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The Silk Roads

by: Paul Wilson


Updated information

September 2014 Update from Paul

The online coverage of the Silk Road is going from strength to strength and all would-be travellers should have a look at a couple of websites before you head off.

For general travel information/advice try www.caravanistan.com - They are a reliable outfit and keep their finger on the pulse

For a visual flavour of the silk road follow @PicsSilkRoad on Twitter - a fantastic collection of photos

For news you should definitely use www.silkroadreporters.com - very thorough

You can also follow me on Twitter @mralphabetgame - I post all the relevant Silk Road stories I come across

If you fancy yourself as a 'real' traveller, why not pick up a copy of my new novel, The Alphabet Game', and see how you measure up!


October 2013 Update from Paul

Bosphorus Tunnel

Finally, the start/finish to your Silk Road journey might not be the constant traffic jam Silk Roadsters have become accustomed to. A new tunnel to relieve the pressure on the two main bridges is very welcome!

see: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/29/istanbul-underwater-bosphorus-rail-tunnel-european-asian-earthquake


January 2013 Update from Paul

Middle East
Unfortunately, Syria is completely off-limits for the foreseeable future, so we don't recommend any travel there. On the plus side Northern (Kurdish) Iraq is going from strength to strength and more tourists than ever are exploring its undiscovered charm.

Central Asia
The Karakorum Highway area in Pakistan is as stable as it has been for a few years, visitors are slowly returning and the Taliban problems of the Swat Valley seem to have been contained. The Pamir Highway in Tajikistan is coming on leaps and bounds, and has become THE place for cyclists keen on an adventure.

The Caucasus
The problems in Georgia following the Russian invasion of 2008 seem like a distant memory and the Caucasus are once again a viable alternative route from Turkey to Turkmenistan (especially worth considering  if the diplomatic situations with Iran further deteriorate).


Travel in Pakistan

The situation in Pakistan is changing daily and is set to do so for the coming months. Before travelling it is vital to find out the latest from someone on the ground, so we recommend you contact one of the various offices listed in the latest edition of Silk Roads. Mr Shiraz Poonja's Sitara Travel has always been a reliable source and their office (now in Islamabad rather than Rawalpindi) has a new email address: islamabad@sitara.com.

June 2011 Update from Paul

A photographer friend, Lynn Gilbert, had an amazing Silk Road exhibition in Turkey, 18 June - 9 July, 2011. See:

 English: http://lynngilbertphotography.tumblr.com/Cappadocia%20Art%20&%20History%20Museum

Turkish: http://lynngilbertphotography.tumblr.com/Turkish%20Cappadocia%20Museum%20Exhibition

Here is an update from Paul, September 2010:

1.  Paul spoke at the UN's WTO Silk Road Project conference in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on October 8-9th 2010 (see http://www.unwto.org/silkroad/events/en/events_04.php). He discussed possibilities to promote the Silk Road further as a travel destination for independent travellers.
2. On a recent trip Paul met Lynn Gilbert, the celebrated New York photographer, and a fantastic portfolio of her Silk Road pictures can be seen on her website: http://lynn-gilbert.com/gallery/silk-route/. She is currently specialising in interiors and this is reflected in a second collection: http://lynn-gilbert.com/gallery/silk-route-interiors/  You can also follow her illuminating blog on http://getparade.com/news/2010/oct/25/silk-route-interiors/
3. Paul was in Syria again in June/July and had a great time watching the World Cup with Eyad and his staff in the Warm Apple Pie Cafe, Palmyra. Unfortunately, out of season Palmyra becomes a bit of a ghost town and the hotel and restaurant touts can be rather annoying, so you are better off avoiding the main strip and heading into the back streets for accommodation and dinner. 

4. Despite the numerous protests across Xinjiang in 2009/2010, China's western province is still doing its best to attract visitors. A new operation has opened in Khotan: Kurbanjan Tour INfo Center (email: treklab@gmail.com; tel: +86 13779291939). Kurban is the owner and is keen to help independent travellers.

5. While Paul was in Uzbekistan speaking at the UN's WTO Silk Road Project conference he was interviewed by CNN. Read here. 

November 2010




Following the revolution in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, several readers have asked if it is safe to travel there. The subsequent elections have been inconclusive and the future make up of the government is still unclear but for the moment the country is safe to travel in. Bishkek and the north/east seem to be largely back to normal and even Osh is 'open', but the situation is still sensitive so take care (the far south/south-west of the country is, as always, unused to visitors and a difficult place to travel). The border with Tajikistan is open for foreign visitors, as is the border with Kazakhstan. The border with Uzbekistan was closed and locals still are reporting problems accessing permits to travel but foreign visitors are now being allowed through (this might change though, so check with the local Uzbek/Kyrgyz embassies in Bishkek/Tashkent).   

Camping equipment

Whilst camping this month, Paul tried out a new gadget for his Trangia stove: basically it's a bag/cover, tea towel and oven glove all in one - very handy! Check out their website:  www.soultrampers.com

The Silk Road Society

Paul is now working with the Silk Road Society, a UK based organisation for all keen Silk Roadsters http://www.travelthesilkroad.org/   The society was set up in 2006 to bring fellow travellers together and provide a forum to share ideas and experiences. It has over 2,000 members and is free to join, so well worth getting involved. The society also produces Open Central Asia Magazine http://www.ocamagazine.com/ which provides news and reviews of current events in the region. The magazine is published by Silk Road Media http://www.discovery-central-asia.com/ which is also a great source of up-to-date information on all the Stans. They publish Discovery Central Asia magazine, aimed at visitors interested in culture and traditions in the region, as well as excellent individual country guides for all the Stans (for more details see page 34 of the 3rd edition).




The Silk Roads