Grand Overland Voyage

Exactly ten years ago, I started my four-year overland journey. I started from Beijing with $2000, dreaming to reach South Africa. From an illegal visitor to Tibet until a journalist in the war ridden Afghanistan, this journey has changed my whole life. Today, I’m back to Beijing, my point zero. But journey is a point of no return; I’m not the same person anymore and my point zero is not the same either. That’s indeed a journey of life. [...]

July 31, 2015 // 1 Comment

Kabul – Lobotomy

Now I know the feeling if my memory is lobotomized. Actually I have been in depression since the last two weeks. I celebrated my birthday with smiles on my face but tears flooding my heart. I tried to hide this feeling, but I just could not. How it happened might be important, might be not. But the result is the same. I found my hard disk, full of my photos and writing which I have made during my journey, completely died. This happened one day after the funeral of the last Afghan King, Zahir Shah. The day before I had big quarrel with a fellow photographer who felt resented as the office didn’t allow him to go and chose me instead to cover the event. My hard disk is damaged. Suddenly my day turned dark. I just could not afford to loose all of the images I made in my traveling around Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. All of the photos were in the hard disk. And now the hard disk is broken. Along with the photos, I also lost my writing documents, some unpublished blog posts, some photos of my family members and friends. All is gone. [...]

August 9, 2007 // 0 Comments

Toktogul – An Old Friend from Toktogul

The school children of Toktogul Her name is Manapova Satkynbu, but everybody in Toktogul knows her as Satina or, more properly, Satina Eje (‘eje’ in Kyrgyz means elder sister). She is 53 years old and she is one of the village’s most famous teachers. I met Satina in my previous visit to Toktogul in 2004 in a very accidental encounter. Satina then invited me to stay in her house, where she stayed together with her only son, Maksat. I spent nice days in the quiet village with the family and two American volunteers, Rosa Bowman and Jason. This time, after two years and a half passed, I come again as a visiting friend. I arrived in Toktogul after a grueling journey from Osh, in four different public transports. The drunk woman of Toktogul Life in Toktogul has not change too much. I was lost though, as I completely don’t know any direction here. Today is Sunday and the village is completely deserted. Frustration of life can be observed from Kyrgyz’s most common scene: a drunken old lady lies down on ground next to the main street, after some bottles of vodka. She sleeps like Indian homeless, peacefully. I thought she [...]

November 13, 2006 // 0 Comments

Osh – the Southern Capital of Kyrgyzstan

Uyghur laghman restaurant in Osh Osh, the second city of Kyrgyzstan, is a complete drastic shock after the GBAO of Tajikistan. The city is prosperous. The bazaar is busy. Private cars transverse the main roads. People talk on mobile phones while alking on pedestrian paths. And Osh restaurants never bee deserted from hungry guests. ‘Osh’ in Tajik literally means food. I wonder whether there is relation between this and Osh’s good restaurants. Sitting on charpoy (bed platform), sipping warm black tea, and watching the day passes is how the old Uzbek and Kyrgyz men spend their time in Osh. Osh is a kaleidoscope of ethnic. It is used to be an Uzbek dominated town, but now the Kyrgyz has replaced the position. On the streets, besides the Turkic languages (Uzbek and Kyrgyz are Turkic), you still may ocassionaly bumped into Korean, Chinese, Russian, and Tajik conversation. Osh is home to many Kyrgyz Koreans and Dungans (Muslim Chinese ethnic), Tatar, Russian, and is bazaar town for the Tajiks. Talking about the history, people may refer it as ‘Osh is older than Rome’, as legend says it was founded by the biblical king Sulayman (Solomon). The town is over shadowed by the [...]

November 7, 2006 // 0 Comments

Bamiyan – Three Years After

Radio Bamiyan In July 2003 I visited the valley of Bamiyan for the first time. Along the way, there were war remnants to remind all visitors that the land was scrapped by the long period of wars. The trip in 2003 was full of horror and mistery, when seeing the skeletons of tanks scattered on the side of dusty and windy roads. Today, almost three years after, I went to Bamiyan again, alone. The public transport, as what it was in three years ago, started very early in the morning from Kabul. The difficulty of travelling from Kabul is that there are too many bus stations, and each bus station only has vehicles to go to a certain destination. Therefore it’s essential to make sure from which station start the vehicle you are going to take. The other difficulty is that the timing, most buses in three years ago would be all departed after 6, so passengers should come around 4 or 5 in the morning. The problem is if the bus station located far from the residential area, then another taxi would be needed, and they might be scarce in dark mornings. Navigating through Afghan’s unforgiving roads, this kind [...]

June 17, 2006 // 0 Comments

Six Months in Pakistan – A Conclusion

How I missed Pakistan badly Six months in Pakistan? Six months might be a long period, but might also be an incredibly short of time to enjoy a country named Pakistan. My six months in Pakistan made me learn many things, but also made me feeling I knew almost nothing about Pakistan. It’s a country of love and hospitality, but it’s also country of grieve and anger. Trying to conclude about my six month of experience in Pakistan in this one posting, is indeed a difficult task. OK, rather than thinking about where to start, let’s start from the hospitality. Everybody, I am sure, who comes for the first time in Pakistan, would be overwhelmed by the hospitality of the people. The concept of ‘mehman’ or ‘guest’ in Pakistan is a very big deal. Pakistanis feel honoured to serve guests, to protect them, and to give them anything they need. Sometimes the mihmannavazi or hospitality reach to some extends that is difficult to believe. A Kashmir earthquake victim may sacrifice all of the chickens he has to provide the best biriyani for the dinner of the guest, despite of his own difficulty of daily food. Invitations for tea and dinner [...]

June 12, 2006 // 0 Comments