Kabul – Welcome to Ariana Flight

The boarding room of Kabul International Airport. Everybody is ready to fly … The first encounter with Ariana – the Afghan national carrier – is not always thrilling. It might be a unique experience from the Afghan land. In last several months I have been working as a consultant for UN. This, more or less, has changed my preference in traveling. Probably I got spoiled already with those amenities, facilities, and luxuries. Today, the first day of me turning back to be a backpacker again, I feel a sudden shock. Usually I prefer to take overland trip, but this time, on my way going to Iran for a short holiday to change the routine in Kabul, I chose to fly Ariana. The Kabul – Herat’s 1000 kilometer distance can be reached through three different routes. The northern route, through Mazar-e-Sharif, takes at least four days, killing unpaved road full of dust of the desert Dasht-e-Laila at the end of its leg. I have experienced this in 2006 and am not so keen to try again. The second option is the Central Route, through Bamiyan, Ghour, and Heart provinces. Most of the roads are unpaved, hitchhiking is required, and in my [...]

June 9, 2008 // 3 Comments

Bukhara – Another Incident

My blury photos of Bukhara reflect my blurry mood My days in Uzbekistan seems never be far from incidents. Earlier in Tashkent I lost 400 US$ cash stolen. The other day in Samarkand I broke my camera. Then in Ferghana I experience some night hours in police station. Today, after the surprising climax that I will be thrown to my zero point, I have to experience other incidents at the last legs of this journey. I took a night bus from Tashkent to Bukhara. But I came late. When I arrived in bus station near the Sabir Rahimov Metro Station, the latest to Bukhara had departed. But there was another bus departing to Navoi, 2 hours before Bukhara, and I decided to take this night bus. It was 8 p.m. when I got in. But not until 11 the bus started the engine. I fell asleep since I got seated. Today was an exhausting day, as I was hunting for flight ticket to Malaysia and the fact that I am going home still shocked me. The journey to Navoi takes about 5 hours at night. I couldn’t remember anything, but I notice that people sitting next to me always change. [...]

January 25, 2007 // 1 Comment

Bishkek – Lost Passport

My Indonesian passport. Looks old and dirty, but without which I am nobody. I am, maybe as well as the readers of this blog are, tired of my own carelessness. I lost count already of how many problems I faced in this trip due to my stupidity. And now it happened something that almost destroyed my entire traveling dream. I went with Maksat to the city center. I stayed with Moken family in a complex outskirt of Bishkek. From Ala Too complex to Bishkek city center we need to take mashrutkoe (lit. fixed line, means minibus) for 30 minutes. There was no internet café around so the only choice was to go to the city to get a web access. After about 1 week in the villages between Bishkek and Osh, now I desperately needed and internet connection. We want to Tsum. Tsum, center department store, is always available in all ex-Soviet big cities. In Bishkek, it is 3 storey building at the city’s commercial center. The internet access is fast, but expensive. I noticed many Internet cafes in Kyrgyzstan try to scam the clients by so-called ‘traffic fee’ system. They charge the Internet time usage as well as how [...]

November 16, 2006 // 0 Comments

Karakul – Out of Murghab

A new day, and a new month, starts in Murghab The new month has just started, and I have only 4 days left on my visa. I met these two guys in the bazaar of Murghab, one with visa expiring today (November 1). The guys were from America and Israel, and they have been waiting for onward travel to Kyrgyzstan. They were there in the bazaar yesterday but failed to depart. Today is the second day (and supposed to be the last day) attempt. Murghab is somehow a depressing place to wait for transport. As now the oil price has skyrocketed, one’s a month salary is only enough to cover the distance from Murghab to Osh or to Khorog in a public transport for one time. People don’t travel anywhere. There are many drivers but not passengers. The drivers hang around the bazaar the whole day to get passengers, and except the two travelers, and me, there is nobody else to share the cost. Some drivers even didn’t have petrol for their vehicles. The cost is always calculated in terms of liters of oil, with 3.40 Somoni/liter standard in Murghab. In Langar I even saw a driver asked the passengers [...]

November 1, 2006 // 0 Comments

Dushanbe – The Kyrgyz Visa … Finally

The Kyrgyz visa, finally It has been about ten days I am stuck in Dushanbe (and with side-trip to Istaravshan), due to the Kyrgyz visa application. I will post the comment of Istaravshan and Dushanbe later when I get proper Internet connection. Now, if you dont mind, let me share the struggle to get the Kyrgyz visa. As an Indonesian passport holder, I need an invitation to get the Kyrgyz visa, and the invitation should be approved by the ministry of foreign affairs in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. I applied through the Indonesian embassy in Tashkent. The Indonesian embassy contacted the Kyrgyz Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they said that my visa was approved, I just needed to go to the Kyrgyz embassy in Dushanbe to pick up the visa. Monday, October 9th I went to the Kyrgyz embassy. It was well hidden in an alley near Insititute of Teby. The embassy only accepts visa application one day in a week, that is on Tuesdays. Not wanting to repeat my tragical Tajikistan visa (which cost me 250 dollars for the red tape), I called my embassy in Tashkent to ask for confirmation about the approved invitation. They called by [...]

