It was going to be my first trip to South East Asia… Lenka and I had made the decision late last year, after reading a series of news paper articles about the country in a Swiss newspaper, that we would spend the Spring Festival Break in Myanmar. Another country of which only bad things appear in the news, but also a country that is changing rather quickly. Particularly when it comes to tourism. From the numbers we heard, visitors have multiplied by 5 in the last two years. Apparently prices for accommodation had doubled or even tripled. However many parts of the country remained untouched or where changing only slowly. So there still was some original Myanmar to see.
The next stop of our journey was the typical stop on any of the railway trips across Siberia: Irkutsk. One could easily recognize that Irkutsk is a very touristy pace given the numerous options for accommodation as for example Yekaterinburg and also the attractions and options for tourists. Only 70km from lake Baikal and located directly on the Angara River, the city is a perfect base to discover Siberian life a little bit. We decided to stay in Irkutsk for 4 full days.
Traveling has come to an end, the distance between Stuttgart in Southern Germany and Beijing in Eastern China has been brought behind. What remains are many memories of great experiences and encounters, not only with local people, but also with other travelers. Each of these encounters has made me advance in one way or another, has broadened my horizon. One thing at the very beginning: the 100 days are definitely too short for such a trip. I knew this from the very beginning, but still did not want to miss the experience.
I spent the last stretch of my trip on the luxury compartment of the night train from Xian to Beijing Xi (Beijing West). The two big differences between the hard and soft sleeper compartments on Chinese night trains are the fact that the soft sleepers have lockable doors and only consist of 4 berths compared to 6 in the hard sleeper compartments. The bed though is just as hard. Once I had arrived in Beijing a started the search for the needle in the haystack.
For the Chinese, Xian is the beginning of the silk road. For me the capital of the Shaanxi province was the end of it. Two things struck my eye in this city: there were loads of Western tourists, which were not present further west in China and the city has, despite the strive for renewal in China, still some character.
After days on the traditional silk road it was time for a short deviation. This time the deviation led to Xining the capital of the Qinghai province in central China. Even though Xining also is part of the silk road network, the reason to visit the city was the multicultural society and the possibility to get a first grasp on Tibet. Thus far the idea…
After almost 2 weeks in the Xinjiang province, home of the Uyghurs, time had come to discover the second province in China. The first stop in the Gansu province was Jiayuguan, known for the western end of the Great Wall during the Ming dynasty.
After my first experiences around the Western part of the Takla Makan desert, some more were to follow in Turpan. The city lies in a very dry region far below sea level. The information one usually gets about the weather in the region is that temperatures reach about 50Â°C. Little is being written about winter in Turpan.
From Hotan on the Southern silk road around the Takla Makan I took the bus across the desert to the Northern silk road to Kuqa. Kuqa is famous for the Buddhist elements on the silk road, of which I did not see anything. I realized that there would be more possibilities to visit Buddhist caves on my trip and to visit many other places there was no time due to unexpected turns of events.
My last destination on the Southern route of the silk road around the Takla Makan desert was the town of Hotan. Hotan is primarily known for its Sunday Market, Jade and carpet and silk factories, the latter especially to the tourists. I visited some of the attractions and had my first encounter with the topic of looking for accomodation in a Chinese city.