China – Xinjiang province, middle Earth
Heading west directly from Mongolia into Kazakhstan is not possible overland due to roughly 50km of a China-Russia border. A Russian transit visa to traverse the north side of this border would be the quickest route across, but heading through the recently opened (to tourists) border crossing into Xinjiang province takes to you an unusual part of China not often considered by most. A place of extremes, Xinjiang province is roughly the size of Alaska, contains the furthest point on earth to any ocean, has the second lowest depression in the world at 144m below sea level and consequently has the hottest temperatures in China. The province is culturally and ethnically characterised by the Uyghur people, a Turkic ethnic group, rather than the usual Han majority group. Instead of chow mein and dumplings, it’s mutton pilaf and kebabs.