Garis Batas – Perjalanan di Negeri-Negeri Asia Tengah (Borderlines)

My second published travel writing book, on journey to Central Asian countries (The “Stans”). Indonesian language. Borderlines – Journey to the Central Asian States Everyday, Afghan villagers stare to “a foreign country” which is just a river away. They look at passing cars, without even once experiencing sitting inside the vehicles. They look at Russian-style villas, while they live in dark mud and stone houses. They look at girls in tight jeans, while their own women are illiterate and have no freedom to travel. The country across the river seems magnificent—a magnificent fantasy. The same fantasy brings Agustinus Wibowo travel to the mysterious Central Asian states. Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan. The “Stan brothers”. This journey will not only bring you step on snowy mountains, walk accross borderless steppes, adsorbing the greatness of traditions and the glowing Silk Road civilization, or having [read more]

April 25, 2011 // 4 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 [read more]

April 7, 2007 // 1 Comment

Tokmok – The Dungan

A Dungan family “Хуэйзу либянди щинфу” – Happiness Among the Dungan Hueimin Bo 26.01.2006 My first interaction with the Dungans was with its food. There is a busy, crowded, small restaurant near the Iranian embassy in Bishkek offering Dungan food. When I entered the underground room, I felt I was thrown again to China. It is Chinese, and only Chinese language, spoken among the cook and servants. The food also resembles Chinese food you eat in mainland China, with slight variation of Central Asia touch. That second I immediately decide: I want to know who the Dungans are. Tokmok is a little town 70 km east of Bishkek. This town is located nearby to Chuy River which now separates Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Tokmok is a kaleidoscope of ethnics: Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Uzbek, Russian, Uyghur, and Dungan traders stuff its busy Sunday bazaar. Tokmok is home of most Kyrgyzstan’s Dungan population. Not far from the bazaar there is a little Dungan mosque. Here, in Central [read more]

November 26, 2006 // 1 Comment

Bishkek – Uzbekistan Visa

Another bureaucratic thing to do in Bishkek For Indonesian passport holders, Uzbekistan visa requires Letter of Invitation. Recently getting Uzbekistan visa is more difficult then before, since the Andijan massacre in 2005. Before the American passport holders were granted multiple entry visa, but since the Karimov president kicked all the American soldiers out, the visa is now only for one month, single entry, same for anybody else. Only the Japanese passport holders still enjoy the privilege of no LOI, no visa fee (they only pay 15$ for the visa). I got my invitation from the Embassy of Republic of Indonesia in Tashkent. It is a personal invitation from one of the diplomats there, Mrs Sunarti Ichwanto. It is also a 1-month, single entry visa. But they said that the visa can be extended. The Uzbekistan embassy requires invitation per telephone for people who apply for visa, and as interview will be conducted, everybody either should speak Russian or bring a Russian translator. I came [read more]

November 22, 2006 // 0 Comments

Bishkek – A Wedding in the Capital

The bride and the groom departs from the very same house Moken big house became very crowded since the previous week, when relatives from Toktogul all flooded the house complex. Moken house was considered quite big, located at the outskirt of Bishkek, at least 40 minutes by car from the city center. He should be considered a middle class, if not rich, in the living standard of Kyrgyzstan. He had an expensive car as he was a taxi driver plying Toktogul – Bishkek road, and his house consisted of several separated buildings, including a stable which housed his numerous sheep and goats. As in Tajikistan, in Kyrgyzstan taxi drivers generally had quite high position in society spectrum of the people. Everybody in Toktogul knew about him. Moken had three sons. The eldest, Timur, has just married to a girl recently. Both of Timur and Zarina, his wife, were very young, not more than 20 years old. In Central Asia, people marry at very early age. Timur and Zarina lived together since their [read more]

November 19, 2006 // 0 Comments

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 [read more]

