Marco Polo on the Silk Road

The Silk Road is a name given to ancient trade routes which run from China to the west. These routes were navigated by travelers, adventurers, pilgrims and traders. Among the most famous Silk Route travelers is Marco Polo (1254-1324), the iconic Italian merchant traveler. He came from Venice, Italy and set out for Asia with his father and uncle in 1271. Their journey lasted 24 years and included the Silk Road. His travelers were recorded in the Book of the Marvels of the World also known as The Travels of Marco Polo written in c.1300. Through this remarkable book the imaginations of people in the west were ignited, people became interested in travel to the Far East. Although Marco Polo was not the first European to reach China he was the first to leave a record of his travels.

The Story of Marco Polo, Kublai Khan and the Silk Road

In the book retelling Marco Polo’s travels we read of his father and uncle who were invited to meet Kublai Khan (1215-1294), Mongol leader and founder of the Yuan Dynasty. This is said to have been Kublai Khan’s first encounter with Europeans. The two Italian merchants travelers to Dadu (present day Beijing, China) to meet the Asian leader. Khan met the travelers and enquired about life in the west, politics, trade, Christianity, the Pope and the western legal system. He then gave them a letter to deliver to the Pope. One of the requests in the letter was for oil from the holy lamp in Jerusalem. The Polo brothers had to put off their journey to Jerusalem as there was a delay between the death of one Pope and the appointment of another. In this interlude they returned to Venice where Marco Polo, at that time seventeen years old, joined them on their quest to bring the oil to Kublai Khan in 1271.

The three travelers sailed from Venice to Acre and on to Jerusalem where they collected the oil. From there by camel to the Persian port of Hormuz (present day Qal’eh-ye Hormoz in Iran). Here they failed to find a seaworthy ship to take them to China and so they took the Silk Road. Marco Polo, his father Niccolo Polo and uncle Maffeo followed the Silk Road to Kublai Khan’s summer palace in Shangdu near present day Zhangjakou. Along the way they traveled both independently and as part of a larger caravan of travelers making their way along the Silk Road.

One of Marco Polo’s Silk Road adventures included being attacked by bandits who snuck up on the caravan of travelers under the cover of a sand storm. Many of the travelers in the caravan were murdered or taken as slaves but the Polos managed to escape to a nearby village. Marco Polo and his traveling companions eventually reached Kublai Khan’s palace after three years of travel. Marco Polo spent time serving in Khan’s court before returning home to Venice. His writings about the Silk Road, his observations about the culture, landscape and wildlife have been an invaluable source for future explorers, historians, anthropologists and travelers along the Silk Road.

5 Aspects of Cultural Holidays in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan

The ease and flexibility of international travel in the 21st century has created a different breed of tourist.  Our generation doesn’t want to follow a tour guide rambling off a monotonous, memorized script of historical facts in a herd of 40 other people.  We want a cultural vacation that allows us to experience different facets of other cultures at face value.  We want to see life as it truly is in another country.

That’s the beauty of traveling in Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan is an almost entirely mountainous Central Asian country bordered by China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.  It contains stunning alpine lakes, unending mountain ranges, and houses a people with a rich nomadic heritage.

While Kyrgyzstan is prime real estate when it comes to natural beauty and unrestricted movement, tourism in Kyrgyzstan has never been fully exploited.  There aren’t hotels on every corner or tons of tourist traps.  Kyrgyzstan is happy to exist naturally without trying to transform itself to create a false face for visitors.  For the tourist interested in authentic cultural experiences, Kyrgyzstan is the place to visit.  Here are 5 different ways you can observe true Kyrgyz culture:

 1. STAY AS A GUEST WITH A NOMADIC FAMILY

Modern Kyrgyz culture has 3 different facets: city culture, village culture, and nomadic culture. For travelers interested in the country’s ancient nomadic roots, it is possible to stay with a modern nomadic family and witness how their lives work in the 21st century.

Kyrgyz nomads live in round, felt tents called yurts and move their herds to different locations a couple times a year.  Nomads line their yurts with colorful sleeping mats, make homemade dairy products for their table, and milk and tend to their flocks.  They are often up before the sun rises and finish working well after dark.  However, nomads are most famous for their lavish hospitality.  Staying as a guest with a nomadic family will let you see Central Asian hospitality first-hand.

