#1Pic1Day: Perjalanan Mematikan | Perilous Journey (Little Pamir, Afghanistan, 2008)

   Perilous Journey (Little Pamir, Afghanistan, 2008) Pamir was supposed to be winter settlement of the Kyrgyz herdsmen, before the international borderline dividing Afghanistan with British India and Soviet Union was fixed. Once the border was enforced, the Kyrgyz were locked in Pamir for all seasons through the year. The road to Little Pamir, used to pass through some easier paths in today’s Tajikistan, now is 5-day journey on horseback through the perilous steep paths next to high cliffs. Perjalanan Mematikan (Pamir Kecil, Afghanistan, 2008) Pamir seharusnya adalah lokasi permukiman musim dingin dari masyarakat gembala Kirgiz, sebelum ditetapkannya perbatasan internasional yang memisahkan Afghanistan dari British India dan Uni Soviet. Setelah perbatasan diberlakukan, para nomaden Kirgiz terkunci di Pamir untuk keempat musim sepanjang tahun. Jalan menuju Pamir Kecil, dulunya adalah lintasan yang jauh lebih mudah di wilayah yang sekarang Tajikistan, tetapi kini berupa perjalanan mematikan lima hari berkuda melintasi jalan setapak yang curam di pinggir [...]

October 8, 2013 // 5 Comments

Kabul – A Midnight Jog

Kabul taxi, can be dangerous day or night People tend to have more things to say when they are angry or disappointed. And today I do the same. I regret I didn’t tell you earlier how I was impressed by hospitality of Kabul taxi drivers, who usually refuse to receive money from a foreign guest (only lip service mostly, but anyway it makes me happy), but now I have to tell a scary experience with a Kabul driver. I was invited by a friend to a dinner in Wazir Akbar Khan area, the rich part of Kabul where many embassies, foreign organizations, and expatriate housings are located. I usually don’t stay until late night, but yesterday we talked until completely forgetting about the time. At the end, an AFP French reporter friend of mine realized that it was already 10:30, and we had to leave. She offered me to walk together to the main road, from where I can find taxi to go home and she went back to her house on foot. We walked together to the direction of the main road. Usually, at this inconvenient time of the day, taxis are hard to find. But God-knows-why, we found [...]

January 9, 2008 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Mengungsi di KBRI

I feel safe under the red and white Suatu pengalaman tak terduga yang membuat saya terpaksa mengungsi di ‘tanah air’ di tengah gelapnya malam Kabul. Seperti biasa, mobil yang mengantar para pegawai kantor kami ke rumah masing-masing berangkat pukul 7. Matahari mulai merunduk di Afghanistan. Senja mulai menjelang di Kabul. Perjalanan pada malam hari mulai mencekam di mana jalan-jalan gelap pekat tak diterangi lampu seakan menelan semua mobil yang berlalu. Saya tidak pernah ikut mobil jemputan, karena saya tinggal di kantor. KBRI juga sudah mulai menelepon, memberitahukan agar datang untuk mengikuti pertandingan olah raga menjelang Agustusan. Saya bilang masih ada sedikit urusan di kantor dan datang agak malaman. Tiba-tiba, teman yang tadi pergi dengan mobil kantor datang kembali. Pukul 8. Wajahnya yang hitam kini nampak pucat pasi. “Kita diikuti pelaku bom bunuh diri!” serunya dengan tergagap. Bom bunuh diri atau penculikan, tak seorang pun bisa memastikan. Namun memang benar, di halaman kantor nampak semua pegawai yang tadinya berangkat dengan mobil itu, datang kembali lagi ke kantor. Mereka tidak jadi berangkat karena mobil kantor diikuti oleh orang mencurigakan. Simpang siur saya mendengar ceritanya. Sejak pagi tadi, ada dua orang tak dikenal yang ‘nyanggong’ di depan pintu gerbang kantor. Pintu gerbang kami [...]

