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Bishkek, Kyrgystan to Beijing, China - Itinerary

People and History 

The Silk Road - More correctly its 'Silk Routes,' a term coined by Ferdinand von Richthofen (uncle of the fighter ace Red Baron), naming the trade routes from China to Turkey - and on to Europe. The name does not refer to a road or specific route, as the trade was also undertaken by sea as well as land over vast distances.

People and Religion

The region has every significant religion in the world, living in relative harmony, including; Muslims, State Atheism, Orthodox Christians, Buddhists, Shamanists Confucianism & Taoism

Architecture

Big grand mosques, mud cities, palaces, fortresses and ruins. Desert architecture using the wind and water in ways to keep houses cool which predates western air-conditioning systems by thousands of years – by using natural flows of wind and water in complex systems, all built by hand. The systems of cooling and water supply are still unmatched by modern western environmentalists using computers and heavy machinery. 

And of course, no need to mention the Great Wall of China – it’s actually a series of defensive walls which doubled as immigration and tax control barriers. They were started in 200BC till 1600 AD. The walls have been found to be over thirteen thousand miles long: built in series of or layers of defence over almost two thousand years. The walls slowed but not stop the Mongol horseman from invading, though they managed to do this by using Chinese people using contemporary techniques to breach the walls.

Geography

Lakes of Kyrgyzstan, China has mountains high rolling plains, grassland and the Gobi Desert 

Animals

Bactrian camels - (two humps) and lots of horses. Mongolian death worms, hard to find

The Asia Overland Route - Bishkek  to Beijing, China

Kyrgyzstan – Week 1 - 2

A land of high mountain passes, grassy plains, alpine lakes & yurts, all in the Celestial Mountains. The begiing for us of a strong Chinese influence.

Highlights - High altitude Lake Song Kol and Ala Archa National Park

As big as England with just 5 million people; there is space to wander. We pass to the ‘Heavenly Cloud Mountains’ to camp amongst the nomads in their yurts. You can go walking and horse trekking around Lake Issyk Kul, on to Ala Archa National Park; with forests, glaciers and alpine streams. We visit the capitol Bishkek.

A land of high mountain passes, grassy plains, alpine lakes & yurts, all in the Celestial Mountains. The beginning for us of a strong Chinese influence.

Highlights - High altitude Lake Song Kol and Ala Archa National Park.

As big as England with just 5 million people; there is space to wander. We start in the capitol Bishkek You can go walking and horse trekking around Lake Issyk Kul.

We visit the vast red stone cliffs in Jeti Orguz or ‘Seven Bulls’ and visit the town of Karakol with its beautiful Russian wooden houses and tree-lined streets. Nearby are the Terskay Ala Too Mountains, a wilderness with nomadic shepherds.

Continuing around the lake to Semenovskre Gorge you can go walking and follow the rivers that wind through the national reserve.

On to Ala Archa National Park; forests, glaciers and alpine streams and go camping amongst the nomads in their yurts.

China – Week 3 - 6

China invented everything we like; Chinese food (stir fry and fried rice), chopsticks, fireworks, goldfish, tea, toilet paper, kites, paper money and hundreds of other things.

Highlights –Kashgar, Taklamakan Desert, Turpan Oasis, Gobi Desert, Yellow River, Chengdu city, Giant Pandas, Xi'an Terracotta army, Beijing, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City or Palace.

From Kashgar we cross the Taklamakan and Gobi Deserts, visit a Buddhist Monastery, Giant Pandas, Xi'an’s Terracotta Warriors, the Great Wall of China and reach Peking where the best things to see are Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City or Palace.

Cross the border to China over the high Torugat Pass to high plains with nomadic Kygys people with their yurts and horses. Kashgar – is a major trading point on the old Silk Road. Big bazaars, markets and old tombs. Down the Karakorum Highway to beautiful Lake Karakol, nestled in the desert below snow covered mountains.

Into the Taklamakan Desert – a dry massive desert of slowly moving sand. We spend a few days on the northern edge of this long desert.

To Kuqa and the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves, these caves were carved into the cliff face over a period of 1,700 years; all overlooking the Muzat River, a broad river running through this dry country.

On to the ruins of Turpan, a revitalized oasis town, hot weather and good irrigation produces trellised vine s and the best grapes and raisins in the world. On a nearby plateau are the ruins of Jiaohe; a city destroyed by the Mongols under Genghis Kahn.

We cross the Gobi Desert visiting oasis towns of Dunhuang to visit Ming Sha Hill and the Crescent Moon Pool. Spring water flows into a depression between huge sand dunes, forming a picture postcard crescent-shaped lake.

The Great Wall of China spreads across a great many parts of the country. Jiayuguan Fort built in the Ming Dynasty is the westernmost section lies at the walls most western end

Over the Tibetan Plateau and Yong Jing, and take a ferry across the Yellow River to the Bingling Grottoes and Temple; a series of Buddhist caves and statues cut into the cliff face.  Wander through the site by following walkways perched on the cliff face high above the river.

Huanglong  National Park or in Chinese; Yellow Dragon Valley there are colorful pools formed by calcite deposits, snow-capped peaks, waterfalls and hot travertine springs. Go hiking and warm up in the natural hot pools. http://www.huanglong.com/

Chengdu is our first really big city in China with something around 14 million people. It’s the capital of Sichuan province and the home of the spicy Chinese food. The Giant Panda breeding centre is here, so if you want to see one of the baby bears up close. The film Kung Fu Panda was set in this city. It’s an attractive modern city and worthwhile spending time to wander around, and to visit the Wuhou Temple & Wenshu Monastery.

To Xi'an and the Terracotta Warriors; 8,000 life size terracotta soldiers and horses lay buries for 2,000 years. They are all unpainted as when they are unearthed and exposed to the air, within just two minutes the ancient colourful paint job fades and flakes off. Also you can see a relic of the Buddha, a finger bone at Famen Temple.

From Xi’an to Beijing by a full days train ride - We see the Great Wall of China and reach Peking where the best things to see are Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City or Palace and Temple of Heaven.

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