We are into the second month of the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge!
The prompt for Week 5 is all about traveling in Asia:
If you’ve traveled in Asia, what’s your favorite destination? Share a story of one of your best experiences in Asia, or tell us about a place you love.
If you’ve never been to Asia, tell us about your dream trip in the region. Would you rather find your own paradise among the Thai Islands, or shop for crazy Harajuku fashion in Japan? Are the uncrowded temples of Burma calling you, or are you dreaming of a visit to China’s Great Wall?
I have been to Asia twice, although neither time was to any place that normally comes to mind when one thinks of Asia.
My first visit was back in 2008 when I entered the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. I was a bit skeptical, but my tour guide insisted we had technically crossed into Asia. I’ll take his word for it.
The second time I visited Asia was in November when I arrived in Vladivostok, Russia to start my Trans-Siberian journey back to Moscow. The “official” dividing point between Europe and Asia is near the city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains in Russia, which means the three weeks I spent traveling from Vladivostok to Yekaterinburg were all in Asia.
My next Asian jaunt is coming up soon, when I head to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan this summer to wind up my Soviet Sojourn – better known collectively as Central Asia.
But you all have heard plenty about my plans for the ‘Stans, right? So rather than focus on my immediate travel to Asia, I thought I’d answer another question:
If I could go anywhere else in Asia, where would I go?
China, Tibet and Nepal
I created about a hundred different potential tentative itineraries for my current trip and for several months at least a few versions included China, Tibet and/or Nepal. In the end, I decided including any of them on this trip wouldn’t be feasible for one reason or another.
However, if my time (and money) were unlimited, when I finish my planned route through Central Asia, I would continue on like this:
Silk Road to Xian
From Kyrgyzstan, I would follow one of the traditional Silk Road routes and start my time in China in Kashgar, one of the major stops along the Silk Road and a city once visited by Marco Polo. It has been referred to as “the best-preserved example of a traditional Islamic city in Central Asia” and is home to the largest mosque in China. From Kashgar, I would follow the northern route of the Silk Road to Urumqi, Turpan and Dunhuang before making my way to Xian to see the famous Terracotta Warriors.
Beijing and the Great Wall
From Xian, I would head to Beijing, stopping along the way in Pingyao to see its ancient city walls and in Datong to visit the Hanging Temple. In a perfect world, I could time all this to run the Great Wall Marathon, which takes place in May (a recent addition to my bucket list!). Regardless, some quality time at the Great Wall would definitely be on the agenda, as would visiting Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and numerous other parks, palaces and temples in Beijing. I think I would need at least a week, if not more!
From Beijing, I would head south toward the Yangtze River, stopping first in Nanjing, one of the four great ancient capitals of China and home to the infamous Nanjing Massacre during the second Chinese-Japanese War. From there, I would cruise down the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges from Wuhan to Chongqing.
Tigers and Pandas
Okay, not really tigers, but the Tiger Leaping Gorge not far from Lijiang. I would love to spend a couple days hiking the gorge and then stop in the towns of Dali and Kunming before going on to Chengdu, where visiting the Giant Panda Breeding Research Center would be a must.
From Chengdu, I would move on to mysterious Tibet and explore the monasteries and temples of this long isolated region.
Finally, I would end my trip in Nepal by hiking the Annapurna Circuit. Such a hike would be by far the most physically (and possibly mentally) challenging thing I have ever done (unless of course I did time this all to include the Great Wall Marathon, in which case that might take the cake!).
I figure all of this would take at least a couple months to do it right (the Annapurna hike alone can be about three weeks), which means adding it in at the end of my current trip is unlikely.
But I can always dream.
What do you think of my dream trip to Asia? Where in Asia would you love to visit?
*The Indie Travel Challenge 2012 is a weekly community blogging effort in which travelers from around the world share their stories. For every week in 2012, BootsnAll will post a prompt, question, or even a challenge.