The Wall Street Journal has a great travel article called On the Silk Road Again. They purchase a Chinese-made compact car, the Chery A1 (which will be exported to the US via Chrysler), for $7000 and drive the Chinese National Highway along old silk roads in the north west corner of China. It touches on the history and changes to the region, as well as changing Chinese attitudes towards road trips in their own country.
We waited until evening to drive into the heart of the desert itself to avoid the blistering summertime temperatures, which can heat road surfaces to 165 degrees and cause tires to burst. About 200 miles into the desert, a pink glow appeared over the dunes. As we crested a rise, we saw a small strip with restaurants, brothels, a karaoke parlor, a video gambling hall and a gas station that had sprung up by the turn off to the oil fields. Truckers and oil-field workers wearing red coveralls and black boots drank with prostitutes at tables in front of their red-lit storefronts.
…many Chinese are attracted by the spirituality and traditional way of life of the Muslim Uighurs. “Here, you can see how Islam shapes every aspect of people’s lives,” says Yu Mo, a 33-year-old sculptor and professor. “Young people in eastern China, like my students, they don’t believe in anything — except globalization.” Mr. Yu fears that even here, in one of China’s least-developed provinces, the old ways won’t last long. “I want to catch it before it’s gone,” says Mr. Yu, who drove more than 2,500 miles on a solo voyage in a Nissan pickup from his home south of Shanghai.
Check out the related photo gallery and video as well.