The Silk Route 2004

The Captains Choice Tour

by Harry & Iris Matthews

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Iris and I travelled with a tour group from Sydney, Australia, along one of the ancient medieval Silk Routes from China to Europe. Here we present a pictorial essay of our journey.

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We used two private trains:

The trains stopped at or near the following cities, which we explored:

We went from Taoism to Buddhism to Moslem to Christianity and Soviet communism, with corresponding changes in architecture and culture.

The Silk Route has been moribund for centuries because sea and, now, air provide easier trade routes and because China and Central Asia have been inaccessible politically as well as geographically. However, new political alignments and economic pressures are leading to a renaissance of the Silk Route, as a tourist attraction. There is still a lot to do before it can become a popular destination – for example it took us a whole day to complete the departure and entry formalities for the border crossing between China and Kazakhstan – but the pressures are there and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing may be a catalyst for a large scale increase in tourism in the regions of the Silk Route. Our photographs show the potential.

On a group tour one can really only take snapshots because: the time of day is fixed by the program; there is little time to compose the shot, let alone set up a tripod; and the scene is full of one’s fellow tourists. Hopefully, the interest of the subject matter mitigates the technical and artistic shortcomings.

Click here for some technical notes on how we handled digital photography in fairly remote areas.

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© Copyright 2003-15 Harry Matthews.