mi ruta de la seda » 2011 » January
I imagined beijing as an ant nest of incessant movement, millions of people stuffing everything day and night. I imagined lines for the nine million bicicles, smoky food stalls and constants trafic jams. And i wanted to make a video of it.
Beijing dissapointed me in that part, I haven’t find it such an ant nest, there were not that many people in the street neither so many cars, neither bicicles, but still the vide has became very good, very experimental. Let’s see if you like the style.
After the last image i went to the airport, after 10 months i get into a plane.
Soon the post of the come back with what was crossing my mind.
I guess this is what happened to Way Away people. After doing a big seems you become instantly in a world tourism guru. It doesn’t matter where your friends OR the people that sees your website is gong, everybody asks you what to do, how to by the tickets or where to sleep. But I have not been to Argentina yet!!!!! Does not matter, they ask you any way.
The truth is that I love recommending trips and share those little pieces of advices that can make a difference on a good trip and a perfect trip. The recommendations, of course, can only be of places I’ve been and I know well.
And that’s exactly what Way Away people do. After doing their big trip around the world they have decided to put that knowledge in guides with first hand information. Way Away have guides to be used as they are with no useless information that makes you waste your time. The idea is having a well organizing trip without spending weeks preparing it.
Always coming back from a trip you look back and see that having gone to places in different order or having stayed in the other side of the city you would have seen more, enjoy more and spent less. This is in where Way Away helps you.
I’ve seen their guides and recommendations and they have pass y “requirements” (or crazes). As you many know I’m quite a maniac with guidebooks, I love reading them, see the tips, what is not said, find the faults and criticize them… Maybe that’s why I always bring two guidebooks, so when I’m alone e I can Champlain about them… hahahahaaha.
The website have a very nice took called the “Trip Planner”, you just put the place you want to go to and the amount of time there and the tool creates a personalized trip for you according with your preferences and budget. This is the easiest, a personalized guidebook for not casting time and reducing the possibilities of Boxing wrong the places to sleep and EAT.
If you want to buy any of their guides, don’t forget this coupon. If you put SILKROAD50% you’ll have a half price discount so you can spend that money in the trip, which is always better.
If you can’t go for a trip, just don’t get into the web or the pictures will make you too jealous.
But remember, the important thing is not really the place or the guidebook, or the lack or guidebook. The thing is going somewhere new to see things that turn our brain a little bit.
See you soon .
I don’t think there is a single person in the world that has heard about the great wall and doesnt want to visit. So here I am, doing something I have wanted to do for a long time, walking by the great wall. To see it I go with an excursion from a hostel and on the way they play a South Park about the great wall, it’s double funny being here.
Pictures are more panoramic than normal format. Remember you can click on it to see them bigger.
In each period the wall was built surrounding the perimeter of the empire so there is wall in several parts of China.
Beijing is a handy place to visit the wall as it’s not far and you can go and come back on the same day.
I went to visit the wall in Badaling and I made a one and a half hour walk over steps to get out of the restored part and to see the wall as time has left it.
The most occidental edge is near Dunhuang. In what is called the Hexi corridor. A string of oasis situated between the Tibetan plateau and the Gobi desert. In that place the Jade (or Yumen door) gate is found giving access to Turpan. Also, there the Lang gate gives access to Lop Nor and the south route of the Taklimakan desert. Once those doors are crossed merchants were out of the Chinese governed territory and they said “West of the Yang gate there are no friends”.
You have to be quite a paranoid leader to make your people work that hard to build this.
It is a fact that I never had clear, I always thought it was not that big to be seen from that far. Until I read about it in one of the books. The great wall is not seen from space.
The affirmation comes from the English William Stukely that in 1754 wrote: makes a considerable figure upon the terrestrial globe, and may be discerned at the moon.”.
Later on Henry Norma said in 1895: “besides its age it enjoys the reputation of being the only work of human hands on the globe visible from the moon.”
The wall is 9.1 meters wide in it’s wider place. Seen it from the moon would be like seeing a human hair from three of four kilometres.
The next post will be from Beijing.
There are like 20 windows to get the tickets, each one with a name on top. I go to the one that has a smaller queue. I put a face of being lost (which is not very difficult) and I show this page. The notebook takes you off the hook many times writing names, numbers and times.
A bed train. How great! My previous itinerary was 14 hours sitting in what probably was the most uncomfortable seat ever manufactured. A heel. This time I have a bed and have arrived to Xian fresh. It’s possible to get “hard sleep” and “soft sleep”. The “hard” is not that hard and a lot more economic than the soft.
Xian is an enormous city that grows fast. The outskirts are full of gigantic buildings built for the people that emigrate here from the countryside.
China produces me a feeling. It’s very beautiful, extremely interesting and also I feel well here, but the constant amalgamation of people, the exaggerated development in which the Chinese don’t know if the good is the tradition or the modern, the big generational difference that is being created, the treatment to ethnic minorities, the control of the government (I’ve shown the passport more times that in any other place), an Internet in which you can’t see nearly anything, the mastodon tic cities, the pro-Chinese propaganda, the unfinished working times… My feeling is that I’m happy for not being Chinese.
