A Chinese motorist on Silk Road is pictured at the caravansera, an elaborate city-sized hotel, in the capital of Chengdu, on May 18, 2019.
A Chinese man, dressed in a red hat, wearing a black shirt and red shorts, stands in front of a replica of a modern hotel, and the owner of the hotel speaks to a tourist.
He looks like a tourist, not a foreign tourist.
And he is speaking to a Chinese person who has just arrived in the country for the first time.
This is the first real opportunity for an Australian to visit the Silk Road and take a peek inside the world of luxury cars.
The hotel in Chengdu has a unique setting.
It is in a large compound, the site of a traditional temple, where an elaborate ceremony takes place to make the vehicle a symbol of China’s new status in the global economy.
“This is our most important symbol,” said Ms Loo, a member of the tourism council and a car-loving expatriate.
When the carriages from Australia arrive, they are handed over to the Chinese.
They take them to the caravan pavilion, where they are met by a group of Chinese people, many wearing red hats.
They have brought along their own cars.
This is not the first caravana experience I’ve seen, said Mr Wang, a local.
He drives his own car for the Chinese and we’re just doing our thing, he said.
We are all Chinese.
And I’m Chinese.
This whole thing is quite unique, he added.
China’s rise to power has not been without its challenges.
It has become the second-largest economy in the world after the United States and has been the subject of international sanctions and criticism.
But Ms Lio said she had come to the Silk Route as a tourist and wanted to help promote the country’s success as a modern economic hub.
She had a lot of respect for the people in this place, and I thought they were really friendly and welcoming, she said.
“I am very happy that we’ve managed to get a good experience from it, and that the people have been very welcoming and kind,” she said, before the trip began.
Chinese President Xi Jinping greets Chinese tourists during a tour of the Silk Roads World Heritage Site in Zhuhai, on March 17, 2019, after the Chinese president made a surprise visit to the site.
As the Chinese leader walked into the car, he turned to the group and told them: “Welcome to the world.”
This was the first experience I had with a Chinese car, said Ms Wang, who has spent many years living in Chengde.
I am a tourist visiting a city, and so it’s quite an honour for me to be here, she added.
“I’m really happy that I can be here with a car and have a good time.”
The Chinese government has long insisted that the Silk roads are a showcase for Chinese technology and that it is seeking to expand the economy.
But the journey through China to Australia is just the start.
In the months ahead, a team of Australian journalists will try to find out more about the car-buying and caravaning culture, and to understand what Chinese people make of their cars.
The trip is expected to cost $7,500 (AU$9,200) including a one-way ticket.