#1Pic1Day: Lonely Planet (Mongolia, 2009)

Lonely Planet (Mongolia, 2009)   Lonely Planet, Mongolia (2009) In Mongolian shamanistic tradition, a lonely tree like this is believed to possess magical power or spit. People do respect and fear it at the same time. Mongolian people usually are not dare to get nearby, to camp under, needless to say to cut a sacred lonely tree.   Lonely Planet, Mongolia (2009) Dalam kepercayaan shamanisme Mongolia, pohon yang berdiri sendiri seperti ini dipercaya memiliki kekuatan gaib atau roh, dan sangat dihormati sekaligus ditakuti. Orang Mongol biasanya tidak berani mendekati, berkemah di bawahnya, apalagi menebang pohon seperti ini.       Photo was taken in Khovsgol Aimag, Northern [...]

August 29, 2013 // 0 Comments

Astana – A Day in the New Capital

Building, building, and keep building Despite of the bitter cold due to the fierce snowfall in this sub-Arctic new capital, I forced myself to go around. As in Almaty, bus network was quite extensive in Astana. The buses were, again similar to Almaty, mostly second hand buses from Germany decorated by graffiti from the former German owners. Astana, behind the frozen bus glass window, looked completely white in my eyes. This capital might be the most artificial city in Central Asia, even I have heard that Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan – another gas and oil rich nation in the region, was comparable. Nobody would expect this place to become the capital of modern Kazakhstan. About a decade ago, Astana was just a wasteland in the middle of nowhere. The location where Astana is, far in the north in the heartland of Kazakhstan, is known for enjoying its extreme weather in scorching hot summers and bitterly freezing winters. Nobody would decide to have a capital here. Many thought Nazarbayev was crazy with his decision. But actually he had his own calculation. The city center. It’s freezing minus thirty something Astana, of course was not called as Astana before Nazarbayev’s decision [...]

December 8, 2006 // 0 Comments

Karakul – the Giant Death Lake

The giant death lake of Kara Kul. Karakul in Kyrgyz language means ‘black lake’. The lake itself is not black. In fact, this huge water body was deep blue when the sky is friendly, and turns to be grey when the sun chooses to hide behind the clouds. But the life is as dark as its name. There is no life at all in this huge lake. The lake has high concentration of salt. But despite of the salt, the lake also freezes in winter. The village next to the lake, bears the same name, is a Kyrgyz settlement with only one Tajik man inhabitant – a policeman. I was supposed to stay with the Tajik policeman, as it’s the only chance for me to communicate with my Persian knowledge. But when I arrived there, the Tajik man had left to Khorog. I stayed with a Kyrgyz family, an Acted-arranged guest house. They don’t speak Tajik, but the husband know little bit and can sing the national anthem proudly, “Zindabosh e vatan Tajikistan e azadi man (Long Live o Fatherland, My Free Tajikistan!)” He didn’t understand the meaning of the proud anthem though. Tildahan, the wife, is a young woman, [...]

November 2, 2006 // 0 Comments

Khorog – The Journey to GBAO

One of the two brothers, fellow passengers on the journey to Khorog, GBAO, Tajikistan GBAO, the Gorno Badakhshanskaya Avtonomnaya Oblast (Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast) is my main reason to come to Tajikistan. It is dominated by the minority Ismaili Badakhshani Tajiks and Sunni Kyrgyz. It has majestic mountain architectures. But the main reason I want to go to this restricted area was its history. The province was supporting rebel side in the civil war of Tajikistan. The province suffered a lot from the blockade of the central government. Going to Tajikistan is already something strange for my Indonesian friends in Kabul. “Why going to Tajikistan? It is a poor country.” Going to GBAO is another thing to be objected by my Tajik friends in Dushanbe. “Why going to GBAO? It is so far and poor…” Even the Tajik diplomat in Kabul raised his eyebrows when my embassy staff insisted to get a Tajik visa together with GBAO permit. “Is he really a tourist???” For the ‘GBAO’ four letters to be added on my visa I had to pay a painful 100 dollar fee. It is a bureaucratic country, and my embassy told me to follow the rules, as for this [...]

October 18, 2006 // 0 Comments

Dushanbe – Back to Dushanbe

The dangerous journey through the mountains, back to Dushanbe After bad weather in last two days in Istaravshan, I decided to go back earlier to Dushanbe to sort out my Kyrgyz visa application. I took a taxi from the bazaar. Actually it was not a proper taxi. There were two men originally from Kurgan Teppa at the south, going back to their town. As there were only two of them (one was the driver), the back seat was empty. Rather than letting it empty, they decided to grab a passenger or two to lessen the burden of the oil price. And without I realizing earlier, I was the only passenger in this car, and they were two completely stranger men. I felt quite insecure when leaving Istaravshan, but I just believed at my luck. The driver, Muhammad Rasul, was not fasting, but his friend was. Despite of having fast, his friend always tickled all young girls we met on road, made me wonder whether he knows the meaning of fasting rather than only not eating and drinking during the days. The man just smiled naughtily, showing his ugly golden teeth. The rain in Istaravshan turned to be snow on the [...]

October 15, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kandar – The Land of Fighters

April 3, 2006 Helicopter bringing aids to Harama. Imagine how those angry fighters hijacked the flying copter First, the rumors. The name of Kandar is full of myth, ask every villager of Noraseri, and his face will be filled by fear. Not only villagers from Noraseri, but the fame of Kandar had reached areas as far as Pattika and Muzaffarabad. The people of Kandar had made their popularity around the hills. Kandar, located on the top of the hill just behind, is visible from Noraseri. Seemed as close it was, the real four kilometer distance was somehow an unreachable gap for the villagers from Noraseri. It was the image of Kandar which put down the people of other villages. I have heard the rumor about Kandar for the first time from Rashid who told me how ‘nonsense’ these people were. Rashid said that no NGO was working there, as the NGOs were afraid of Kandari. Kandar, accidentally the name resembled “Kandahar”, one of the most dangerous areas in Afghanistan. It was a joke that Kandar was Kandahar of Kashmir. Once upon a time in history, somewhere in a time dimension after the disaster, there happened a helicopter was hijacked by [...]

April 3, 2006 // 0 Comments

Karimabad – Trapped

A journey to no-men peaks January 16, 2006 Planned to leave Karimabad already, awaiting for the coming jeep from Sust which I can hitch for free, but the friend who is going to go together delayed his journey for unlimited time. Meanwhile the bus ticket from Karimabad to Rawalpindi arouse to 821 Rupees, too expensive for me. And another bad news, there was road block somewhere between Gilgit and Pindi, so all buses will not operating for these 2-3 days. What a luck. Again, I am trapped in Karimabad. Yesterday, to pass the time, I decided to join some local guys climbing up to the Eagle’s Nest. From here we can see the whole valley. I have been there two years ago, and it was a terrible walk in summer. Now in super cold winter, nobody is up there. All hotels and houses are empty, and the road was slippery of ice and glacier. Luckily I was not alone, so there was someone (Mr Karim) who held my hand along the way…. Totally deserted in winter The snow was thick up there, and it was land of nobody, with empty houses and buildings, left-away agricultural fields, resembled a ghost town. [...]

January 16, 2006 // 1 Comment