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  • August 29 2014
      When you first heard of the Silk Road, you might have had romantic ideas of a smooth road made out of silk. In reality, the Silk Road is not even a road at all but an ancient network of trading routes that linked China all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. Also, the road is not paved in silk and was far from a smooth journey in historic times. Judy Bonavia describes it well below: "The early trade in silk was carried on against incredible odds by great caravans of merchants and animals traveling over some of the most inhospitable territory on Earth, including searing, waterless deserts and snowbound mountain passes. Beginning at the magnificent ancient Chinese city of Chang'an (Xi'an), the route took traders westward along the Hexi Corridor to the giant barrier of the Great Wall, then either orth or south of the Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar before continuing on to India and Iran, or farther to the great cities of Constantinople, Damascus and Baghdad. For today's traveler, it is not only the weight of history that makes the Silk Road intriguing, but the incredible diversity of scenery and ethnic people along the way." -The Silk Road: Xi'an to Kashgar The Silk Road earned its title because silk made up a large proportion of trade along this route. Originating in China, silk-making was China’s well-guarded secret for almost 2,000 years. Silk was so valuable to people that prices were calculated in lengths of silk, just like they had been calculated in pounds of gold. It even became a currency used in trade with foreign countries. Silk was not the only good traded on the Silk Road-people traded bronze, bamboo products, teas, medicine, and porcelain. There were many available routes to travel; ome were shorter and more dangerous, while others were longer and safer. Most of the things traded along the Silk Road were luxury items because the profit, to some, was worth the risk. People exchanged religion, culture, philosophy, and art along the Silk Road. The route connected merchants, monks, and nomads from around the world and was an ancient highway for globalization. Innovative ideas that were traded along the route, like grape winemaking and paper money, are still in use today. By allowing people to make their first contact with distant civilizations, the Silk Road helped lay the foundations for the modern world. Today, these ancient routes aren’t used to trade goods and ideas with other countries. Instead, the Silk Road is traveled by people who want to see the land and learn about the history and culture of the region. Most of the Silk Road is located in Xianjiang province in northwest China. Xianjiang is home to 47 ethnic minorities, including the Uygur, the major ethnic group living here. Uygur are the second largest Muslim ethnic group in China. They have their own Islamic culture and Turkic language, which uses a modified form of the Arabic alphabet. China’s northwest region is home to the beginning of the old, dangerous route, earning the nickname, “Wild West of China”. Today the region is safe and more accessible. While in this part of the country you feel like you are in Central Asia, not typical China. The people, clothes, culture, and cuisine are influenced from the ancient trade routes. Those who visit are fascinated by the diverse culture, people, and landscape.     If you are interesting learning about the Silk Road, we recommend reading, The Silk Road:from Xi'an to Kashgar, by Judy Bonavia. For a hands on experience, WildChina offers a trip, Along the Silk Road, departing in October.    
  • August 24 2014
    Why Tibet? People have many kinds of travel styles and adventure levels: some people like to get away and relax on a beach, some seek thrills like bungee jumping or scuba diving, while others enjoy visiting historic sites and learning new information. Here at WildChina, we like to keep our adventure level high and our travel style a mix of exploration and luxury. One place that brings out our adventurous side is Tibet. Tibet is not the first place that pops in your head when planning a trip to China. It is very different from the China you see on TV or in the media. The mountain ranges that surround it make it one of the most secluded regions on earth, giving this region its own cuisine, faith, and landscape. Along with rich history, Tibet has some of China’s most striking natural scenery, including vast grasslands, blue lakes and sky-high mountains as well a great amount of sacred sites, including monasteries, nunneries, and palaces. If you’re interested in viewing sacred sites or beautiful nature, Tibet should be on your list of travel destinations. “Rich or poor, all come full of devotion and with no inner misgivings to lay their offerings before the gods and to pray for their blessing. Is there any people so uniformly attached to their religion and so obedient to it in their daily life? I have always envied the Tibetans their simple faith, for all my life I have been a seeker." ― Heinrich Harrer, Seven Years in Tibet Religion-Tsedang: Buddhism developed in Tibet and the surrounding Himalayan region in the beginning of the 7th century. Tibet’s long history of Buddhism has inspired the building of many religious sites. In Tibet’s largest city, Tsedang, you can find Buddhist monasteries, monuments, tombs and royal burial sites. Samye Monastery, the oldest standing Tibetan Buddhist monastery, is a Tibet highlight. Samye is both a monastery and a village and used to be a school for Tibetan Buddhism. Some Tibetan Buddhists travel on foot for weeks to reach this popular pilgrimage destination. Note: Out of respect, always walk around Tibetan Buddhist religious sites or monastery in a clockwise direction and don’t climb onto statues or other sacred objects “Tibet has not yet been infested by the worst disease of modern life, the everlasting rush. No one overworks here. Officials have an easy life. They turn up at the office late in the morning and leave for their homes early in the afternoon." ― Heinrich Harrer, Seven Years in Tibet Culture-Lhasa: Tibetans live a easygoing life. They like music, games, and dancing. In Tibet you can participate in a nightly dance with locals, sample yak cheese, yoghurt, or butter, while sipping on the national drink, salted butter tea. Tibet’s richest cultural marvels are found in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa. Buddhism is not just a religious belief, for many it is a way of life. Lhasa has been the center of Tibet’s political, religious, economic and cultural activities since the Fifth Dalai Lama moved the capital here in 1642. This city is home to Potala Palace. This palace has served as both the winter residence of each Dalai Lama and the religious and political center of Tibet for 300 years. In 1645, it was built without either nails or the use of wheeled equipment. Today, it provides dormitories for the staff of the Dalai Lama schools, chapels, print house and tombs.   "The country through which we had been travelling for days has an original beauty. Wide plains were diversified by stretches of hilly country with low passes.We often had to wade through swift running ice-cold brooks. It has long since we had seen a glacier, but as we were approaching the tasam at Barka, a chain of glaciers gleaming in the sunshine came into view. The landscape was dominated by the 25,000-foot peak of Gurla Mandhata; less striking, but far more famous, was the sacred Mount Kailash, 3,000 feet lower, which stands in majestic isolation apart from the Himalayan range.” ― Heinrich Harrer, Seven Years in Tibet Landscape-Gyantse: Tibetans view the environment as a place where humans and nature coexist and overconsumption of resources is looked down upon. Because of these Buddhist beliefs, the nature in Tibet is pure and well preserved. Gyantse is a great city to visit if you enjoy nature. Located 14,500 feet above sea level, the turquoise Yamdrok Lake is a famous stop for Tibetans and travelers. While visiting Yamdrok Lake in Gyantse, you can see views of Mount Donang Sangwari (17,400 feet) and the white peaks of Nojin Gangzang (23,000 feet). Be careful of altitude sickness; the mountains in Tibet average 22,960 feet high, earning the nickname “Roof of the World”. The land, faith, and culture make Tibet an unforgettable experience. In October, WildChina is going on a journey to Tibet. On our Soul of Tibet trip, we explores sacred sites and nature, while experiencing Tibetan Buddhism. Want to up your adventure level? Contact info@WildChina.com for more information.  
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