Our silk road expedition started with the flying in of participants into the old city of SHANGHAI on the 22nd of April 2017.
They came from all parts of the world, echoing the age old tradition of traveling to the farthest Orient.
But, the group’s arrival in Cathy was in direct contrast to the 13th century expeditions through the silk road into China of Kublai Khan – which were fraught with danger, they had to brave mountain ranges such as the Hindu Kush and the mother of all mountain ranges the Himalayas, the snow and freezing winds were a test for the fittest and not many survived it, they had to then traverse vast and limitless harsh deserts of Taklaman, where for days water cannot be found and where the spirits of the desert are supposed to sing unintelligible songs to haunt the wayfarer.
If the climate and the terrain wasn’t deadly enough, there remained a constant threat of assault by the northern barbarians, the nomads.
Fast forward 700 years from the time of Marco Polo to present day China and the journey seems unsettling easy.
China of today is a country with a bustling economy and set on the road to progress in technical advancement and creation of mega-infrastructure.
The new exists with the old, and it is mostly evident in Shanghai. It is modern with sky-scrapers, and fast bullet trains, the roads are developed and people modern, but there continues age old tradition of rearing worms for silk and the silk thread being woven by hand on hand looms. It is this silk that the European merchants were after, and they carried it to the West.
The ancient city of Shanghai stumbles along the new, its old architecture, the romance of days gone by still reverberating in its gardens and water ways.
It is a shock of sorts to one’s senses, so much is gone and is part of a time receding in history, and so much is new, coming of age, bubbling and bursting forth in a rush to the future. One finds one’s self awkwardly perched at crossroads of what was and what will be.
It is a city of senses – of colors, of sounds, of smells, and of touch. The streets are chock a block with street food, variety isn’t an issue here, from octopus to bugs on skewers all delicacies are available. The smells can be over-powering and some foods on display might make you churlish. It is so much to grasp and take in. No wonder China has attracted visitors in all times and from all places.
China is magical. it is mysterious and will not open up its secrets to a casual visitor.
To experience it and its vast dynamic and deep culture you must be ready to receive and accept all that is laid in front of you without judgment.
We are trying our best to do so ……
The blog above is third in the series of blogs on China
Also Read the other two