One month old!

It feels like a hundred years ago, but it’s only been a month. I’m not talking about babies (although we’re expecting one of those too!), but instead I’m talking about the anniversary of publishing A Eurasian Diary. What better occasion to release a free excerpt?

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A Fergana woman packs taut cellophane tubes full of goodness. These portable lunches of lemon-dressed carrot, cucumber, cauliflower and coriander are delicious – pleasing both the palate and the arteries.

I’ve been humbled and honoured by the interest in this little travel tale so far, and I’m pleased as punch that so many of you have taken the time to take a wee gander. The experience of travelling the old Silk Road is difficult to put into words – that’s why I relied so much on others to do the talking for me. However repressive, bureaucratic, and generally bonkers the governments in Central Asia might be, you nevertheless find loads of incredible people who are friendly, open, honest, and hilarious in equal measure. Time spent with them felt more important (and more illuminating) than any bit of sightseeing, or any studious reflections on the region’s tumultuous history. So, I’m giving up a little example here. This passage from the book comes from a day spent in Fergana, an eastern Uzbekistani market town under vast reconstruction, under the guidance of the country’s authoritarian leader, Islam Karimov. His daughter is famous on Twitter – his subjects, in their millions, are much less well known – but, almost certainly, they’re more interesting. Thanks again for all the interest so far, and thanks for exploring this part of the world with me! To read the excerpt, click “continue reading” … obvs…. Continue reading

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Excerpt Alert! Fill your boots with Guangxi goodness

After thousands of words covering thousands of kilometres, I’m at a big new frontier in this old travelogue project – I’m finally about to leave China for good. Sniffle.

Travelling in China, and of course writing about travelling in China, continues to astound me – the varied landscapes and diets, melodies and faiths, and the stark divide between the medieval and the 23rd Century.

It feels almost ridiculous to consider China in the singular – it’s anything but (despite the obvious role of the Party in everyday life). In reality, there are hundreds of Chinas, thousands maybe, and they feel like they go on forever. By the time I got to Kashgar in the west of Xinjiang, I was closer to the Mediterranean than to the Pacific – closer to Ankara to its own capital of Beijing.

So, as I begin to write about finally crossing that rumpled border into neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, I feel I’m saying goodbye once again to a country so enigmatic and baffling that I get a little misty eyed. Just mist, mind. Not actual tears. OK, one tear.

To commemorate the little milestone in the progress of this (seemingly neverending) book, I’m including here an excerpt from one of my earlier chapters. Oh yes. I’m literally giving literally away 1,695 words on those first impressions from the ruggedly handsome province Guangxi, home to the snaking River Li and its towering limestone mountains. Your own impressions, reviews, comments, raves etc. are, as always, welcome 🙂 Continue reading