This vast and beautiful land is where the great dynasties and kingdoms rose and fell - including the mightiest of them all, the pan-Asian empire conquered by the mighty Mongolian warrior Genghis Khan.
The formidable horseback soldiers of Genghis Khan, raised and trained on the grasslands of the Mongolian region, were no match for opposing armies or city-fortresses of the day: the Mongol cavalry swept through Asia and on towards Europe, crushing all opposition.
The Mongols' tactical planning and fighting prowess were awesome; the marauding troops took on the banner of Islam which, at the furthest extremities of their empire, in what is modern-day Hungary, found them pitted against the Christian forces of Europe.
When Genghis Khan and his troops went into battle nobody had the ability, strength or spirit to mount an effective challenge. It was only when the Mongols relaxed into the more leisurely town and city life of their conquered opponents that their fighting spirit gradually sapped and their newly-claimed lands lost.
The spirit of Genghis Khan lives on today in the Grasslands of Mongolia: the warrior-king's name reverberates through ten centuries of history as a symbol of strength and power. The Great Khan was, like most Mongolians now and then, a master rider and expert hunter, who learned to handle a horse from early childhood. Fighting, whether it was to settle local tribal disputes, or take foreign territory, was a way of life.
As the Mongols galloped across continents, the explorer Marco Polo was heading the other way, ultimately ending up as an honoured guest in the court of the legendary Genghis Khan's grandson, Kublai Khan.
Today, the Grasslands are peaceful places, but the noble traditions live on. People in this part of the world have few visitors, so those adventurous travellers who do make the effort to visit are rewarded with fabulous hospitality.
Touring the Grasslands is for travellers who want an alternative holiday, a place where the vistas are of stunning blue skies and wide empty spaces, not city skyscrapers and traffic jams. Visitors inevitably ponder on how the rugged land bred the warriors who created the largest empire of all time.
Our itinerary takes a close look at the lifestyle, culture and history of the Grasslands people. To be able to travel easily, and live in relative comfort when they stop, modern-day Mongolians have devised and fine-tuned a special Grasslands-style home. The yurt, a circular tent-like structure made of thick felt, can be erected and taken down in minutes; whole families live inside, huddled around the central stove during the colder months.
The long spells of isolation mean the Grasslands people take their socialising seriously. The annual Naadam festival is a mini-Olympics of horse racing, wrestling contests and archery competitions, a chance to demonstrate that Genghis blood is still in the local genes.
Traditions are strong in this vast land, undiluted or polluted by the modern world. Although the odd yurt may well sport a satellite dish, Mongolians are just as likely to spend their evenings singing songs, or telling folk stories that have been passed down though the generations. Music is so much a part of Mongolian life that the Grasslands folk have been known to hum lullabies to young animals and children alike.
Mongolia is a huge land, with Grasslands that adjoin China and Russia. In fact the Kazakh people of the Grasslands in neighbouring Xinjiang province in China have a similar lifestyle; they, too, live in yurts and make a living by tending animals. Mongols are also scattered throughout the northeast of China.
It is a harsh life, but rich and rewarding. These are people at one with nature, imbued with a survivalist instinct and a placid, easy-going nature; visiting them literally opens up new horizons, in a vast and splendid country. It's a total cultural experience.
Bayanbulak means 'abundant spring' in Mongolian. It is located in Xinjiang. To the south of the Mt. Tianshan (Heavenly Mountain) lies the beautiful Bayanbulak Grassland, which is home to the descendants of Mongols who returned here from Russia one hundred years ago. Covering an area of about 23,000 kilometers, it is the second largest grassland in China.
As the capital of the People's Republic of China, Beijing is the nation's center of government, economy, culture, and international activities, as well as serving as a transportation hub to the entire country. With a population of 11 million people, Beijing contains 18 districts and counties covering an area of 10,450 square miles. The suburbs contain: Dongcheng, Xicheng, Xuanwu, Chongwen, Chaoyang, Haidian, Fengtai, and Shijingshan. An outer suburban area consists of: Fangshan, Mengtougou, Changping, Tongxian, Shunyi, Daxing, Huairou, Miyun, Pinggu, and Yianqing.
Beijing City is an independently administered municipal district located in the northeastern part of China at an elevation of 143 feet above sea level. Beijing has a continental climate. January is the coldest month with an average temperature of 24 degrees Fahrenheit. At an average temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit, July is the warmest. The best time to visit Beijing is May, September and October.