July 11, 2007 // 0 Comments

Shakhimardan – An Uzbek Island Surrounded by Kyrgyz Mountains

Shakhimardan, an Uzbek “island” surrounded by Kyrgyzstan As artificial as any other thing in Central Asia was the border lines between the countries. The nations created by the Soviet rulers now had to be provided their homeland. Stalin might say, land populated by most Uzbek should be Uzbekistan, those inhabited by mostly Mongoloid Kyrgyz then became Kazakhstan (the Kazakh was called as Kyrgyz) and Kyrgyzstan (of which people was called as Black Kyrgyz). But the matter was not simple in the Ferghana Valley. Ferghana Valley was always a boiling pot in Central Asia. The people were renowned as deeply religious Muslim, if not fundamentalist. It was more than necessary for the Russian to divide this huge mass with the highest population density all over Central Asia. Then, besides the division of ethnics (who were Uzbek, who were Kyrgyz, and who were Tajik), there was a clever intrigue by dividing the border lands to divide the people. Then, the identity in Ferghana Valley was not single ‘Islam’ anymore, but new artificial entities of Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik. But this was not something special if it was just borderlines. Borderlines created by Stalin were so complicated, zigzagging, and nobody understood the reason. [...]

April 7, 2007 // 1 Comment

Almaty – If You WaNNa LIVe

The park may look beautiful and quiet, but it can be dangerous The day started with a quarrel. Lyubova, the owner of the home stay, was not happy that I arrived with a taxi yesterday night. I was in the middle of Almaty downtown, when I realized it was already 7 pm. I was waiting a bus until 11 pm but no public buses at all going to airport area. I forgot, on Sundays all public transport stopped working as early as 6 pm. What a bad luck. I walked under darkness, with only fear of meeting criminals or drunks in my heart, from Respublika Alangy until Tole Bi. I gave up. It was almost midnight. At the end, I had to haggle a taxi (better than staying in a gay bar like last week). The taxi cost 500T. It was much beyond my budget, but I didn’t have any choice. When I arrived at the home stay, Lyubova was sleeping. The next morning, she started the quarrel. “Huh. You can pay a taxi but you cannot pay for your stay!” said her cynically. I just didn’t understand her. I paid what I should pay. Even yesterday she claimed that [...]

December 11, 2006 // 0 Comments

Osh – Goodbye Tajikistan

Finally… the truck. And a new country Maybe it was because of the falling stars. When I woke up very early, about 7, as I couldn’t sleep at all the whole night, I saw two trucks were having custom check in Khurshid’s border post. These were trucks owned by Kyrgyz drivers from Kyrgyzstan. My Kyrgyz host helped me with a negotiation (‘chakchak’ in Tajik) with the drivers, and they agreed to take me as far as Sary Tash for 20 Somoni. Sary Tash would be the first Kyrgyzstan city to be approached from here. I was not the only passengers of the trucks. There was already an old Kyrgyz man with his family. The trucks were taking sheep and yaks. The drivers didn’t have document to transport these animals to Kyrgyzstan, so the numerous checkpoints along the road had to be really fuelled by money to smooth up the way. This is the way the business done. Tajikistan’s Pamir region is famous of its animal products, raised by the Kyrgyz and Pamiri Tajik herders. Animals are brought from the mountain areas in GBAO to the bazaar city of Osh in south Kyrgyzstan, where they may gain profit. Then to return [...]

November 4, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kara Kul – Get Me Outta Here!!!

It;s beautiful. It’s surreal. But I wanna leave! I really regretted to refuse yesterday’s offer to take the truck lift to Kyrgyzstan. My Tajik visa is going to expire tomorrow (November 4) and I just found on Fridays (like today), transport is extremely difficult. The day is very cold and windy. I have to stand next to the main road, waiting for any vehicles. The first truck passes at 12 and it was full of passengers. The next two hours there was no vehicle at all passing the highway. Khurshid takes me to local stalovaya (canteen) and asks the girl to give me the best food. Khurshid promises to treat me, ‘a poor spion (spy) without money who has to travel on trucks’. I asked how much. The girl said, “Beker! Beker!” I jumped as I was surprised. This happened to be a fatal language misunderstanding. In Tajik Persian, the language which I understand, it means ‘no penis’. I explained to the girl that I had, but she only speaks Kyrgyz, and doesn’t understand my Tajik. Later I understood that it means ‘free of charge’ or ‘no cost’ in Kyrgyz. Khurshid laughed and ridiculed me, “I paid already with my [...]

