A Eurasian Diary: out now!

CoverA Eurasian Diary is now available on Amazon! The book’s ready for download to Kindles, PCs, Macs and all your favourite Virtual Reading Machines.

Covering six-thousand miles over sixty-eight days, A Eurasian Diary is the travelogue of a roundabout kind of reunion. Journeying through China’s Far West, onto the Silk Road and onwards to Europe, we encounter lands that are complex, beautiful and exceedingly friendly – leading us into some welcome (and, at times, a little bit unwelcome, if we’re honest) diversions from Best Laid Plans.

Pick up the story today for $2.99 in U.S. or Canadian money (or £1.99 in the UK). And, with 10% of the proceeds going to support the Community Based Tourism programme in Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan, you’ll be helping me give a little something back as well – bargainsauce!

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The countdown begins!

This coming Sunday, however wet, dreary and miserable the weather might seem, a warm light will suddenly ignite in the sky. A chorus of cherubic angels will lend harmony to the scene – doves and bunnies shall assemble with wolves, a double rainbow shall streak across the horizon, and volcanoes will spontaneously erupt chocolate mousse.

What event could possibly herald such wonders? A Eurasian Diary is gonna be launched – that is what!

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The posters are ready, the typos are cleared away, and I think I understand the difference between .htm, .doc, and .png files well enough to finally send this infant tale soaring into the big bad world of Virtual Reading. Once it’s live, you’ll get the link to my Amazon page, and the necessary, details right here on the blog (so don’t go unsubscribin’!). 

Exciting times indeed. Thanks for being a part of it out there – see you Sunday!

Sounds, glorious sounds!

The great thing about being a bit of a luddite is I get quite excited about new discoveries long after everyone else thinks they’re perfectly ordinary. My newfangled bread-toasting machine is the best thing since, well, you know!

Besides discovering toasters, I’ve also just discovered SoundCloud  – and I’m getting stuck in by posting some lovely musical sounds I picked up during my Eurasian travels.

And here’s one of them!

One of my favourite memories from the trip was happening upon a big Uyghur milonga that takes place each afternoon in Renmin Park, in central Urumqi. Three or four dozen patrons assemble in a concrete plaza in the middle of the park, set up big speakers playing the best of the Uyghur pop universe, and set about dancing and twirling till the sun goes down. Partners flow in and out of the circle as the music plays – amongst the dancers, you see Chinese profiles and Uyghurs profiles alike; the young join the old; there was even an off-duty soldier taking the time to boogie with the best of them.

This song was one of the ones played on the day I happened to show up. One year later, I still get this catchy ditty stuck in my head from time to time – something I must admit I don’t mind in the slightest. And I love the fact I can infect your own beautiful brains with some musical earworms from the trip as well…. 🙂

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Tea Time

Tea Time

A small teahouse hangs over the banks of the Ak-Buura River in Osh, Southern Kyrgyzstan. These fine gents were gathered here on a typically brisk November morning, sipping hot black tea, and all decked out in their white felt Kyrgyz caps – except, of course, for Michael Jackson in the background, as his friends liked to refer to him.

Facebookin’

…across the universe. Ladies and gents, if you’ve been aching for the chance to start liking, poking, and playing FarmVille with A Eurasian Diary, your waiting days are over 🙂 The Facebook page is up and running, and looks pretty good if I do say so myself!

Come by to Face Book and say the hellos.

Some may ask, what’s the blog for if now there’s a Facebook page too? Should WordPress get jealous? Should it plot an ill-advised revenge?

No, my dearest WordPress … in my heart of hearts, you are irreplaceable. For you are where I will continue to post photographs with long captions, and where I will launch excerpts from the finished book. It is where I will make the full book available, via the Amazon People, and where I will reflect on travel, writing, and all of life’s great mysteries. 

Facebook? It is where I will cheer and fist bump, make announcements and share miscellaneous bits of bobs that relate to the Silk Road, the Stans, and the People’s Republic in general. There will be a whole lotta likin’ goin’ on, but the bigger stuff will always live here on the blog.

So, do pop by, don’t be shy, bring some pie, and stay a whi. Look forward to seeing you there!

The end of the lines!

I’m currently as happy as a very happy thing. Take your happiest emoticon – the one with the smile that takes up the entire lower half of the face, and squeezes the eyes tightly shut. Now imagine that emoticon swollen up and plunked on the torso of a real live human being. Hi. That’s me.

After reaching the end of A Eurasian Diary, then working through a handful of edits, I’m happy (as noted) to say that I’ve saved the file as “Final v1” … in other words, it’s done.

…at least until “Final v2” comes along, and perhaps “Final v3.” But, nevermind that… it’s done!

(dances on desk)

(steps on keyboard)

(accidentally types gobbledygook with dancing feet)

(hjsdsdksdksdiuewuhksdsdsdsdkdsksdkskskjsd)

(likes it)

What are some initial reflections on this big, bad, great little experience? One thing that stands out is how different travel writing feels to me now, compared with either fiction or journalism. At first, I’d expected that writing about a journey would feel like blending these two forms into a kind of storified biography, which is indeed how it felt at the very start. As the writing went on, though, the manuscript took on a new life – travel writing is very much a form in its own right, which I suppose I’d never completely appreciated before.

My favourite aspect of it is that you get to be (well, you have to be) objective about your own subjectivity. Continue reading

Crossing the threshold

Crossing the threshold

(Sorry, posted this originally without a photo! Kind of defeated the purpose…)

The entrance to the Ulugh Beg Medressah in Samarkand is not really an entrance at all – it’s a monument in its own right. This enormous portal seems to suggest that simply approaching this ancient centre of faith and science will fill you with wonder. Just wait till you get inside.