Beijing has a long history. As early as 500,000 years ago, ancient "Peking Man" lived at Zhoukoudian 30 miles southwest of Beijing. King Wu was the first to declare Beijing the capital city in 1057 B.C. Established in 1045 B.C., Beijing is an ancient cultural city, serving for 800 years as the capital of the Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.
Beijing was also known as Peking by the Western world before 1949. In the early nineteen twenties, Beijing became the cradle of China's new democratic revolution. The May Fourth Movement against imperialism and feudalism began in 1919. On October 1st, 1949, Chairman Mao announced to the world the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Beijing is also known as a tourist city for its many places of interest, including ancient architecture, royal gardens, mansions, towers, temples, palaces, and modern structures. It is a gathering place of artists and other talented people.
Hailar is located in the Inner Mongolia Prefecture in northeast China. Long known as the "Pearl of the Grasslands", Hailar acts as a gateway between China and Russia. Hailar is considered an urban district which has an estimated population of 256,000, and it serves as a regional centre for commerce, trade, and transportation of Hulunbuir, which is a mainly grassland and remote.
It is a city in north-central China and the capital of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, serving as the region's administrative, economic, and cultural centre. The name of the city means "Blue City" in Mongolian. The color blue in Mongolian culture is associated with the sky, eternity and purity.
As a city with a rich cultural background, Hohhot is known for its historical sites and temples and is one of the major tourist destinations of Inner Mongolia.
It is a city in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and is under the administration of the Aksu Prefecture. It was once the home of an ancient Buddhist Kingdom of Kucha and played a vital role on the ancient Silk Road.
Urumqi means "a beautiful pasture land” in ancient Mongolian used by the Junggar tribe. It is the capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China. Urumqi was an important town on the new northern route of the Silk Road, which made vital contributions in promoting Sino-foreign economic and cultural exchanges 2,000 years ago.
Urumqi is a city where ethnic minorities live in compact of mixed communities. They are the Uygur, Han, Hui, Kazak, Mongolian, Kirgiz, Xibe, altogether over 40 ethnic groups of people. It is interesting that Han people are the major ethnic group in China, but in Xinjiang, they are minority group. The city's uniqueness, the strong colorful ethnic life styles and local customs are quite attractive to visitors.
Xian (also Xi’an)
Xian, the capital of Shaanxi Province, is located in the heart of the Guanzhong Basin, with the Weihe River running along the northern border of the city. It is the largest metropolis in northwestern China. Known as Chang'an in ancient China, Xian is a world-renowned ancient capital.
For 1,062 years beginning in the 11th century B.C., Xian was the capital of 13 dynasties including the Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Eastern Han, Sui, and Tang. The continuous dynastic occupation kept the city beautiful and magnificent. More than two hundred and seventy palaces and temples were built during its heyday, such as the "Three Han Palaces" in the Han dynasty, namely Changle, Weiyang, Jianzhang Palaces, and numerous other palaces and watch towers. The most well-known among these is the Tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang, with the Terracotta Warriors and chariot. Xian is also the starting point of the ancient Silk Road.
Words fail me adequately to express our thanks and appreciation for the superb arrangements you and The Silk Road Travel Management Company provided for us during the time period of 16-30 October 2010 in Beijing and Shanxi Province.
Thank you many times over.
The trip arrangements were perfect. We will fill out your "customer satisfaction" form shortly, but I want very much to let you know a couple of things about the trip in advance of that. (after we get over jet lag)
First, I have to tell you that my wife is sometimes semi-disabled by having a severe case of lymphedema after successful cancer surgery. This means that one of her legs is enlarged by about 40 extra pounds of water weight. She has to be judicious in the amount of walking she can do at certain times. Otherwise she is in great willingness to travel.
Thanks to the wonderful arrangements you made for us, she was able to do EVERYTHING! In fact, if her re-recovery from the trip goes as well as we think it might, we will want to be talking to you about a journey to Dunhuang. But, more about that later.
I rate the trip 99.999% perfect…
RE: Lu Song Yuan Bingguan: We love this hotel. The staff is very very nice. The rooms and beds were comfortable, the courtyards were handsome, the other clients were congenial, and all in all it is --in my opinion-- the best place to stay in Beijing if one wants to have a most comfortable and more authentic Chinese experience. Thank you so much for having this wonderful property available to serve the traveling public…
Finally, for now, I will conclude with kudos for "Catherine" our Shanxi Province guide. She was a delight and thoroughly understanding and helpful. We had a wonderful time with her on the trip, and she must not have minded us too much because on the last day in Shanxi she took us to her family home where her lovely mother had prepared a delicious lunch for us. What an extra ordinary event that was, and we very much appreciate it. Mr. Wang the driver also was an excellent practitioner of the art of survival on Chinese roads.
