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Report 1779: Seven Weeks Across Asia - Part 3, China from Beijing to Kashgar

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2008

Trip Description: Trip report of a journey starting in Siberia, through Mongolia, across China and over the mountains into Kyrgyzstan from April to July 2008

Destinations: Countries - China

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Day Tours; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 21: Background to the Trip

photo by Michael

Chinese Garden in Beihai Park, Beijing

This originally started as a grand idea to catch the train from Scunthorpe to Beijing. We’d always been intrigued by the Trans Siberian Railway. Rather than fly to Moscow for the start of the journey we thought there might be a bit of one-up-manship in doing it all by train....

We then began to think that this would be a long way and weren’t sure we wanted to spend that amount of time sitting in a train. I also had designs on seeing the Terracotta Warriors - we couldn’t go all the way to China and NOT see them. Xian was the start of the Silk Road....

We began to think time could be better spent seeing more of China rather than spending several days travelling across Russia by train. We would fly to Irkutsk and start from there as Michael had always been fascinated by the thought of Lake Baikal. We would spend a few days in Mongolia before continuing by train to Beijng.

Michael then said that if we got as far as Kashgar then perhaps we ought to finish off in one of those ‘...gystan’ places he’d studied as part of Russia when he was at University. (There are advantages to being married to a geographer.)

We were beginning to plan out a route when a travel brochure arrived which included a trip to Tibet on the newly opened railway. Having read Heinrich Harrer’s “Seven Years in Tibet” when it was first published I had always assumed Tibet was somewhere to dream about but not visit. This was too good an opportunity to miss. Tibet was added to the itinerary.

We were now ready to visit Audley Travel who we use for all our major trips. We spent several hours talking to their country specialists and after a bit of tweaking came up with a seven week itinerary.

  • Fly to Irkutsk
  • Trans Mongolian Train to Ulaan Baatar
  • Train to Beijing
  • Train to Pingyao
  • Train to Xian
  • Train to Llasa
  • Train to Lanzhou
  • Fly to Dunhuang
  • Train to Turpan
  • Train to Kashgar
  • Car across Torugart Pass into Kyrgyzstan
  • Fly from Bishkek back to London Heathrow.

There were riots in Tibet a few weeks before we were due to leave UK and Tibet was closed to foreigners. This would leave a hole in the middle of our itinerary. We went to see Audley to devise Plan B.

Plan B never happened. There was the major earthquake in China. The morning we were due to start on Plan B the guide arrived and said “You aren’t doing this.” There had been a series of aftershocks in the region we were due to visit and the local agent had decided it would be unwise for us to go there. The local guide was brilliant and came up with Plan C.

We would spend a couple of days around Lanzhou area and then drive the Silk Road visiting many monasteries, tombs and temples, which even the Chinese Tourists don’t get to, finally arriving at Dunhuang to continue as planned.

We went off for the day while all of this was arranged for us. Audley Travel rang to confirm we were happy with what was being suggested. We were. In many ways this was the best bit of the whole trip as it got us into the ‘real China’ well off the tourist route. Jaws did literally drop when people saw us.

I have presented this as four separate trip reports as it covers such a large area. This report is Part 3.

Russia is covered in Trip Report 1777
Mongolia is covered in Trip Report 1778
Kyrgyzstan is covered in Trip Report 1780

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