November 3, 2006 // 0 Comments

Murgab – 100 Questions and Answers about Tajik Presidential Election

Browsing through the list of candidates A friend of mine, Rosalina Tobing, works in social political section of the Embassy of Republic of Indonesia in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She often gets assignments to make reports about political moments in Central Asia. These days, the thing which people in Tajikistan like to talk about was the presidential election which is going to happen on November 6, 2006. Besides of this, people in GBAO also like to know more about the spiritual leader Aga Khan who visit the area together with the president. Rosalina asked me to get a book for our embassy’s reference, entitled ‘100 Questions and Answers about Tajikistan Presidential Election”. The book is as mythical as the 1001 Nights. I couldn’t find anywhere in Tajikistan (maybe because I always bumped into wrong places all time) but in election booths in the villages in GBAO. First I saw the book in the community hall , which was magically turned to be an election booth, in Vrang. I tried to ask permission to photocopy it, but the chief of election committee said there was no photocopy machine at all in the village. When I started to take photos of the book with [...]

October 30, 2006 // 0 Comments

Murghab – The Dudkhoda’s Family

Boys of Murghab, in front of Tajik banner with the tricolor flag and coat-of-arms, of which important element is a snow mountain “Pamir will be better…. Pamir will be better….” – Dudkhoda My first impression of this 39 year old Tajik man was really not so good. this man tried to hug me and kiss me when I was sleeping next to him under the same blanket on the floor in the Kyrgyz restaurant in alichur packed by the Kyrgyz drivers. He also made me to pay his bills in the restaurant. But later I found that he had story worth to tell. He arranged for me a seat in the Kyrgyz truck, along with him, who returned to his home in Murghab. He was actually a passenger of the truck, not being able to pay the ride with money but offered the drivers a dinner in his hosue in Murghab. I came along with him, sitting along the way to Murghab (100 km) for free. Just near Murghab, there were two military checkpoint. The Kyrgyz drivers failed to do registration and they became easy target of the military man in the small dormitory. “Hey, brother, you should follow the [...]

October 29, 2006 // 0 Comments

Ishkashim – Peeping into Afghanistan

Afghanistan, seen from Tajikistan It is just separated by a river. But the live over there is a world away. Khorog and Ishkashim are connected by a stretch of a 106 km long asphalted road. It is a 3 hour journey with public jeep, but cost as much as 20 Somoni ($6). Despite of lack of money that people earn, everything in Tajikistan is very expensive as the country produces almost nothing remarkable but water and electricity. The road to Ishkashim as along the Panj river, with Afghanistan Badakhshan province at the other side. The river itself had not strong stream (as the temperature is already quite low at this moment) and was not wide at all. Afghanistan is just less than 20 m from here, but the life there is a world away. While we are traversing smooth road of Tajikistan with a jeep, the road over there is complete dirt road and you may observe Afghan travellers wandering the world on donkeys. When women passengers in our jeep in Tajikistan side sit aside the other male passengers, talk and sing freely during the journey, an Afghan woman completely covered by blue veil, wears long loose trousers, and passes [...]

