knew existed until I watched Eurovision. Azerbaijan was mostly one of those countries I knew would enter a ballad with a singer using a wind machine, maybe a comical grandma act with some traditional dancing thrown … Continue reading More Than Just Eurovision
- Wine is Culture - First thoughts on Georgia: the roads are better, the driving worse. I’d chosen to go for a shared taxi, known as marshrutka, to get from the Armenian capital of Yerevan up to Tbilisi in one afternoon, rather than the more expensive and lengthier train. What I didn’t realise, is that although the scenery through the … Continue reading Wine is Culture
- Doha Free City Tour - Qatar Airlines have made huge investments in the last decade or so, expanding their routes an upgrading their fleets. It’s a move that has paid off for them, being named last year as the Skytrax number one airline in the world. One of their newer initiatives is the free city tour for passengers with … Continue reading Doha Free City Tour
- Crossing the Caspian Sea, From One End of Sanity to Another - It’s the journey, not the destination.” And that, despite the enticing sounds of this slogan branded on our truck Archie II, was a lesson we certainly learned during our Caspian Sea crossing. We had of course been told this is notoriously changeable. There’s no official timetable for the ferry, it leaves when it’s full. We … Continue reading Crossing the Caspian Sea, From One End of Sanity to Another
- Monasteries, Meadows and a beloved Biblical Mountain - Armenia is one of those countries that really should get a bit more attention. It has a substantial history and long-standing culture, and some impressive scenery to boot. And great wine! My stay in Armenia was mostly just a break in my travels, and a visa stop. I visited a family friend who happened to … Continue reading Monasteries, Meadows and a beloved Biblical Mountain
- Iran: World’s Friendliest Country? - Above: Iranian teenagers play dodgeball, where the losers get pushed into the fountain. I’ve heard from so many people that Iran is one of the friendliest countries on Earth. I knew that going in. But I didn’t quite comprehend what that meant until I got there. Iran is an absolutely gorgeous country. There are stunning … Continue reading Iran: World’s Friendliest Country?