November 16, 2006 // 0 Comments

Toktogul – The Kyrgyz Language

It still looks so Russia It is the first chance for me to get acquainted with one of the Turkic languages. Kyrgyz, as well as Kazakh, Uzbek, Turkmen, Turkish, and Mongol are Turkic languages. The first five are quite close each other, but Mongol is completely intelligible to other Central Asian Turkic speakers. Some linguists put Korean and Japanese in the Turkic language group, due to similarity of word order and agglutinative verbs. But newer linguistic classification, as what I believe, has thrown away the two Oriental languages out of the group. Before getting confused, please notice the difference between ‘Turkic’ and ‘Turkish’. The Turkic languages family is a group of languages with similarities of grammar and word forms, which includes Turkish and most of Central Asian languages. Books for learning Kyrgyz in English language are quite difficult to find even in Kyrgyzstan, and I was lucky that I met two Peace Corps volunteers who lent me the grammar book. For me, Turkic [read more]

November 14, 2006 // 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 [read more]

November 13, 2006 // 0 Comments

Karaköl – Depressed Life

The Gulsaira family I arrived in Karaköl by accident. At first I planned to go from Osh to Toktogul by a direct bus. Toktogul is located on the midway going to Bishkek. But I missed the bus. The jouney then turned to be quite exhausting, as I had to take first the bus to Jalalabad for 100 Som, then 90 Som from Jalalabad to Tashkomur. I arrived in Tashkomur almost dark. Tashkomur is famous for its electrical generator produced by the dams. The town is also a sad witness of the deterioration of Kyrgyzstan economy after the independence. Now it is a quiet sleepy town 2 km away from Osh-Bishkek highway. It was not the place I really want to spend a night. I was lucky when suddenly came a bus signed “Toktogul”. I jumped in, wishing to see my old friends in Toktogul on the very same day. After two hour journey (100 som), the crowded minibus suddenly emptied in the middle of the town of Karaköl. It was complete dark already. The bus didn’t continue any further. It just stopped in [read more]

November 11, 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 [read more]

November 7, 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 [read more]

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 [read more]

November 3, 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 [read more]

November 1, 2006 // 0 Comments

Alichur – Kyrgyz Community

The steppe of Alichur Actually I planned to stay for some more days in Langar, but I have heard that the transport onward to Murghab would be very difficult to get. This was caused by the high oil price, so people couldnt afford anymore to travel, and instead of going to smaller and hopeless Murghab they opted to bigger Khorog. Suddenly, even when I was not prepared yet, there was a passenger jeep going to Murghab on 27th. The khalifa told me if I didnt take this car, the next transport might be a month after. I had no choice but to leave Langar. The road continued to east along the river bordering Afghanistan. Afghanistan on that side of the river had no more motorable road as it already entered the Big Pamir area. Sometimes caravans of Bactrian camels were visible along the dirt road on that side of the river, while we were travelling in a russian jeep. World differed more than a century in the two sides of the river, which was very shallow and narrow in winter. It should be very [read more]

October 28, 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 [read more]

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, [read more]

October 9, 2006 // 0 Comments

Dushanbe – Greetings from Tajik Capital

Stamps of independent Tajikistan still use Russian Cyrillic alphabet along with Latin. They portrays local heros and culture, also other colorful cartoonish and big stamps with unrelated topics for collectors, like: outer space, Euro football competition, Elvis Presley, Bruce Lee and panda Finally, I arrived in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. The Tajik border is located across the river from the Afghan port of Shir Khan Bandar. It’s an expensive fare of 10 dollars per person to cross the river by boat. The Tajik immigration is located somewhere further, and it was another 1 dollar to reach the immigration office by bus. And they still charged 5 dollars for luggage checking (customs). I befriended the old customs officer. We talked in Farsi and he was so happy looking at Indonesian photos. Actually he already signaled me to leave soon after the custom check, that way I could avoid the 5 dollar fee. But I really didnt know about the 5 dollar game, and I insisted to get a [read more]

October 7, 2006 // 0 Comments