A very ambitious offering from Trailblazer that encompasses Turkey, Syria, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and China. The writer, Paul Wilson, has been a consultant on the WTO Silk Roads project, and laid down the route for the first Silk Road Cycle Expedition. In its 3rd edition now, this ‘route and planning guide’ was adapted from the original Silk Route by Rail book by Dominic Streatfelld-James.
This is a Silk Road guide. It deals only with the cities and remnants of the Silk Road. In 55 stopovers from Istanbul to Beijing, it discusses the main sights of the Silk Road. The lay-out can be a bit confusing, since the author follows a west to east format, which means for instance he dips in and out of Turkey, with Syria in between.
The practical info is very basic. A major city like Tehran has 5 listings for hotels and 1 restaurant. The transportation section is okay-ish. The maps of the Silk Roads are great, but the city maps are not very informative. Also don’t expect any information on activities outside of sightseeing. It’s not that kind of book.
What this book does do very well is explain the history of the Silk Roads. You will learn about the different Silk Roads and its conquerors, Muslim sects, little-known artefacts like the Caspian Gates, how to buy a carpet in Iran and even the history of backgammon will be explained to you.
Paul Wilson connects the different strands of the intricate weaving that is the Silk Route (yes, I thought of that myself!) and guides culturally aware travellers interested in visiting part or all of the Silk Road once at their destination. As a planning guide, it’s not very good, since it does not stimulate the imagination very much. The writing is informative but dry, and there aren’t many pictures. For this, I highly recommend Omran Bajrami’s Silk Road guide!
But if you are interested in things like history and ancient architecture, and are intent on discovering the cultural sites of the Silk Route in the Middle East, Central Asia and China, this is the book for you. The lack of practical information makes it not so useful for independent travellers. If you are going on an organized tour, this book is perfect for you. If not, you will still need a another travel guide if you want to avoid spending hours searching for the right bus.
You can buy it on Amazon.