Kyrgyzstan-cuisine

 2. SAMPLE KYRGYZ CUISINE

No matter which country you visit, food is an integral part of any trip that explores culture.  Since the livelihood of nomads revolves around herding horses, cows, goats, and sheep, meat and dairy dishes are popular.  You can find traditional meals served in small cafes and homes all throughout the country.  Here are a few common dishes and drinks:

  • Besh Barmak – a combination of noodles and shaved meat often served during special celebrations.
  • Monti – Meat and onion filled steamed dumplings.
  • Kymyz – fermented mare’s milk.  It is often served to guests of nomadic families.

 3. VISIT HISTORICAL SITES

Any modern culture has been shaped by its past experiences.  There are numerous historical monuments, museums, and sites scattered throughout the country.  In the city of Talas, there’s a museum dedicated solely to the legendary Kyrgyz hero: Manas.  Visit Karakol to see both a famous Orthodox church and mosque that reflect the religious dichotomy of the country.

 4. BARGAIN IN BAZARS

The capital city of Bishkek has acquired a few western style malls, but the majority of city and village dwellers still shop in open air markets.  For cultural travelers that want to rub shoulders with locals, bazars are the place to go.  Brace yourself for narrow walkways filled with nonstop activity and dust off some of your Russian to bargain with vendors.  After all, a cultural holiday in Central Asia wouldn’t be complete without a little haggling.

One of the most interesting markets is in the city of Osh; stretching for an entire kilometer the bazaar has been in operation for over 3000 years.

 5. ATTEND A CULTURAL FESTIVAL

Experience the excitement of attending a Kyrgyz festival during your cultural tour.  Attend the Festival of National Horse Games and watch expert horsemen play a version of polo that involves a headless goat.  If dead goats aren’t up your alley, check out the Birds of Prey or Handcraft Festival.  Each festival will give you a different insight into Kyrgyz life.

One thing you’ll notice as you roam Kyrgyzstan is that the overall culture of Kyrgyz people is one of kindness and hospitality, whether they live in a big city, small village, or wander the mountains.  If you don’t speak local languages, most people will bend over backwards to find a common language, or if they fail, call a relative that might succeed.  If you’re a guest in someone’s home, you’ll be treated like royalty.  With the world getting smaller every day, don’t pass up the opportunity to absorb this rare cultural experience.

Click here for more information about Kyrgyzstan Travel: https://silkroadexplore.com

 

Photo from source: www.mountpix.livejournal.com, photo by Vlad Ushakov

Shanghai Nightlife

Shanghai is a dynamic city with a blend of locals and expats that bring to the city a unique and special brand of nightlife. The city is on a par with many western cities in terms of the clubs, pubs and bars but retains its traditional forms of entertainment and in many ways its traditional values. The party culture is cosmopolitan and offers a wide range of ways to keep yourself entertained at night in Shanghai.

Parties, Pubs and Clubs

Most Shanghai clubs have a cover charge and provide some form of entertainment or added value like live music, karaoke or screened sporting events. Shanghai night spots tend to open 7 days a week with longer hours on weekends. The bars and clubs open early, some as early as 6pm and remain open until 2am, 3am and even 4am in the morning. The drinking age is 18 and you could be asked for ID.

Just On The Bund is the latest hot spot in town and is one of several venues with a stunning elevated location on the 23rd floor of a building overlooking the Bund. Muse on the Bund also has a birds-eye-view of the Bund from its rooftop terrace. Here there are KTV rooms, an infinity pool and VIP lounges. Cirque Le Soir is a bar with branches in London and Dubai. Its burlesque theme and innovative décor and entertainment makes it a top Shanghai night spot. The 7th Floor is a hot dance club and The Shelter is the place to go for underground music played in a former bomb shelter. M2 in Plaza 66 and CD Soho are two more of the many dance clubs in Shanghai.