October 20, 2006 // 1 Comment

Maimana – Bacchabazi

Friendly Maimana men “Playboy is good” – Massoud The public vehicle going to Maimana from Mazhar e Sharif departed as early as 4 a.m. Traveling in Afghanistan is painful. Road lights don’t exist at all so that traveling should be only done during the daylight. Road to Maimana starts to deteriotae at Shibargan, when the road turned into Dasht-i-Laili desert. I took a Town Ace, 500 Af, which is 100 Af more expensive than the crowded Falancoach. But the extra money was really worth for the comfort. The Town Ace only takes 8 passengers while Falancoach 18, and the road in the desert is not a nice roller coaster trip in a jammed minibus. The distance between Maimana and Mazhar e Sharif is merely 341 km, but it took 10 hours to reach. When arriving in Maimana, the driver tried to extort money from me. I gave 1000 Afs then he said, “sahih shod, everything is allright.” Instead of giving me 500 Af bill, he gave me much filthy smaller money, and when I counted, it was only 400 Af. I got angry, asked my money back. He gave me the right change. Then it was turn of him getting [...]

August 13, 2006 // 1 Comment

Kandahar – From the Heartland of the Pashtuns

Pottery making is a traditional industry from Peshawar which still survive till today. “Everything here is expensive. But human life is cheap” Kandahar, the second biggest city of Afghanistan, had been lingering in the legends of the country since centuries ago. The description of old folklores about the heatwaves, about the tough desert, and about the hospitality of the Pashtun tribes are still up to date, but no doubt, the prolonged wars and the spread of fundamentalism has changed the face of the city. Living in Kandahar at this peak of the trend “war on terror” is overwhelmed by the concern of security problems. Suicide bombs can happen anywhere, and random shootings on street may deliver hot bullets just next to your feet. Taliban is the one who is always blamed to be the cause of everything, but nobody does really know who was the real actor behind all of the terrors. The politics in Afghanistan is complicated. Not only religious extrimists (thus those who always lay religion as the excuse of everything), manyu foreign nations also have importance and play in Afghan internal politics. Unexpected things can happen here on daily basis The Kandahar life has changed since, and [...]

July 10, 2006 // 2 Comments

Bamiyan – Being Penniless in Afghanistan :(

No money! How can I survive here? I was so excited to continue my way from Bamiyan. Everything in my mind was about the blue crystal water of the Band-e-Amir, and the adventure that I would have to experience in interior Bamiyan province. I was so excited, until this incident, which evaporated all of my dreams, happened. Yesterday, just before sleeping, I counted my money. My money was put together with my passport, wrapped in an envelope, placed in the zipped pocket on my left chest of my jacket. It was always wrapped properly, and always my habit to count the money every day or every other day. That night, at about 7 pm, with Ayatullah, the Muslim teacher who has religious program in Radio Bamiyan watching me. Actually there were about 5 people living in this room, in the same office where Akbar Danish from the NGO worked. I was a guest, with Ayatullah and other two Hazara guys, plus the servant boy. I was listening to nice dangdut song from my MP3 when trying to pluck out my money from the envelope and to count it. First my passport jumped out. Then I was waiting for the Afghani [...]

June 23, 2006 // 6 Comments

Bamiyan – The De-Miners

Our job is to clean up the area for your safety, Sir! This is the life of those people, who risk their life, to find mines and unexploded materials around the Great Buddha statues of Bamiyan. They are those in uniform with Farsi letters: Main Paki, and English writing: De-mining. They are the de-miners working in Bamiyan. The encounter the day before with Saboor and Jamil brought me to learn deeper about the life of the de-miners. Achmad Saboor, a Tajik driver from Panjshir, picked me up to see their work around the Buddha hills. In that car I knew Waisuddin, or Wais, a Pashtun man in his thirties, with very strong short body. He was bearded but it seemed that was just trimmed, he also speaks very good English. Wais is among the most important persons in this demining project of Bamiyan Buddha. I was lucky to know him personally. And he was happy that he could practise his English with me. He is the commander of MCPA (Mine Clearance Planning Agency). The previously introduced Achmad Saboor and Jamil, work in other organization: MDC (Mine Dog Center), sometimes also called as MDG (Mine Dog Group). Saboor is the driver [...]

