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There was never one Silk Road - but several. The route chosen by Colin Thubron passes through China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, taking in the most sterile desert on earth (the Taklamakan) and the strife-torn mountain valleys of today's conflicts, as he travels from the tomb of the Yellow Emperor (the mythic progenitor of the Chinese people) to the ancient port of Antioch, by local bus, truck, car - occasionally Landrover, horse or camel. He covers 7,000 miles in 8 months, and confesses that it is the most difficult, complex and ambitious journey he has undertaken in 40 years of travel, he Silk Road is a huge network of arteries and veins, splitting and converging across the breadth of Asia. Chinese silk has turned up in the hair of a 10th-century-BC Egyptian mummy; equally, the tartan plaids of 3000-year-old mummies in the Chinese desert echo those of early Celts. To be travelling the Silk Road, writes Colin Thubron, is to be travelling the history of the world- tracing the passage not just of trade and armies, but of ideas, religions and inventions. Yet - despite the lure of the history - this book is as much about Asia today. Its themes include diffe
Colin Thubron is the master of classic travel writing, and a previous winner of the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. His first writing was about the Middle East - Damascus, Lebanon and Cyprus. In 1982 he travelled all over Russia in an ancient Morris Marina - pursued at every stage by the KGB. From these early experiences developed his travel books- Among the Russians, Behind the Wall, The Lost Heart of Asia and In Siberia (all available in Vintage). So great is his dedication to travelling in Russia and China, that he has learned Russian and Mandarin in order to be able to speak to ordinary people en route. Colin Thubron is also a prize-winning novelist - but his travel books have a much higher profile and command much greater sales than his fiction. He lives in West London.