Around the Muslim quarter. Streets perfectly paved, clean shops and touristy prices. I’ve got into the big Chinese circuit where everything it’s easier
I go to see the great mosque. I denied it, another mosque!!! However, I loved it, done in stone with a quietness that seemed in a city with constant activity that seems to have a million busses.
The spot in the sky is his kite.
I love the silhouettes of the trees with no leaves.
I haven’t been able to choose between both.
14 kilometres of wall surrounds the city, it’s perfectly fixed now, so much it looks like Disneyland, still it’s very beautiful.
The yellow is a tasteless corn soup. The red, a dish with as many chillies as little chicken pieces, I haven’t had anything so spicy in my entire life.
Many times it’s said that the Silk Road started here, in Xian, and finished in Istanbul. But in fact the silk didn’t came from here, the place of the biggest production was more to the south.
In the same way, as I’ve told you several times the destination was not Istanbul or streets, bridges and buildings would be covered in 10 layers of silk. The silk arrived not only to Istanbul; it arrived to the rest of Europe.
The ones that were doing the Silk Road were not going go do “the silk road”. They went to work, to bring their goods to the west, to the next city or to the following province. The name “Silk Road” was invented by Ferdinand Von Richtofen baron in 1877. With the name he named the network of roads that joined east and west.
From all the goods exchanged the baron found silk as the most important. He could have called it the spices route, the tea, the rhubarb (a medicinal plant that became very fashionable in Europe), the carpets, the jade or thousands other things that were constantly transported by this roads. But the silk gave the name. Its even worth it’s weight in gold, has meant luxury since it was known and it was never short of supply even in times of war.
The name is used since and it’s over used for anything related with the east. One that I dislike the most is when they use “the new silk road” to call anything at all. Can’t journalist make up a new name?
I arrive to see the warriors with its armors and weapons. Angry, protective and serious. If the intention was to impress, they were successful.
From the distance they look like toys.
There are as many as you imagine.
I leave happy with some of the pictures, with a fever of 39 I didn’t think I had any decent shot. I go to Beijing. From Xian there are no flights to Spain so I have to go to the capital. I also really want to see it.
The cold has helped me not to think much, I don’t want to think of the end of the trip. I prefer to simply continue, see Beijing, the great wall and take the last week easy. I want to make a video of Beijing, I’ve been thinking about it for two weeks. Let’s see if I get to do what I have in my head.
I get my last land transport, another sleeping train towards Beijing. This time I can ask for a ticket in English, I’m back to the touristy civilization.
See you soon.
I get out of the hotel, there is a thick curtain covering the exit door. I need an effort to move it but they need it, there is real cold outside. It’s early, I just have a day in Labrang monastery and I have to take advantage of it.
I exhale, a white and dense vapour get’s out of my mouth, it’s hard for it go up and stays suspended in the air. I move forward and go thought it. I don’t know where to go so I follow the first person I see. In my pocket I have a thermo with warm tea I’ve just prepared. I’m happy I’ve made the effort to prepare it, it warms me.
I see a stall on my left, there is a smiley woman with her face burned after years under the sun. I buy something similar to a “churro” (Spanish pastry eaten for breakfast), seems to have a thousands calories per bite, tastes good. The monastery is still in shade, the sun has not come up enough and the mountains block it. I keep moving with the people.
The pilgrims murmur while walking. Always clockwise. There are vertical wood cylinders on the outside walls, they are full of inscriptions. The pilgrims push them to roll when walking. When rolling wood brushes with the metal. There are hundreds of them and the pilgrims don’t let them rest. There are always rolls turning, squealing and murmurs.
The porch stretches. There are no monks, they are praying this time of the day. Pilgrims keep going around the monastery.
I go up a little hill, I’m on the other side of the monastery walls. I see a woman that kneels down and then prostrated on the ground totally laying down, she stands up and makes a step to the side. She kneels, prostrates touching with her forehead on the ground. She stands up and makes another side step. How long does it takes her to go around the monastery? How many times does she do it? A monk has told me that to finish his education he needs to go around a little temple building 4000 times.
The sun comes up, I get into a monastery.
The monastery of Labrang is a Tibetan monastery out of the Tibet region. It’s the second most important monastery in the world.
Visiting Tibet requires a special permit to go and the government has the Buddhist community quite controlled. It’s supposed that Labrang has some more freedom and it’s said that for that you can see the Tibetan culture better. Even thought the government stops the access to foreigners some times.
I haven’t commented the pictures, it’s the only time I’ve been unable to add something under them. I think they talk for themselves.
I’d love to have stayed here for another day walking and taking pictures but my route in China is over 4.500 kilometres and I don’t have much time. It’s the bill I have to pay for having stayed longer than planned nearly in every country I’ve been. Now I have to go a bit faster.
Wasn’t this post about caves? Yes, but not everyday the bus you are in crashes into a truck.
I wake up with a sharp noise, when opening my eyes there are several windows with no glass or with them cracking. We’ve had a crash, a bit flamboyant, but it’s been on the side.
