Celebration of the ‘First Overland’
Since the 1955 Oxford and Cambridge ‘First Overland’ Far Eastern Expedition, generations of travellers have been inspired to follow in their footsteps from London to Singapore and vice versa.
When the original Sundowners Overland journey set off from Australia in 1964 the only way to do this at the time was to ship the vehicles to India and continue overland from there, as the borders of Burma (Myanmar) had become impenetrable shortly after the 1955 expedition. Since then, while the world has changed significantly,the allure of lesser travelled regions has never been stronger.
In celebration of 50 years of sharing Asia Overland, differently, Sundowners Overland is pleased to announce the very special departure of its 50th Anniversary Journey. Departing from London, this epic 55 day journey will cover some 17,500 km overland to Singapore.
Clash of civilisations
It is with eager anticipation that we depart from London by train to Brussels, the delightfully Flemish capital of Belgium. Travelling through the German and Austrian countryside, our journey continues on to Budapest before heading further east through some of the lesser travelled parts of Europe, before arriving in Turkey. Perched confidently at the confluence of Asia and Europe, for centuries Istanbul has been a melting pot of cultures, religions and people. We will take in history and highlights of this extraordinary city before continuing onto Ankara where we spend a night before commencing our travels further along the Ancient Silk Road route.
Deserts and Caravanserai of the Silk Road
After traversing the breadth of Turkey, we cross over Lake Van and arrive at the western fringe of the European continent where we make our way across the Bosporus into Asia.
We continue our journey into ancient Persia, and starting with Iran we will visit the modern capital of Tehran before boarding the Trans Asian Railway to the stunning city of Isfahan, with its wonderful blue tiled buildings and covered Grand Bazaar. A great introduction to this deeply spiritual nation, we witness afternoon prayers at the incredible shrine complex of Emam Reza, one of the great architectural wonders of the Islamic world.
As we prepare to cross the border into Turkmenistan we discover Mashhad, one of the country’s holiest cities before venturing into the eccentric, marble-clad city of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s capital. Continuing overland, we pause briefly at the ancient city of Merv which was once known as the Islamic ‘Queen of the World’.
Our travels continue on to the wondrous Silk Road capitals of Samarkand and Bukhara. To wander these cities is to experience one of the richest open air museums in the world and their magnificent buildings and monuments are some of the oldest and most spectacular that you will find on your travels. We head north east into the lush Fergana Valley, home to Uzbekistan’s famed artisans, before continuing to the Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China border and crossing the formidable Irkeshtam Pass into Kashgar.
We spend some time in the historic Silk Road market town of Kashgar, a frontier town that has changed little over the centuries despite its strategic position as the gateway to the high mountain passes of the Tien Shan and Karakoram ranges. Our journey continues east as we embark on the Silk Road Railway, along the northern fringes of the mighty Taklamakan Desert to the ancient Silk Road capital of Chang ‘an (Xian). We visit the spectacular province of Sichuan and its capital Chengdu before exploring the region’s capital, Kunming, and continuing onto the scenic town of Dali.
Yunnan and Myanmar
Set in the southern foothills of the mighty Himalaya, on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, Yunnan is home to China’s most diverse range of cultures and ethnic groups, and is sure to be a memorable highlight. Shortly after the ‘First Overland’ expedition the borders of Myanmar were closed firmly closed. Now having once again opened its doors to the world, Myanmar offers a spectacular opportunity for travellers to discover a mystical land of golden pagodas and overgrown temples. We will break our journey briefly to explore the highlights of Myanmar and look west to pause briefly, reflecting on our enormous journey thus far, taking stock of the cultures and civilisations we have had the privilege to witness on this truly once in a lifetime journey.
Southernmost tip of Asia
Our journey continues south into the beautiful and every enchanting city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Travelling down the Malaysian Peninsula to Bangkok, we will eventually board our final train, crossing the Straits of Johor into the modern metropolis of Singapore. As our final destination, it is with mixed emotions that we complete our travels, geographically and culturally a world away from our beginnings in London.