AGAIN, THANK YOU for your excellent arrangements. I cannot sing the praises of the Silk Road Company too much. I am looking forward to writing to you again. And I will mail the Customer Satisfaction survey form to you in a day or so. But for now, I want you to know how happy the three of us are to have been in your most capable hands.
Warren B. Wotton
Beijing & Shanxi (staying at LuSongYuan)(17 - 30 Oct 2010)
After a fantastic couple of weeks in China we leave for Hong Kong tomorrow. We have had a great time and the memories will stay with us for a lifetime.
Could you please forward our sincere thanks to our local guides, ZHAO in Beijing, SUSAN in Xian and SISSI in Shanghai who have made our trip so memorable? They have all been extremely kind and helpful making sure we experienced the local culture and history in each location.
Thank you also for organising the trip and ensuring we had such a great time.
With sincere thanks.
Kevin & Sallie Redmond
The Titan Times Hotel in Xian is very recommendable. The guide Mary Qu was excellent, her English is outstanding and she is very friendly. The pre-tour briefing was very good.
Ms. T. Lesaffre
24-28 Sep 09
Conditions along the Silk Road vary from a typical continental climate around Xian to a desert climate as you travel westward. Average daily variation is about 12°C. Temperature in certain desert areas may vary up to a maximum of 36°C in one day between noon and midnight.Despite the hot weather, the summer months of June, July, August and September are a popular time to travel when the oasis towns are full of life, flowers are blooming, fruits are in season, and the fragrance of sweet melons and grapes fill the air. Spring and autumn though short and barely noticeable, are a comfortable season to travel too. Winter is cold but offers a different perspective in scenery.
Light cotton dresses, sunglasses and a hat to guard against sunburn for the summer. Wool and fleece layers, topped with a down jacket with wind-breaking shell, scarves, gloves, hats and woolen socks for the winter.Wear layers that can be added on or discarded as weather changes. Comfortable rubber-soled shoes are recommended.
“Culture Hotel” is our hotel brand that aims to bring to you a unique hotel concept. Each hotel blends in with local architectural style and décor to preserve the indigenous flavour of the region. During your trip, you may have a chance to stay at one of below distinctive hotels that have character and soul:
: Lusongyuan Hotel
: The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel
: Pingjiang Lodge
: Tunxi Lodge
: Turpan Oasis Hotel
: Xidi Travel Lodge
: Tsongkha Hotel
Food & Beverages
Hotels in China usually offer buffet breakfast or continental breakfast. You may bring some snacks along with you for the trip. Avoid drinking tap water and eating cold dishes or beverages at the street market. Drink only bottled water and well cooked food during the trip.
The most efficient and comfortable way to travel is by air. Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines operate regular flights along the Silk Road cities using aircraft models Boeing 707, 737, 757 and Airbus A320. In addition, the Lanzhou - Urumqi Railway line operates train service along the Silk Road. For the more adventurous travellers who prefer to trace the footprints of Marco Polo, they can consider entering China by road through the Khunjerab Pass from Pakistan on the KarokoramHighway, or by the International Railway from Moscow to Urumqi.
China Visa & Travel Document
Most of the overseas passport holders are required to apply for a China Visa to enter China. Please check with your local Chinese embassy for visa application. To visit Tibet, all overseas passport holders are required to apply for a special permit. Please allow at least 14 working days to apply for the Tibet Permit. Remember to check if your passport is valid for at least 6 months’ before your departure date.
There are two service systems for China Cell Phone – GSM and CDMA. China Mobile's feature is the GSM system, while China Unicom the CDMA system. Cell phone network covers most provinces in China except that transmission may sometimes be interrupted in certain desert areas. Most hotels have IDD lines where you can make IDD calls in your room. Internet access is available at the business centre of most hotels.
The currency is called Chinese Yuan (CNY), which is also known as Renminbi (RMB) locally. International credits cards like Visa and Master are accepted by hotels in the major cities. US Dollar Travellers Cheques are acceptable for money exchange in most hotels.