Popular Nightlife Areas in Shanghai

In Xin Tian Di you will find open-air bars, cafes, fashionable galleries and fashion boutiques housed in beautiful historic buildings. Hengshan Road is close to Xujiahui Commercial Circle and was one of the first areas to cultivate the city’s nightlife. The busy area has both quiet intimate coffee bars and loud friendly bars. Maoming South Road is where you’ll find Shanghai’s Yuppies and foreign visitors. Three popular clubs are located in Fuxing ParkPark97 wine and music bar; Cash Box is the city’s oldest and most famous Karaoke bar and Guandi is the most prestigious of Shanghai clubs. This area is more glamorous and elegant than the flashier Xin Tian DI.

Laid Back Shanghai Nightlife

If you’re looking for some way to keep occupied at night which doesn’t involve bright lights, alcohol and loud music then Shanghai has plenty of elegant options to offer. Start with a cruise along the Huangpu River or take a walk up Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street and do some nighttime shopping or have a casual dining. Shopping centers tend to stay open until 10pm but tea houses and restaurants continue late into the night. For live entertainment there is no better than the Portman Acrobatic Show. Why not try out Shanghai’s popular karaoke lounges or its thriving jazz music scene.

If you’re planning a night out on the town in Shanghai then check local newspapers and ask at your hotel as clubs and bars tend to open and close frequently and the next hot nightspot could be just around the corner.

What you’ll See on a Layover Tour to the Great Wall

Many people pass through Beijing airport on route to other destinations and some take the opportunity to do a layover tour from the Beijing Airport to the Great Wall. However there is always a little indecision over whether to make the trip or not. If you’re worried that a layover of 7 or 8 hours is not enough to really see anything then this article will put your mind at rest.

If you make your layover tour plans with a tour guide company you can get either a private driver or travel with a small group. Your driver will be waiting for you with a sign showing your name as you reach the arrival hall of the airport. After greeting you he will take you to the car and your adventure begins.

The journey from Beijing Airport to the closest section of the Great Wall, Mutianyu, will take between 45 minutes and 80 minutes depending on traffic and time of day. The distance is about 45 miles (72km). The drive to and from the Wall can be just as interesting as the Wall itself! Along the way you will pass through small rural villages and undeveloped areas which you would not have seen on a visit just to the city of Beijing. Once you are approaching Mutianyu you will see rolling hills almost completely covered with thick woodlands. In the distance the Great Wall wends its way across the countryside like the tail of a giant dragon. Depending when you visit you may see the hills and Wall covered in snow, reds, yellows and browns during autumn or vivid shades of green in summer with a scattering of colorful wild flowers in the spring. Close to the Wall there are many pine trees some of which are over 300 years old.

Mutianyu

Mutianyu is not only the access point to the Wall closest to the airport it is also the easiest to “climb”. No matter what your fitness level or age you can reach the top of the Wall with the Mutianyu cable car. Once on top of the Wall you can walk along the ancient stones and enter the guard towers which are built at even intervals along the Wall. Inside the small hut-like stone guard towers there is graffiti left by many visitors over the years. Here your guide will tell you the story of the Wall and its incredible history. You will be able to imagine the lives of the many workers it took to build the Wall, the battles fought to cross it, the cold nights spent by guards patrolling the Wall and the way the Wall has changed and developed over time.

At the end of this incredible trip, having seen the Chinese countryside and the iconic Great Wall of China your guide will return you to the airport in plenty of time for your connecting flight. So you see you can see quite a lot in your short layover at Beijing Airport, definitely a lot more than you would see if you just sat in the airport for half a day!

Get Great Wall Beijing Airport Tour To Your Desired Place In The Capital Of China

Being the China’s capital and a significant cultural and transportation center, Beijing with its long history has a lot to offer to the visitors. Here some of the treasures of Chinese history and culture are hidden, mixed with a scenic beauty.

There are multiple landmark tours offered that allow guests to start exploring the wonders of the city and the region, where famous dynasties ruled over the great empire. Get great wall Beijing Airport tour to the Forbidden City, which for five centuries has been the imperial palace of emperors from different dynasties, including the Ming and the Qing. Today, the Palace Museum takes place there.

The unique Temple of Heaven is another must-see attraction, in which solemn rituals has been performed long time ago by emperors to multiply harvests. Both of these sites have been constructed by the Yongle Emperor between 1406 and 1420.

