Silk Road by Rail

Clients in search of a different way to see China can join Seattle-based TCS Expeditions on its 15-day Ancient Silk Road program in which travelers tour the country via the chartered China Orient Express train.

By: David Peterkofsky

Clients in search of a different way to see China can join Seattle-based TCS Expeditions on its 15-day Ancient Silk Road program in which travelers tour the country via the chartered China Orient Express train.

The itinerary, which departs May 9, follows the legendary trade route from Beijing to Urumchi near the Mongolian border, then on to Chengdu and back to Hong Kong.

The China Orient Express, which carried important delegations through the country in the 1950s and 1960s, features six sleeping carriages, each with eight private, ornately decorated cabins. Chefs prepare traditional Chinese dishes, and classical piano is played for entertainment.

This departure also features a team of three lecturers. They include an author and expert on East Asian art, a geologist who describes the topography along the Silk Road route and a former State Department official who is an expert on the politics and economy of Asia.

In Beijing, travelers spend the first night at a deluxe hotel near the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, both of which are on the next day’s itinerary. Chairman Mao’s mausoleum and the Great Hall of the People are also visited.

In Beijing, a full day is spent exploring the Great Wall of China. On another morning, travelers see the Temple of Heaven, before an afternoon departure aboard the China Orient Express.

Travelers dine and spend the night on the train, which winds its way alongside the Wei River to Xian. In Xian, stops include the Shaanxi Provincial Museum, the Wild Goose Pagoda and a city wall that dates back to the Ming Dynasty.

A full day is spent in Xian touring the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi. The tomb is home to famed terra-cotta warriors and horses, discovered by archaeologists in the 1970s.

Following Xian, travelers board the China Orient Express again for the journey to Jiayuguan, whose Ming fortress is the western terminus of the Great Wall. While in town, travelers visit the Underground Gallery and the city’s outdoor market.

The following day, travelers board the train and head to Liuyuan then disembark for the 80-mile drive to Dunhuang, a town long known as a supply stop for caravans traveling south. Sightseeing includes a visit to the local museum and a camel ride through the sand dunes to nearby Crescent Lake.

The next day is also spent in Dunhuang visiting the Mogao Caves, decorated with sculptures and murals dating from as far back as the 4th century. After Dunhuang, the train heads to Jihaoe, a town destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th century, and Turfan, a Gobi Desert city in one of the deepest waterless depressions on earth. Travelers visit an 18th-century minaret and a bazaar before heading to Urumchi for dinner and an overnight stay.

After Urumchi, travelers fly to Chengdu, perhaps best known for being home to the world’s largest panda preserve. Travelers visit the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center and spend the night in Chengdu before flying to Hong Kong for an overnight. The trip concludes on May 23 with a flight from Hong Kong back to the United States.

The Ancient Silk Road program starts at $7,990 per person, double, excluding domestic and international air. TCS offers negotiated airfares from a variety of home cities.

Included in the rate are accommodations, special events, excursions and all meals. TCS pays agents 10%.

Call 800-727-7477.

Web site: www.tcs-expeditions.com.

>