Thursday, August 4, 2016

The China Silk Road. Itinerary.

Maijishan Grotto, Tianshui.  (Photo by Shizhao.  Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.)

I  kicked off this year with plans to travel to Korea with my friend George. He was only able to take a short time off of work to go with me.  But there was no way I was going to fly all the way to Korea for less than 2 weeks.  My travel mantra is that for every hour I fly, I have to stay at least a day.   That would mean a minimum of 16 days in Korea and George was not able to do that.  So, I needed to find some other place to go to to make up the time.  Originally, I had thought of going to Hong Kong.  Our trip would coincide with the Annual Mid Autumn aka Moon Festival and there would be no better place to celebrate that than in China.  Hong Kong was a close destination.

When Korea came up, I had reached out to my cousin Yim, who lives in Sydney, Australia, asking if she would share her itinerary with me as she had visited the country about two years ago.  She knew when I would be going to Korea.  Fast forward to April.  I'm somewhere in the Caucasus when I receive a message from Yim, asking me if I would be interested in tacking on a trip to China to my Korea trip.  Her suggestion was to travel to a section of the Silk Road.  It didn't take me but a second to reply back with a resounding Yes!  It's been on my bucket list to do the Silk Road in China and I'll get to cross off one section on this trip.  So excited about that!

As the days unfolded, two of Yim's frequent travel partners jumped on board and one of them even, Sal, offered to organize the entire trip for us.  How lucky am I?  I am usually the one that has to do the planning.  It's such a welcome luxury to just be able to take the back seat for once and let someone else take on the headache of making all the arrangements.

There was some back and forth between all of us as we had to review itinerary and quote options.  We literally came to a final agreement just this past week and yesterday,  I dropped off my passport at the China Embassy Visa Section to get my visa.  I will be back down there this coming Monday to pick up my passport.

I leave for Seoul in a few short weeks and there's still some planning to do for Korea but I'm going to do as much as I can to read up on the China portion of the trip.  Here's our itinerary.

Background image from mradoch.wordpress.com

Three of the four of us will arrive into Xi'an on the same day.  I was in Xi'an in 2009 and have wonderful memories of my short time there.   It will be the first time for the other two.  I will have to decide whether or not to tag along with them full time or only do certain things with them.  I don't mind making a return trip to see the famed Terracotta Warriors and I vaguely recall something in one of the proposed itineraries about going to see giant pandas.  Who doesn't love giant pandas?  I will be pushing for a dumpling dinner one night - they make the most incredible dumplings there; I've never seen such variety in shapes, sizes and fillings.

On a map, our trip route looks like this with Xian as the starting point and Zhangjiajie as the end point.


On this trip, we will see some amazing cave and grotto temples and landscapes.  I'm also thrilled beyond pieces that we will be making a trip to the Zhangye Danxia Landform, a most surreal landscape that I've only see in pictures and can't wait to see with my own eyes.

Google images of the Danxia Landform, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

I'm especially excited to see Yim as we've not seen each other in person since 1996 (?).  Though we live worlds apart, thanks to Facebook, we reconnected several years back and discovered we shared a love for travel.   Hopefully, this joint trip will be the first of many to come!

Time do some serious reading on China. There's no time to waste!