Your next stops could be the Summer Palace and the Ming tombs, where 13 emperors of the Ming Dynastyhave been buried.Tourists can take a look at their majestic mausoleums in the largest tomb. The second largest tomb is the Dingling Tomb, which is a typical imperial tomb, opened to the public as well.

Obviously, the most notable attraction, located near Beijing, is the Great Wall, and especially its Badaling Section. Get great wall Beijing Airport tour to the so-called Eighth Wonder of the World, where you can use a cable car or walk on the stone wall enjoying the beautiful panoramas.

Another tour is offered from Beijing Airport to the Mutianyu Section, which is among the prettiest parts of the wall. Mutianyu provides ideal opportunities for hiking on the wall or taking a cable car, if you are tired. For as little as 3 or 4 hours, people will be able to see all the interesting things there, including the 22 watchtowers and the Mutianyu pass and learn more about its history.

Those, who love classical music, can also pay a visit to the popular Beijing Opera, where they may enjoy classical dance styles and singing that date from the times of Ming Dynasty.

Tourists can also visit any of the public parksin Beijing early in the morning to meet the local people who do their exercises outdoors at these places. Different kinds of physical activities can be seen in these parks, such as jogging, ballroom dancing and tai’chi.

 

Army of Terracotta Warriors and Horses

The Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses is the main attraction tour in the city of Xian, it is a group of more than 8,000 life-size soldiers, 670 horses and chariots made out of terracotta. The Terracotta Army are a UNESCO site and were first discovered by farmers in 1974, today more than 40,000 visitors come to see them each day. But where did they come from and what is their significance?

Emperor Qin Shi Huang united China and established the Qin Dynasty, marking the beginning of 2000 of feudal rule. The soldiers were created to be buried with him and guard him in his afterlife. The construction started approximately in 246BC and more than 7,000 artisans and workmen were employed to produce them. When construction of the emperor’s mausoleum began the emperor was only 13 but by the time he died almost an entire kingdom had been recreated to be buried with him. His army was placed in vaults about 1.5km from the Emperor’s tomb or mausoleum. It is believed that the underground palace remained intact for all these years thanks to traps and schemes set up to deter grave-robbers.

The soldiers are not all identical, each has unique facial expressions, hair styles, posture and their height ranges from 183 to 195cm. there are standing infantry soldiers, kneeling archers, cavalry and officers. The figures were originally painted but the paint has worn off almost completely revealing the terracotta. Other figures included in the group are officials, strongmen, musicians, acrobats, chariots and farm animals like goats and pigs. Also on display in the museum are two bronze chariots which were discovered nearby, they each have 4 horses, complete with bridles and saddles.

The Terracotta Army is located about 30km from Xian, they are within 3 pits each 4-8 meters deep; Pit 1 is the largest and most impressive while Pits 2 and 3 are often thought less interesting and could be left off of a tourist itinerary. Before entering the site visitors get to see a 360° movie in English about the background of the Terracotta Army, the movie lasts 15 minutes and is included in your entrance ticket. Also included in the ticket is a visit to the nearby Qin Shihuang Mausoleum which is not yet excavated. Archeologists predict that even greater wonders remain to be discovered in the mausoleum, including rivers of quicksilver, treasures and a palace.

One Day Tour to Xian

China is a major travel destination which most Westerners only manage to visit once or twice in a lifetime, so naturally you want to see as much as possible with the time you have there. If you’re visiting Beijing it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on seeing one of China’s most important historic sites – Xian and the Terra-cotta Warriors. Even if you are short on time you can still get away from Beijing for the day and see the major sites of Xian, but only if you are part of an organized tour. If you try to make a one day trip to Xian independently you will be faced with the logistics of transport which could take up too much of your limited time. With an organized one day tour to Xian you can be sure to see Xian and be back by the end of the day. An organized one day tour to Xian will also insure that you fit in all the amazing sites of Xian and don’t return to Beijing disappointed.

The one day tour to Xian begins at your Beijing hotel where you will be picked up by the guide and transferred to the airport to catch your flight to Xian. With an organized one day tour to Xian the flight tickets, transport to and from your Beijing hotel and the tours in Xian are all included in the price, organized and booked for you.