Nothing serious happened, the worst was to loose an hour to relocate passengers and fix the door a little bit. When there was sunset and some light, we stopped again to close the windows with tape. Half of the tape was from a roll I had in my backpack. From here the trip was more pleasant as cold was not getting in by the window.
Rubbish on the Gobi desert.
Arriving to Dunhuang’s hotel I see the Mingsha Shan dunes. I was recording a video in the same style as Pilat dunes, but looked horrible so I haven’t edited. It’s lake in growing shape with it’s monastery is an icon in Chinese tourism. It didn’t envoke any emotion for me so I don’t even put a picture.
And here the topic of the post finally I arrive to Dunhuang caves. A very waited milestone in my trip. A big stop on the silk road that became the biggest exhibition of Buddish in the world.
There were 18 monasteries with all type of artists, writers, translators and calligraphers. The caravan traders of the silk road came by here asking for a safe trip when crossing the Taklamakan desert (I talk to you about it in the previous post). To ensure that their request would be heard the merchants made great donations. With these great donations is how the complex was built over centuries.
The same way it grew with the influx of silk road merchants, when the road route stopped this treasure of treasures was abandoned and was forgotten.
In the 1700 of cliffs 492 caves where carved. The most important cave is not the one with the fifth biggest Buddha in the world (counting the two biggest destroyed in Afghanistan) neither the caves with paintings or sculptures of the 4th to 14th century. The most important Dunhuang cave is the library. A little space with more than 20.000 manuscripts rediscovered in 1900.
The superior monk Wang Yuanlu pulled down a wall during some restoring renovation and they were found within it. Who put all those manuscripts, and the knowledge they contained, it’s not known. Why? It’s not know either, probably to protect them, but it’s just an hypothesis.
The cave contained things like the oldest printed book in the world (from 868 AD) and, texts of old rare Central Asian languages, military reports, musical scores, medical prescriptions, texts of other religions as Confucianism and Maoism, Buddish sutras copied by some of the best Chinese calligraphy and many more.
Very soon after the discovery the avid European archaeologists arrived to sweep with the haul. A total of 220 miserable pounds were paid to the poor Wang Yuanly for most of the old scripts.
Aurel Stein was the first foreigner that could see the library, he took hundreds of manuscripts but as he didn’t know Chinese he took hundreds of copies of the same books leaving some of the best treasures behind.
Picture of Peliot, a French archaeologist, in the library. It’s been taken from the book “The Silk Road, two thousands years in the heart of Asia”. Peliot was the second person putting his hands on the library, he mastered some Asian languages and was able to choose the scripts he was bringing home.
For an archaeologist finding a statue in the sand has to make him stop breathing, , discovering a mummy has to be a dream come true and discovering a hidden city has to be a mental orgasm. And finding a forgotten library? Sounds good, but not as cool, isn’t it? Is not that bright, does not catch attention that much.
However if we get into an archaeologist skin maybe we change the idea. A library means knowledge. If you discover an statue, you find out what period it’s from, from what king could it be, from a mummy you can deduce what century it was embalmed by the materials or the technique. A city you can try to place it in history with the architecture hints.
A library tells you, you don’t have to guess or relate things or suppose, it’s books tells you how life was, you don’t have to imagine or deduce. There are facts written down. Texts can tell you about prices of things, about cooking, wars, religion, science or foreign visitors. If there are different languages you can know who they were friendly with or what cultural influences they had. An additional advantage is that people that write book are very organized and all is told with the date attched to it, ideal for historians.
Finding the library in Dunhuang caves was the most important discovery in the silk road from my point of view. As it does not have pyramid shape or a lot of karat gold it has not been very popular as that doesn’t sell. Of course it is UNESCO heritage and has total protection.
In the Dunhuang market this very funny little girl.
Dried grapes from Turpan area are sold. The area was full of special buildings to hang grapes and leave them dry with the heat of the desert.
It´s time for a good hotel overlooking the sand dunes, it´s low season and it worth’s having abit more of a pleasant room once in a while. Here a bad picture of good food.
As I’ve started with the topic I put some pictures of some of the 19th century explorers from whom I’ve talk to you some time before. Their story is very extensive and interesting but today I’m have told you enough of history so if you want to know more of them Wikipedia tells you very well.
Steinon his expedition of 1908 with his dog Dash II. In each expedition he brought a new dog exactly like the previous. Stein was a tenacious man and in his eagerness of keeping discovering he’d take his expeditions to the limit loosing a big amount of men and loading animals on his expeditions. In one of them I think he was the only survivor. What a beast!. Stein was the first arriving to Dunhuang.
Sven Hedin in 1934. Another of the great explorer of this part of the world.
Hedin in 1936 with a Kyrgyz camel. He was one of the first explorers in the Taklamakan desert.
Hey! And the pictures of the caves? Pictures are not allowed inside, totally banned, but here you have a link so you can take a look into what’s in there.
From here I go to a Tibetan monastery, but not to Tibet. I want to see another face of china.
See you very soon!