Port Moresby 20 August 2014 Flying with Air Niugini

“One thing you have to remember is,” said one staffer in Indonesian Embassy in Port Moresby, “PNG is acronym for Promise Not Guaranteed. Never think that by holding a valid flight ticket you are guaranteed to fly.” Last week, Indonesian and PNG government held an annual border meeting in Port Moresby. One Indonesian delegation of 40 people was departing from Jayapura and crossed the land border to Vanimo in Papua New Guinea side. From the northern city, together with the Indonesian Consulate delegation, they were supposed to take domestic flight with the national carrier, Air Niugini, to Port Moresby. But once they arrived in the airport, they were told that the flight they were taking had no seat left. All of them held a confirmed ticket, but they were refused to fly. Worse, there were no other flights in the next three days. Thanks to assistance from the PNG governor in Vanimo, they finally made their way to Port Moresby, by chartering a special airplane! Jacksons International Airport, Papua New Guinea (AGUSTINUS WIBOWO) Today I was to fly from Port Moresby to Daru. It’s a small island which once served as the capital of Western Province, the westernmost province bordering [...]

January 12, 2015 // 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

Vrang – Life in Vrang

Green, peaceful, and lazy … Vrang Travelling in Tajikistan side of the Wakhan Corridor was as difficult as in Afghanistan side. Public transport was rare, the oil price got higher as the altitude got higher. It was 3.50 Somoni per liter of petrol here. No one was sure when the coming transport would come. And even when it came, it was often full, no space to share. It was indeed luck to be able to travel according to what one has planned. I was patient enough even though I worried about my short visa. Dr Akhmed was a doctor in Tughoz. I was waiting for transport to Vrang, 5 km away from tughoz, in his hospital. As the main doctor in this village, he earned only 50 Somoni per month. You would go nowhere with that amount of money in Tajikistan. But everybody was optimistic with his life. Working with little income was still better rather than begging on the streets. I have heard beggars in Jakarta could earn at least 60 dollars per month, about 280 Somoni, or 4 times higher than Dr Akhmed’s income. You need a lot of money and bunch of patience to travel in Tajikistan. [...]

October 25, 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

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

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

Peshawar – Sexual Innuendo (Again???)

June 6, 2006 Man-to-man body contact is very normal here I was looking for a cheap transport to go to Khyber Pass, as foreigners are not allowed to take the public transports. So a friend of mine introduced me to a travel guide. The travel guide was very friendly, visiting me to my hotel almost every night and yesterday took me to his office. It was night. He said, “Dont worry, you are my friend, I will give you cheap price…” bla bla bla. It didnt matter for me. He liked to touch my shoulder which is for me OK, but in his office he tried to rub my ear, then I thought I should keep the distance. When he took me back to my hotel with a taxi, he even gave me a chain of flower. Not until 3 minutes, I was already in the hotel, climbing the stairs to my room. Two guys, one fat one slim, both in shalwar qameez, both moustached, started to stare me and kept following me. They wanted to chat with me but they didnt speak Urdu well, only Pashto. From what I understood, they wanted me to go to their room. I [...]

June 6, 2006 // 3 Comments

Rawalpindi – Do Nambar

Women are rare on Pakistan streets. But when they are, mostly they are totally covered February 21, 2006 I have written many stories of examples of male to male sexual harrassments in Pakistan (personal experiences) and it’s unfair if I dont write the sexual harassments that happen to women, which are far more common. I was in a crowded bus today, heading to Islamabad. When I entered the bus, the seats next to the drivers (supposed to be seats for ladies, and it is really pronounced as LADIES instead of ‘aurat’ in Urdu) was occupied by some men also. The ticket men allowed me to sit in front seat also, maybe because I was foreigner. Then there were about five seats left for the ‘ladies’. But as there was only one woman passengers, the seats were again occupied by male passengers. Then everytime coming a female passenger, those male passengers have to move away and give the seats to the women so that no women will sit next to unrelative males. Something that not happen in Indonesia. I was just thinking at that time, life is quite complicated here, even the seats have to consider the genders. But this difficulty [...]

February 21, 2006 // 0 Comments

Rawalpindi – More About Public Transports

Travelling and eating can be done in one-go in Pakistan February 20, 2006 Sometimes I have to grumble, and it was about the public transport service in Islamabad. In New Delhi I had an example when I took a bus and suddenly the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere as the driver didnt have mood to continue the journey, and all passengers had to find their own way. In Rawalpindi, it’s another story. Conductors are little bit too much enthousiastic in selling tickets, that they will lift you even they know surely 1000% that the bus will not reach your destination. Instead they will take you the nearest point between your destination and their route. Once I took a bus to Phir Wadhai and they dropped me somewhere in Murree Road and asked me to go by Qingqi instead. I chose to walk, and it was even further than the initial distance where I took the bus. In Islamabad, some bus numbers concern too much about the profit. Take an example, bus number 120 which passing from Melodi Market to F-10 through the Karachi Company. Karachi Company is a big terminus where all buses stop for a while for [...]

February 20, 2006 // 0 Comments

Rawalpindi – Peak Hours

Commuting in Pakistan can somehow be crazy. Almost no women are visible, by the way February 4, 2006 The intercity buses connecting the twin cities Islamabad and Rawalpindi (the two totally different twins) are such important like blood and heartbeat in a human body. In the peak hours, many of Rawalpindi dwellers going to Islamabad for education and works, that getting a bus could be very difficult (women especially, due to the rules of seats). Waiting for lift is difficult, that everyone has to fight to be lifted, and in the little sized Toyota, standing up without seat means that you have to forget that you have backbones for a while. Squeezed. I felt relieved I got a seat, which was incredebly a luck. The standing quota for passengers is usually two people, but our Toyota took more people. Actually the passengers were also happy as they got lifted, even though the Toyota was overloading. But the policemen didnt. Our Toyota was stopped by the police, the driver got annoyed, screamed, then cried. The overloading passengers were asked to find another transport (even though they have paid), the traffic jammed for a while because our Toyota blocked the main road. [...]

February 4, 2006 // 0 Comments