A number of years ago, I read a book called "In Xanadu: A Quest," written by travel writer William Dalrymple , in which he recounts his attempt at retracing the footsteps of Marco Polo from Jerusalem to Xanadu, the summer capital of Kublai Khan (who, at that time was the emperor of China. It was one of the funniest books I’d read in a long time, filled with stories of sneaking across Iran and Pakistan, and eventually into China without a permit (no small feat, especially in the 1980’s).
The city has been best memorialized in Samuel Colleridge’s poem "The Ballad of Kubla Khan," in which he uses Marco Polo’s description of the summer capital of the Mongol emperors to paint a picture of unbridled beauty, a veritible paradise.
Ever since reading that book, I’ve had it in my mind that I’d like to visit this "Xanadu" as well, and when I discovered that the city is not all that far from Beijing, I decided that getting there was most likely going to be feasible.
Tomorrow morning (Tuesday), I and 3 friends will set out from Beijing on a 3-day trek to find Xanadu, which is near the modern day town of Duolun, in the Chinese Autonomous Regions of Inner Mongolia. It’s basically just up and over the mountains that lie to the north of Beijing. We have hired a jeep and a driver to take us. From what we’ve heard, there’s not much left of the city except for ruins in the desert.
Never mind. That’s what we’re going to see. Something tells me we’re in for an adventure. Stay tuned…..