Travel on the Silk Route is as much of an adventure today as it was in the days of Marco Polo. Only five years ago a passenger service was inaugurated on the newly-completed rail link between Almaty in Kazakhstan and Urumqi in north-west China. It is, therefore, now possible to travel between Moscow and Beijing on a new rail route and visit Samarkand, Bukhara and many other cities along the Silk Route. This guide shows you how to arrange your trip independently or with a group.
Here’s the way it happened, and how I got into writing in the first place.
I was taking my university finals (Kings College, London, 1992, in case you’re interested) when my mother bumped into a friend at the checkout of the local supermarket. The pair discussed what their children were up to. I’d written a lot of bits and pieces, starting when I was in the navy in the late 1980s, but had no idea what to do next. My mother’s friend’s son had set up a travel publishing company specialising in out-of-the-way places – but was having trouble finding authors who had travelled off the beaten track and ‘know what a comma is for’. The pair decided we should meet.
Shortly afterwards Bryn Thomas, owner of Trailblazer Publications called, grilled me about where I’d been and when, and asked for something I’d written (presumably to reassure himself that I did indeed know what a comma was for). As I recall, I sent him a third-year essay on the figure of Beatrice in Dante’s Divine Comedy: nothing to do with travel, of course, but it probably included a few commas. Three months later I was in Kazakhstan researching this book.
The Silk Route by Rail took a year to write, went into a second edition (updated by my middle brother, who had just come out of the army and was looking for something to do) and was – miraculously – short-listed for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. After that, it was taken over by Paul Wilson who expanded it, revised it and changed its title to The Silk Roads: a Route and Planning Guide. It’s currently in its third edition.
I went on to update Bryn’s Trans-Siberian Handbook, then moved on to the BBC where I worked as a researcher for, among others, Esther Rantzen. Trailblazer continues to flourish and currently publishes more than forty titles. You can find them at www.trailblazer-guides.com/
Published by: Trailblazer Guides (1997)