Life Along The Silk Road
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Last updated: 02/26/2008
A 14 days trip starts to Xi'an, Dunhuang, Turpan, Kashgar, Khotan, then drive across the Taklamakan Desert, Kucha and ends at Urumqi, the provincial capital of Xinjiang.
Arrive Xi'anArrive at Xi'an in the morning. Witness the confluence of ancient Central Asia and China in the 1300 years old Muslim Quarter and its Great Mosque. Built in 742 A.D., the Great Mosque is China¡¯s largest and best preserved early mosque, representing a synthesis of Chinese, Islamic and 15th century Buddhist architecture elements.
Xi'anMarvel at the grandiosity of the Terracotta Army, built by the first Qin Emperor to help him rule in his afterlife. Considered one of the 20th century¡¯s most remarkable archaeological discoveries, the collection includes 8,099 life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses, constructed by an estimated 700,000 craftsmen over a period of 38 years. The craftsmen were sealed alive inside the tomb to prevent the divulging of any secrets about the tomb¡¯s entrance and riches.Learn about Xi¡¯an¡¯s former status as ancient capital of China by studying bronze, underground murals and other artifacts (dating back to the millennium) at the Shaanxi History Museum.
Xi'an to DunhuangFfly to Dunhuang in the morning. Visit the Western Thousand Buddha Caves. the Modern Art Caves nearby. An optional tour to the Dunhuang Gucheng will be provided depending on the seasonal flight schedule. On the way back we drop in the Baima Ta on the half way. At night, we explore the Shazhou Night Market and get a taste of local life in Dunhuang.
DunhuangMmorning we head to the Mogao Caves, which consist of 492 grottoes honeycombing a giant cliff face, each of them housing murals, Buddhist paintings and statues. Afternoon will be spent around Mingsha Shan and Yueya Quan. In windy weather, the sands always make a humming noise, for which it was named ¡° Mingsha¡± (Singing Sand Dune). The Yueya Quan, famous for its permanence in the desert, has been recorded in the history at least two thousand years. If time permits, we also visit the Dunhuang Museum, and see a few of the scrolls left behind after the depredations of the archeologist and adventurer Sir Aurel Stein. Take overnight train to Turpan tonight
TurpanMorning program starts with the visit to Imin Ta Mosque and Karez Irrigation Site followed by a tour in the ancient city of Jiaohe (Yarkhoto) near Turpan. Jiaohe dates back to the Han dynasty (206BC - 220AD). Set on a plateau surrounded by deep, fertile valleys, the ancient ruins are a truly memorable sight to behold.
Turpan to UrumqiMorning visit the Bezeklik Caves, (a set of Buddhist cave temples that was an important center of Buddhism from the 6th to 13th centuries) followed by Flaming Mountain and Gaochang Gucheng that near Bezeklik Caves. Afternoon drive to Urumqi (2.5-hour¡¯s drive).
Urumqi to KashagarMorning we fly to Kashagar, the largest oasis city in Chinese Central Asia. We first drive to visit the Abakh Khoja Mausoleum, a peaceful memorial to one of Xinjiang¡¯s early Muslim leaders. Afterwards, we visit the Id Kah Mosque, the largest in China. This beautifully decorated mosque more closely resembles a mosque in Pakistan or Afghanistan than China, and will attract up to 10,000 worshippers for Friday prayers. Outside the Mosque, we visit the handicraft street, where we can pick up all sorts of hand-made items, from copperware to musical instruments to traditional hats.
KashgarHighlight for today will be the exploration to Sunday Brazza. Sundays are always the market days here, just like practically everything in Kashgar, Shopping is an ancient art form in which no transaction transpires quickly. Haggling is spirited and may consume an entire day. The colorful and lively bazaar provides a great opportunity to pick up some of the Silk Road¡¯s most interesting souvenirs, from hand made hats of the different minorities in Xinjiang, to traditional musical instruments, to bags of fresh spices. The people, the sights, the smells, are all very different from what we are used to in the city.
Kashgar to KhotanWe rise early to drive across the desert to Khotan (Hetian). The modern conveniences of air conditioned vehicles provides a much more comfortable alternative to traversing this route on camel back. The road to Khotan is lined with many small oasis towns, and occasionally we stop to visit the local mosques and bazaars. Yarkand (Shache), for example, once had a larger bazaar than Kashgar and today retains the quaint atmosphere of a small trading town. If you're up for a bit of a culinary adventure, you can sample some of the traditional specialties such as laghman, a kind of noodle, poluo, a tasty fried rice pilaf, or even goat's head soup! Of course, the most popular food, lamb kebab seasoned with Xinjiang spices, is everywhere. In the late afternoon, we arrive at Khotan, and explore the city on donkey-drawn carts.
Khotan to Kucha via TazhongFor centuries, Khotan was an important supplier of jade, silk, and carpets on the Silk Road. These goods - such as the traditional hand woven Aidelaixi silk, and intricately embroidered wool carpets - were treasured in China and Central Asia for their outstanding craftsmanship. We visit one or two family workshops to see how carpets, silk, and other handicrafts are traditionally made, and have the opportunity to pick up some of these treasures for ourselves. We then set out for Tazhong, crossing over the heart of the Taklamakan Desert. If departing during the summer, we have the option to camp overnight in the desert. As we sit beneath the enormous desert night sky, warming ourselves around a campfire - we can begin to appreciate our relation to the vast and uncompromising wilderness around us.
TaZhong to KuchaAfter crossing the Taklamakan Desert, we will arrive at Kucha on the Northern Silk Road. This quaint oasis town, not often visited today, was once the center of a Buddhist civilization in the Tarim Basin. On the outskirts of the present day town lie the ruins of an ancient capital, and scattered around the surrounding countryside are several grotto complexes, which attest to the significance Buddhism once played here. The most important of these is the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves. Having arrived in the late afternoon, we first freshen up at the hotel before a traditional dinner of Uygur food at a local restaurant.
KuchaDuring the cool of the morning, we have time to roam through the open Kucha bazaar and see the local mosque before heading out to the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves in the afternoon. The Grottos hold some of the most impressive Buddhist art in Central Asia and date to the third century. Unfortunately, many of the finer frescoes were removed by foreign archeologists in the early twentieth century; however, what remains is truly worth the visit. The surrounding countryside is pretty area of mulberry and poplar trees and streams,
which make for a very pleasant afternoon.
Kucha to UrumqiWe explore some of the other Buddhist grottos around Kucha today. On our way to the Kizilya Valley, where the rocks in the red mountain appear to be the result of a huge explosion, we visit the ruins of the ancient city of Subashi, or "old Kucha." In the evening, we take a flight to Urumqi. Overnight in Urumqi.
UrumqiThe morning is at our leisure before we board our flight back home.
- Inclusions -
- Service of local English speaking guide
- Exclusions -
- Personal telecommunication/laundry charges
- Extras -
- The current price quotation is based on the present exchange rate of RMB ¥7.15 to US $1.00. In the event of change of exchange rate of 2% or more, we reserve the right to adjust this quotation in a fair and reasonable manner.
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