October 17, 2006 // 5 Comments

Dushanbe – A Night in Student Dormitory

Rainbow in Tajikistan I went early to the Kyrgyz embassy just to find that the embassy only opened one day in a week, that is on Tuesdays. The embassy itself is well hidden in the alley, long way from the city center. It is next to a medicalcampus of the university Teby. When I was asking direction here and there, I met this boy. His name is Alyourov Bakhriddin. He is a medical student in the second year. He is an Uzbek boy from the northern town of Istaravshan, about 200 km away from Dushanbe. Bakhriddin has a Russified Islamic name. The names of Uzbek and Tajik were following the same pattern as those of the same ethnics in Afghanistan, but since the Russian occupation, the names of the people also consist of 3 parts: imya (name), otchestva (fatherly name) and familia (family name). The father’s name (otchestva) has ending –ovich for males and –ovicha for females, and the family name or grandfatherly name has ending –ov for men and –ova for women. Thus the Tajik president, Imamali Rakhmanov Sharifovich, hasname Imamali, is the son of Sharif and grandson of Rakhman. The Russians follow the pattern: imya – ochestva – [...]

October 9, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kabul, My Black Day

The police who slapped me, checked my camera, and slapped me again I cannot reckon any day worse than today. In the morning, there was another bomb blast in Kabul, in Mikroyan area. The suicide bomber was a young man in Western dress, who planted the bombs on his body, and blasted himself. There were 6 casualties. Two days before there was another bomb blast in front of the ministry of interior, which killed 16 people and wounded 50 others. Now is the Muslim’s holy month of Ramazan. But why are there bombings now? The extremists urge their followers to do the suicide bombings; for them it is jihad, as being a martyr in the holy month guarantees their place in heaven. Secondly, the winter is coming soon, and in winter terrorist actions would be more difficult to conduct. The extremists were in a hurry to complete their mission. The situation in Afghanistan is getting worse. Security is tightening up. But I still cannot accept the justification of what happened to me today. 4:30 p.m. I went out of my office to buy some postcards. My office is located near to the Ministry of Interior, where the blast happened two [...]

October 2, 2006 // 9 Comments

Chekhcheran – The Journey to Chekhcheran

Other passenger hitchhiking together with me “This is not the place for humans. This is place for animals” – a driver from Chekhcheran The one-eyed hotel owner of Garmao was a very good man. Not only he conducted body search (taloshi) for the passengers sleeping in his restaurant to find my lost harddisk, he also helped me to get a truck lift from Garmao to the provincial capital of Chekhcheran. There were only two trucks passing the lonely village that day, after I had been waiting for more than 24 hours. The owner, a slim, bearded man, was reluctant to take me. He quoted 400 Af price which was very expensive, as he said, he was afraid that Taliban would specially targeted foreigners. It was only an excuse. The hotel owner, with his big voice, insisted him to take me. He was very authoritative, even the truck owner was afraid of him. Traveling by truck was far more interesting, comfortable, and cheap way of traversing the mountainous area of Afghanistan. It was slow. It broke often. The average speed was less than 7 km/hour. And it had comfortable seat. It was comfortable if you didn’t get the open air seat [...]

September 16, 2006 // 0 Comments

Garmao – The Journey to Jam

Travellers (musafirs) sleeping on the floor of restaurant along the central route of Afghanistan. The restaurants also serve as hotel for passengers. Along the isolated Central Route, the most common way of travelling is by hitchhiking a truck, like these. “Peida misha (it will be found)” – a passenger from Herat Same quote as a previous post from Iran, same story to be happened (again). After waiting for two days for transport heading east from Chisht, at last I found these two trucks. They were repairing the broken trucks when I came there out of the Chisht bazaar together with Abdurrahman, a boy from the village. Kalendar, one of the truck drivers, agreed to take me. But I had to wait 2 more hours until they finished repairing the broken truck. The night before, I had talked with another truck driver in the Iqbal restaurant to take me to Kamenj. The driver quoted astronomical price of 500 Af for the ride (normal price was 100 Af by truck). I bargained it down until 150 Af. He agreed and told me to be prepared at 8 a.m. But this was a Persian taarof culture, refusing but avoiding saying ‘no’. The truck [...]

