Winding through the silk road

On a train journey, ancient cities and trade routes captivate with their treasures and timelessness

The Silk Road, singular, is a bit of a misnomer as it was actually a series of trade routes that spider-webbed across Asia. The best-known curved north-west out of Xi'an, China, and it was this route that was traced by our plane, above wide dusty expanses of empty space.

Quick glimpses at my GPS revealed names of old desert oases that had hidden Buddhist treasures since antiquity. The last of these, Urumqi, was shaded by the heavenly Tien Shan, which, from 10,000m in the air, was a network of steep crags in a a foreboding landscape.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 03, 2018, with the headline 'Winding through the silk road'. Print Edition | Subscribe