June 21, 2006 // 0 Comments

Bamyan – A Day in Bamyan

A happy day in Bamiyan From a tailor in the second floor of a wooden simple building in the bazaar of Sharh-e-Nao, I heard an interesting story from a man named Ramazan. When I told him where I came from, he said, “ooo Indonesia,” then he named some Indonesian islands: Java, Bali, Roti. He suprised me in two ways. First, it was already surprising that an Afghan in this little village of Central Afghanistan, where some people still thought that Indonesia was somewhere near London. The second thing was Roti. Roti is a small island, with such far flung location even most of Indonesians don’t know whee it is exactly. So how Ramazan knew about Roti? There is an interesting story behind this. In fact he had lived in Roti for fourteen months between 2001 and 2002. Besides Roti, he has been to Jakarta and Bali also, and attempted to get into Australia by risking his life on boat with other 240 fellow refugees, trying to get a new better life in ‘modern’ countries, escaping the rule of Taliban administration. It cost them 5000 Af to get to Karachi, where then they got the boat with ticket price 700$ per [...]

June 20, 2006 // 0 Comments

Bamiyan – The Mined Buddha

War and Peace. This is the first impression of Bamiyan Buddha I saw back in 2003 This is still re-visiting trips of what I have visited three years ago. The devastated Buddha statues of Bamiyan are still quiet empty niches on the hill surrounded by green farming land. It was extremely quiet this morning, as children were already in the school and men started working. No other obvious ‘tourists’. But it was not that quiet either. This time there were many workers working in the area. There were two groups of them. First, those with yellow helmet, working near the big niches of the Big Buddha (55 m) and further on the Small Buddha (38 m). The Buddha niches are both fenced now, requesting visitors to pay for ticket to enter (I don’t know exactly about the ticket stuff as it seems it was OK to wander around without ticket, and the ticket office was always closed). Actually the workers just started working today. Their task is to remove the rubbish stones from the area. A worker told me that they wanted to re-build the Buddhas, but I didnt believe him. There have been many organizations saying so, but it [...]

June 18, 2006 // 4 Comments

Kabul – Newsroom Experience

Working in the newsroom Pajhwok Afghan News Agency is the biggest news agency in Afghanistan. I was lucky that I was introduced by a journalist friend of mine to the director of this company. And starting from today I experienced the life in the newsroom. The news of the office came out online and updated in minute basis. The subscription fee might be still high for Afghan standard, up to 200 dollars for big companies, NGOs, and embassies. The website of the news agency is, and provides services in Farsi, Pashto, and English. The director, Mr Danish, is a friendly man, and he provided me some books that I might read before deciding to wander around the country. He even promised some assistance from different parts of the country as the News Agency has several local offices in many cities of Afghanistan. Discussing about the photos Mr. Danish requested me to come to the office early to meet with the photographer of the office. They only have one photographer in this city, some other correspondents in different provinces also provide them journalistic photography. The equipment used is a simple pocket Sony digital camera. Mr Danish said that I might [...]

June 12, 2006 // 2 Comments

Kabul – The Long Way to Afghanistan

Let’s go to Afghanistan! The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is described by the Durand Line which devided the land of Pashtuns, the Pashtunistan, to two different countries. The Pashtuns in the Pakistan side, according to the agreement of the government and the tribal leaders, were given special autonomy to preserve their tribal culture until nowadays. The tribals have their own law, and Pakistani law barely has any effect on them. These tribal areas in the NWFP border province had been given agencies status, and are under control of Politcal Agent. The agencies of NWFP province are notorious of being troublesome. Waziristan is always on the top of ‘the place you likely want to visit’ among Pakistanis, and completely closed to foreigners. Not only once I read news about mission of Pakistani armies there in Waziristan, about terrorists (probably included mis-hit civilians) being killed, and about propaganda against foreigners who were accused by the government of being problems in this area. The ‘foreigners’ is a very wide term, ranging from Afghanis, Tunisians, Americans, or maybe Indonesians, Chinese, Japanese… As usual, I didn’t get the answers of all of my questions from the newspapers I was reading that day. And Waziristan [...]

June 9, 2006 // 0 Comments