After a short 2 hour flight your guide will get you swiftly through Xian airport security and you will be met by a local Xian guide and driver. Without further ado you’ll be driven to the Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses. The tour guides are all well informed about the sites and speak good English. Just think, no negotiating with taxi drivers or struggling to make yourself understood as you try to buy tickets to the exhibit. Your tickets to the sites are also included in your one day tour to Xian. You can learn about the UNESCO World Heritage Xian Terra-cotta Warriors, their history which dates back to 221-206BC and their discovery in 1975 by watching a short film at the Cinemania.

After your visit to the Terra-cotta Warriors you will be taken to a local restaurant for lunch (which is also included in the tour price). This particular tour takes you to a typical local restaurant and avoids the usual tourist restaurants which are over run with tourists. Enjoy a delicious meal at the Ai Qin Hai restaurant before being taken to see the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. The guide stays with you until you are safely checked in on your return flight to Beijing and on arrival in the capital a driver will be waiting to take you back to your hotel.

Don’t miss out on seeing the 8th wonder of the world, even if you’re based in Beijing a one day tour to Xian is possible and an unforgettable experience.

The Top Attractions on a Lhasa Tour

Lhasa is the capital city of the Autonomous Region of Tibet; the city is located at 3650 meters above sea level in a valley alongside the Lhasa River and surrounded by the Himalayas. Lhasa, which means “place of Gods”, is the site of many important Buddhist sites, its remote location and 1300 year spiritual heritage has made it an alluring travel destination for many.

When visiting Lhasa a Lhasa tour can take a lot of the worry and organization off of your hands, for example your Lhasa tour will include airport transfers, an English speaking guide and your Tibet Entry Permit. No matter which tour of Lhasa, Tibet you choose, whether it is a 4 day, 5 day or 8 day tour and whether you are visiting in summer or winter there are several sites that will always be included in your tour of Lhasa. When you choose which Lhasa tour to take make sure that these essential sites are included in your itinerary.

Potala Palace – Although structures on this site can be dated back to the 7th century the palace we see today is best known as the home of the Dalai Lamas. The first Dalai Lama to live here was the 7th Dalai Lama who made this his winter palace in 1755. For centuries the palace was the hub of political and religious life in Tibet. The palace has over 1,000 rooms spread over 14 floors; visitors with a Lhasa tour can see the former living quarters of the Dalai Lamas and the gold tombs where they were buried.

Johkang Temple – This is a 7th century construction built to house Buddha statues from Nepal and the Tang Dynasty of China. The statues arrived in Lhasa as gifts for the King Songtsan Gampo from his future wives. Today the building is home to other Buddha statues but the most famous is the Jowo Sakyamuni Buddha given to the king by his foreign wife, Princess Wen Cheng over 1300 years ago. The building itself is a masterpiece of craftsmanship; it has four floors and a gilded roof.

Barkhor Market – The market is held on one of Lhasa’s oldest streets, when your Lhasa tour visits the market you can buy souvenirs and traditional Tibetan crafts and artifacts.

Apart from these essential stops on any Lhasa tour your tour could include the Drepung Monastery (1416); the Sera Monastery, famous for tantric teachings; the Ganden Monastery; Namtso, where you can see nomad herdsmen with their flocks Lake Yangpachen hot springs, Dezong Monastery, Tidrum Til Monastery or the Reting Monastery which is surrounded by juniper covered hills.

So choose a Lhasa tour which suits your interests, time limitations and the season you are traveling, then sit back and let the tour organizers do the work.

Mt. Everest Base Camp

Many people dream of climbing Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, although reaching the summit might be out of your reach you can take a trekking tour in Tibet and reach the Mt. Everest Base Camp or even Camp 2 and 3. While getting to Everest you’ll also enjoy many sites along the way.