September 13, 2006 // 0 Comments

Chisht-o-Sharif – The Journey through the Central Route

With s0 many locals with Mongoloid face, no wonder they also think I am part of them “Where in Afghanistan Indonesia is?” – a passenger from Obey My today had nothing to do with the remembrance of the September 11 accident. So was the life in this part of Afghanistan. Everything was just the same as it was in any other days. I started my journey to Kabul through the Central Route of Afghanistan, passing through the mountainous areas from Herat, Ghor, and Bamiyan provinces. I had heard that the bus to Obey, the first stop of the Central Route, departed from Darb-e-Khosh near the Friday Mosque. When I was there, there was no car at all. There was another old villager with big sack like that of Santa Claus, as confused as I was. After asking around, we found that we were waiting at the wrong place. The old man told me that we should take a rickshaw to the bus terminal. There was a mini bus going to Obey, 2 and half hours away from Herat. The ticket was 90 Af. The old man was still thinking I was a Hazara from Ghor province, as I told him [...]

September 11, 2006 // 0 Comments

Herat – The Journey to Herat

Traveling in Afghanistan is painful. I felt almost died when arrived here. “You got malaria” – a man from Maimana As everywhere in Afghanistan, long distance journey from Maimana starts as early as 4. I was completely exhausted after the long bus journey from Mazhar the day before, and it was a terrifying night in Massoud’s guest room that I couldn’t rest properly. I was not ready at all to do this 2-day-journey to Heart, but Massoud, probably disappointed of not being able to get me, rushed me out of his house as early as 3:30. I walked like a drunk. The only vehicle going to Herat was only Falancoach type, a minibus where passengers are stuffed like tinned sardine and there is no way to stretch the body for relaxing. I know the journey would be very painful. The cars to Herat depart from Darvaza-e-Herat (Herat Gate) quite out of the town. They were ready at 4 but the cars got full at 5. When I arrived I immediately chose a window seat and sleep, after paying the fare of 1000 Af (20$) – quite uncommon as in Afghansitan usually fare is paid after the ride. Later to my [...]

August 15, 2006 // 0 Comments

Baharak – Passport Check, a Birthday Present

The nondescript bazaar town of Baharak “Everything is wrong in Afghanistan” – Dr. Momin Today is my birthday. I become 25 years old already. And with the wish of luck I departed Ishkashim together with Arnoult. We are heading to Baharak, where I can catch the next transport to Faizabad, and Arnoult was going to Shewa. The shared Falancoach started from Ishkashim at 8. As usual, Afghans have non-understandable concept of time. The driver came to the restaurant and rushed our breakfast as he said that the motor was going to start as soon as possible. It was not before an hour of waiting the motor just started the engine. There were some other passengers also heading to Faizabad, including a man from Tajikistan who spoke Russian with me. The road to Baharak itself is quite boring after the experience in the Wakhan. But Baharak, after 7 hours of nondescript Falancoach journey, was not anymore a nondescript town. In my previous post when I cam to Baharak from Fraizabad, I wrote that this town was sleepy and just a nondescript bazaar twon. But coming from Ishkashim after 2 weeks in isolated Wakhan valley, Baharak seemed flourished. The palao lunch was [...]

August 8, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kunduz – Set Back

The beautiful land of Pakistan that I saw in my dream “You will have to return back and start to think how to get back to the original place to continue your journey …” Lam Li once told me that after months of traveling, it was a common phenomenon to develop certain “nightmares”. The travelers’ nightmare as she experienced quite often was seeing herself somehow had to be thrown back to her home country, and in the dream she had to struggle hard to return back to the place where the journey was interrupted. “You will have to return back and start to think how to get back to the original place to continue your journey …” I heard about this when I met her in Kandahar. My journey started on July 28, 2005. So it is only a week for it to reach its 1st anniversary. It was a long overland journey from the busy city of Beijing, through the mainland China to the land of the Uyghurs in the west, climbed up the heavenly peaks of Tibet, traversing the province before going down to the peaceful lowland of Nepal. The Annapurna mountain ranges of Nepal left the village [...]

July 22, 2006 // 2 Comments

Lahore – The Postal System

April 29, 2006 General Post Office (GPO) Lahore I never imagined that sending a CD by mail could be a very labourous work in Pakistan. That day I wanted to send some books and a CD of my photos to Indonesia. The post office system in Pakistan, as in India, curiously work inside and outside the building. Outside the building? Yes, in fact, half of the process of mailing have to pass these counters outside the building. There are a row of men with kiosks offering service of packing, packaging, enveloping, legal mattering, etc etc. The madam on the information desk directed me to an old man to package my books for the posting. The madam told me that this man would know anything I need to know. The book posting is quite cheap for sending books, with one requirement, the packaging should be one side opened for the checking by the post office. Then from outside I went back to the office building. The book post for sending my 1.5 kg books cost me only 166 Rs, but the man of the stamping counter said that I could not send the CD. He said that sending CD is ‘objection’. [...]

April 29, 2006 // 2 Comments