Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dark Days in Tibet

      Phuntsholing Monastery, Tibet

After six weeks of trying, I finally managed to get a permit to get into Tibet this May. Made it all the way to Everest Base Camp and the Nepal border, with stopovers at the interesting monastery ruins at Phuntsholing (above). Apart from a few tour groups there were very few foreigners in Tibet, especially outside Lhasa. The permit situation in Tibet has been a mess for the last month and the province was finally closed to foreigners just after I left, after two Tibetans from Kham set themselves on fire beside the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.

A wander around the Barkhor Square these days means passing underneath the video cameras and snipers on the rooftops and avoiding the riot squad teams walking provocatively anticlockwise around the circuit in the opposite direction to all the pilgrims. Metal detectors and SWAT teams guard the entrance to the Jokhang Square and fire extinguishers are strapped to the backs of all military teams. It's a dark, disturbing atmosphere and one that is unlikely to change significantly until the end of the summer.

I've been to all the places on this trip many times before but there's always something new to see, like this giant thangka that was being made at a warehouse outside Drongtse Monastery for a giant thankga unveiling festival in Gyangtse:

In Sakya Monastery you can now pay an extra Y10 and visit the formerly off-limits library behind the main chapel. The entire wall is made up of ancient sacred texts, printed on leaves of paper and wrapped in brocade;

As is common to most of of my research trips in Tibet, I almost got arrested at one point. It's amazing how sensitive the local PSB can be at certain sights in Tibet. After an hour of negotation, threats, anger and conciliatory slaps on the back we finally got away without major hassle, and more importantly without a fine for our excellent Tibetan guide. So if you are going to Lhatse Choede Monastery and fort, a few miles from Lhatse town on the road to Phuntsholing, make sure it is listed on your travel permit. And certainly don't post a picture of it on your blog...

My favourite monastery in Lhasa, always a delight:

I'm off to Zanskar next for a bit of trekking so I'll post some pics of that on my return.
Be well, Bradley

     Nam-tso lake at sunset

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Marco Polo Reloaded apps on iTunes!

The four Marco Polo Reloaded films are now available as apps on iTunes.

If you don't know, these films follow me as I retrace Marco Polo's route overland from Venice to China via the Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
If you haven't been able to check out the films so far, each app contains one of the four films in English, plus some additional behind the scenes photos and thoughts on making the trip.

The four films are:
 * Venice to Turkey
 * Iran
 * Afghanistan & Tajikistan
* Through China

Read more about the apps here, where you'll find links to downloading the films through iTunes.

You can also download a free preview of the Marco Polo Reloaded apps by clicking on this link.
There's also a Q&A with me about the films and apps at the Get Addicted To website.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Travels in Xinjiang

Sorry for the silence, I've been in China for two months, enjoying a life of Uighur kebabs and Tibetan butter tea. The Chinese authorities block Blogspot, as they do Facebook and most other Western social media sites, so I haven't been able to post anything.

Five weeks in Xinjiang brought me back to several of the locations I visited in the Marco Polo Reloaded films (Kashgar and Hotan) and allowed me to trace the Taklamakan Desert along the southern Silk Road, from Hotan on to Charklik.

One of the highlights for me was tracking down the region's great history. Archaeology nuts will like the following faded remnants of Xinjiang's once-thriving Buddhist heritage:

Buddhist stupa surrounded by stupa bases, Yarkhoto (Jiaohe), outside Turpan

Mor pagoda, in the desert outside Kashgar

two-thousand-year-old Han dynasty watchtower, outside Kuqa

Subashi Buddhist ruins, outside Kuqa

I was also excited to finally make it out to the impressive Shipton's Arch, an hour or so outside Kashgar, off the road to the Irkeshtam Pass. Thanks to Ali of Uighur Tour for helping to make that happen.

When in Kashgar, fans of Peter Hopkirk's book 'The Great Game' should visit the former British Consulate at the back of the Chini Bagh Hotel's north building. It's currently a Chinese restaurant and you can wander through through the rooms that were once home to the Macartneys, Shiptons and others:

One side effect from authoring the Odyssey Guide to Uzbekistan is that I can't pass up obscure Timurid tomb. This one near the Xinjiang-Kazakhstan border is a cracker:

Tomb of Teglug Timur (1347-1364), ancient city of Almalik, Huocheng, near Qingshuihe.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Marco Polo Reloaded Updates (Updated July 2012)

Here are a couple of updates on the Marco Polo Reloaded films:

German speakers can now view clips from the Marco Polo series at the website of Marco Polo Reisen.

The main Marco Polo Reloaded webdoc site is now locked to visitors from the US and UK (sorry, it's an international rights thing) but you can currently view the clips at Marco Polo Reisen and some are in English.

Over the last few months the Marco Polo Reloaded films have just been shown in Italy on Rai 5 Italian TV, in Germany on Hessicher Rundfunk, in Canada on the Knowledge channel where Canadians can watch episodes online, and on a three hour marathon event across Germany via satellite station 3Sat. Most recently it was on in July 2012 on German station NDR.

One thing to look out for in June is the unveiling of four Marco Polo Reloaded apps, for iPhone and iPad, which will include the four 52 minute films, as well as some photos and thoughts from the trip. The physical DVDs are even for sale on the German version of

Thanks for reading. Safe travels for 2012!



Classic Pamiri Scenery of Gorno Badakhshan

Current Favourite Track