There are two Everest Base Camps, one on the Nepal side of the mountain and the other in Tibet. The North Base Camp in Tibet is used as a setting off point for climbers on their way up the mountain. It is the last chance to replenish supplies and regroup before scaling the Northeast ridge of the mountain. With an altitude of 5,150 meters the Everest Base Camp is also a good place for climbers to stop for a while and let their bodies acclimatize before facing even higher altitudes and risking altitude sickness. During the summer the North Everest Base camp is accessible by 4X4 vehicles. At the North Everest Base Camp there is a distinction between facilities for tourists and facilities for serious climbers. The tourist base camp is between Rongbuk Monastery and the climbers’ base camp which is further up the mountain at the foot of Rongbuk glacier.

Travelers to the North Everest Base Camp require a permit, in addition to a Tibet visa; this permit must be arranged by the tour company in Lhasa which plans to take you on your journey to Everest. A tent village has been established at the Everest Base camp to accommodate tourists, in addition there are tea houses and pit toilets.

Trekking Tours to Everest Base Camp

On a 15 day organized tour of this kind you will get to see the city of Lhasa including the Potala Palace, Johkang Temple and Barkhor Market before heading out towards Gyantse Kumbhum Monastery as you pass the Nanchan Kangtsang Glacier and the Yamdrok-yutso Lake. The tour will take you to Sakya Monastery and Lhatse, before heading for the Mount Everest Base Camp. After a night in Rongpuk tent Guest House the group walks to the Base Camp. On route to Camp 1 you’ll pass the Rongpuk Glacier and explore this area as your body adjusts to the high altitude. From Camp 1 there is more scenic trekking to reach the Interim Camp and from there passed the Changste Glacier the group moves further up the mountain. Towards the end of the trekking tour the group reaches Camp 3 which is only 2400 meters from the top of Everest. After enjoying the surroundings the group slowly makes their way back to Lhasa.

On a 12 trekking tour the group takes a different route, this time via Old Tingri, through the Tingri plain and Ra-chu Valley. After a night in Lunthang the group gets into serious hiking as they make their way to the top of Lamna La where the night is spent in a tent. The tour continues into sparsely populated areas for a night in the small village of Zommug before moving on to the Rongphu Monastery and a hike to the Everest Base Camp. On the return journey the tour stops at the Xiqian hot springs.

Beijing Airport Transport and Tours Experience

Arriving in a large and unfamiliar airport is always a daunting experience, but at the Beijing Capital International Airport you needn’t worry as efficient and reliable transport is available to take you into the city or on a layover tour. In fact even if you just want guide to be with you while you navigate the large airport Beijing Airport Transportation can provide that service. Beijing Airport is vast, there are 3 terminals and it is one of the world’s busiest airports, seeing 48,154,484 passengers passing through the airport in 2013.

Beijing Capital Airport is located 32km from the city center and so ground transport is critical. Instead of battling to understand the rail and bus system on your first day in Beijing rather book an airport to hotel transfer with our company. You’re driver will be waiting just after you exit the customs area with a sign showing your name.  The driver will then transport you to your hotel in a modern, comfortable and luxury car like the Audi A6 or Buick GL8. If you’re in a group you can order a business van or the Mercedes MB100. You won’t have to try to understand the public transport system, you won’t have to search for your hotel and you can sit back and relax as one of our drivers takes you directly to your hotel.

Alternatively if you are in Beijing on a layover why not utilize your time to see a bit of the city, and specifically Beijing’s top attraction, the Great Wall of China. One of our drivers will pick you up at the airport on your arrival and take you directly to the Mutianyu Great Wall for a 3-4 hour tour. This is the ideal entrance point to the wall if your time is limited. There is a cable car that can take you to the top or you can hike to the top of the wall. You’ll avoid the usual tourist traps and hidden fees, the tour does not stop at any tourist shops along the way and the best part is that it is a private tour. The tour includes the entrance fee to the wall and free bottled water. Your vehicle will be air-conditioned and the driver/guide will be able to speak perfect English. Other layover tours are available to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Summer Palace or the Olympic Games sites of the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube.

Luckily for international visitors stopping in Beijing Capital International Airport on a layover flight, there is now a 72 hour Free Entry Visa. This means that you won’t have to arrange any complicated visa in order to enjoy a quick layover tour.

http://www.beijing-airport-transportation.com/beijing-airport-to-mutianyu-great-wall-tour.html