Page 3 of hkwoody Travel Blog Posts

Asia » Tajikistan » Khorog August 28th 2015

The journey from Osh, Kyrgyzstan to Khorog, Tajikistan along the Pamir Highway and Wakhan Corridor is slow, high altitude, bumpy, and dusty. The homestays along the way are basic with long drop outside toilets, limited electricity, and no internet. It's been 6 of the best travel days of our life. We've loved the jaw droppingly spectacular landscape, the wonderful people, and the oddness of for days being literally just a few metres away from Afghanistan - a fantastic, exhilarating experience that we will remember and re-live for a long time to come. Pictures will do a better job than words but choosing just a few from the hundreds we took was too difficult a task so with this post there are more than normal.... read more
Goodbye Kyrgyzstan
Hello Tajikistan
Gorno Badakhstan Autonomous Oblast

Asia » Kyrgyzstan » Song Kol August 17th 2015

After a few admin days in Bishkek sorting our visas and permits for Tajikistan and Uzbekistan we headed off to one of the places we'd been looking forward to from the time we started planning our trip. Song Kol is simply beautiful. We stayed two nights in a yurt, which was warm and comfortable and which we had to ourselves. Did some horse riding, for which I'm still paying the price every time I sit down, walked kilometres, and for the rest of the time laid about in the sun, for which I'm also still paying the price after burning my belly - I'd forgotten how strong the sun is at 3000m elevation. For perhaps the first time on this trip we've found somewhere we'd like to come back to in the future to do some ... read more

Asia » Kyrgyzstan » Bishkek August 11th 2015

Since leaving Turpan a couple of weeks ago the journey rather than the destination has been the centre of attention, this was the story again with our shared taxi from Osh to Bishkek. In Kyrgyzstan every car is a taxi and every driver a taxi driver, but some are more official (in the very loosest sense of the word) than others, the shared taxis are one of those. The way it works is that you show up at a well known place - road junction, car park, outside a bus station etc, where there will be a bunch of guys shouting their destination. Negotiate a price, jump in and...wait, they will never go until they have a (very) full car. Our fellow passengers were an ethnic Uzbek Kyrgyz lady who lived in Portugal, a middle aged ... read more
Beautiful Scenery
Melon Stop
A Lada Full of Melons

Asia » Kyrgyzstan » Osh August 10th 2015

The China / Kyrgyzstan border is an odd one. The distance between the first Chinese checkpoint and the last one is ~140km, then there's a bit of no mans land until the first checkpoint in Kyrgyzstan then another few km until the actual immigration post. It made for an interesting day that had high highs, low lows, a lot of frustration, and some stunning scenery. The executive summary is that despite another example of Chinese organisational incompetence / indifference - for example you need a different taxi from the first checkpoint than the one that takes you to it and the last checkpoint closes for a 3 hour lunch break - in the end everything worked out better than we could have wished for. Once into Kyrgyzstan before we'd even got out of the immigration car ... read more
Equestrian Skills
Getting Some Tips
Our Driver / Host

Asia » China » Xinjiang » Kashgar August 7th 2015

Since we left Turpan everything has been different. The people, the culture, the food, the language, and even - unofficially - the time. We had plenty of time to get to Kashgar so made a couple of stops along the way, one turned out to be a good idea, the other not. First up was Kuqa, the good one. We'd managed to book two soft sleepers on the train and amazingly had the whole four berth compartment to ourselves for the whole journey, but before we could discover that we had to make the 50km journey from the city of Turpan to the closest station which is in a hellhole called Daheyan. In my wildest dreams I can find no reason why anybody would live in such a place, not for the first nor the last ... read more
Kashgar Street
Kashgar Night Market
Kashgar Night Market

Asia » China » Xinjiang » Turpan August 1st 2015

The train from Hami stopped quite abruptly in the middle of the desert, we're guessing it was because of the wind because once we were at a standstill the train and electric wires were swaying all over the place. Apparently it's a common problem that they've tried to fix by building a wall along the north side of the line. To steal and bastardize the quote from Jaws - they're going to need a bigger wall. It's unbelievably hot here - over 40c in the shade in the afternoon and not lower than the mid 20s at any time of the night. Like the other places we've stayed in western China it also has a weird daily rhythm and routine. Because the whole of China officially operates on one time zone out here it's dark until ... read more
Hami Melon
Mausoleum of Hami Kings
Mausoleum of Hami Kings

Asia » China » Gansu » Dunhuang July 29th 2015

As one of the iconic towns along the Silk Road Dunhuang is incredibly popular, as the thousands upon thousands of domestic tourists proved to us. It's easy to see why so many people make the long journey out here, the sights are quite special. First up for us was the Mogao Caves, or at least that was the plan. We knew there is a limit of 6000 visitors per day, and that tickets sold out quickly, but were taken aback when we got to the ticket office on Friday evening to be told there were no tickets at all for the next several days - more days than we were staying, merde !! There was one option left - what are called "emergency tickets". We had no idea what these were but could buy 2 for ... read more
Mogao Caves
Yadan National Park
Yadan National Park

Asia » China » Gansu » Jiayuguan July 23rd 2015

We've made it to Jiayuguan, the mouth of China and the westernmost point of the Great Wall. This is the 2nd of our slightly longer stops, this time for it's longer for immigration reasons. We're going to be in China for ~40 days so need to extend our visas which are only valid for 30. This is a fairly straightforward, if Big Brotherish, process that works much more smoothly and quickly in small towns than big cities, that was certainly our experience here - applied on Tuesday afternoon picked up new visas Friday morning, we're now OK until late August. The sights here are a mixed bag. The Wei Jin Tombs are smallest and least popular but were our favourite, while the two biggest and most crowded - the Jiayuguan Fort and the Overhanging Great Wall ... read more
Un-restored Great Wall
Heavily Restored Fort and Power Station
Photo Studio for Visa Extension

Asia » China » Gansu » Zhangye July 21st 2015

Since leaving Hong Kong we've felt a bit rushed for quite a lot of the time. Booking trains and hotels in the high season takes more advanced planning than we're used to, especially in and between Shanghai, Beijing and Xi'an. We then had a couple of one night stays after longish journeys. So we're now going to have at least a couple of stops that are a day or two longer than they need to be for the things we're going to see. The first of these is Zhangye. We were happy to see the back of Lanzhou and leaving from the massive, new, almost empty West Station (more platforms (25) than daily departures (13)) was a pleasure. We had no idea that the journey over and through the Qilian Mountains was going to be so ... read more
Danxia Geo Park
Danxia Geo Park
Danxia Geo Park

Asia » China » Gansu » Xiahe July 16th 2015

Xiahe is just under 3000m above sea level and even in the middle of July it's cold at night or when the sun isn't shining. It was quite a shock getting off the bus from Lanzhou where it had been 30c when we left a bit over 3 hours earlier. Apart from the cold and wind the first thing that struck us was the similarity in looks and dress between the Tibetans living up here and the Andean peoples we'd come across in South America - it's startling to see how alike two groups of people separated by half a world can be. The Labrang Monastery is the must see place. It's one of the six major Tibetan monasteries of the Yellow Hat Sect. It has 1800 monks and nuns and spreads over quite a big ... read more
At the Top of a Temple
Spinning the Prayer Wheels on the Kora
Spinning the Prayer Wheels on the Kora

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