When to go
The best time to have a Silk Road Trip is from May to October. The summer can be searingly hot. The winter is freezing. During May, the average temperature along the route is around 15 C. the scenery is most beautiful during May. The accumulated winter snow on the tableland is melting. The grass is turning green. Visitors can enjoy this enchanting scenery without suffering extreme temperatures.
What to bring
Even during May and October, topography and climate along the Silk Road vary greatly. Some stretches of the road are high and cold, others low and dry. For example, the city of Turpan (sometimes written "Turfan" on older maps), can reach 40 degrees Celsius in the hottest month, August, while it sometimes dips to -20 degrees Celsius in the coldest month, January.
- Take clothing for a wide range of temperatures.
- Comfortable shoes are a must.
- Personal items such as dental floss and feminine hygiene supplies must be taken. Such items cannot be bought along the route.
- Particularly at higher elevations, the sun’s ultraviolet radiation can be very strong. Carry sun block and suntan oil to prevent sunburn.
- Also carry basic medical supplies, perhaps a small first aid kit plus medicines for ordinary ailments. Such medicines cannot be bought along the route.
However, do not burden your trip with more baggage than you can easily carry. It is best to travel fairly light but well prepared.
Where to accommodate
The Silk Road spans most of China, from modern cities in the central China to isolated villages and towns in the remote west. Accordingly accommodations along the route range from high standard luxurious hotels to somple guesthouse.
- In cities like Dunhuang, Turpan, Kashgar, Urumqi, Lanzhou, the visitors can enjoy high standard hotels. They all provide excellent conditions, all-round services and they are quite safe. But this kind of hotels is also the most expensive.
- Visitors on a tight budget may consider the cheaper guesthouse. With simpler facilities and basic service, these guesthouses are used by most Chinese travelers.
- In the remote villages, only simple and rough lodgings are available. These locations offer nothing but a quite simple room.
What to eat
On the Silk Road travelers will easily notice the Islamic influence on eating habits in northwest China. Visitors more interested in traditional Chinese food will have no problem in finding restaurants, specializing in Sichuan, Cantonese, Beijing and Shanghai cuisine.
Night markets and small restaurants in every city are the best places to taste local snacks, before you enter, remember to check the sanitary appearance of the restaurant. If you are puzzled with the food names on the menu, remember that the best way to order is by pointing to what other patrons are having or by going into the kitchen and picking out various meat and vegetable combinations. Remember that pork is forbidden in Islamic food.
Moreover the various nationalities you can encounter along the Silk Road have their own typical drinks and food.
Unlike people in other parts of China, in northwest China people often drinks tea with their meals or even when snacking a piece of bread. In restaurant, popular refreshments like Coca-Cola, beer and fruit juice are always available. You should try local drinks like kumiss, frozen yogurt and tea with milk.
How to visit Temples
When traveling along the Silk Road, a temple is often an important spot visited by travelers. There are some important things to remember, though, in order to ensure a pleasant visit to the temples.
Addressing a Monk: ”shi” or “fashi” is the honorable title of the Monks and Taoists, and “zhanglao”, “fangzhang” or “chanshi” of the Governing Monk. “Heshang” and “chujiaren” are regarded as the impolite way to address a monk.
Proper Manners: put your palms together and lower your head when meeting with the monks. Attempting to handshake, embrace or touch the head of the monk is considered sacrilegious.
Topics of Conversation: topics relating to killing, marriage and eating meat are forbidden. Political and religious topics are sensitive which may lead your Silk Road tour as a bad memory.
Visiting Behavior: Be respectful. Do not touch or deface any religious artifacts, and be silent and nonjudgmental during religious ceremonies.
Gender Issues: make sure that the temple or hall you visit is open to the public and (if you are female) to women.
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