Byron Bay, July 31, 2014: A Nanny State?

“Australia is a country only for old people,” says Celine, a 22-year-old Indonesian student sitting next to me in a Qantas flight to Sydney. Celine lives in a suburb of Melbourne, and has been there for four years majoring food technology. “After 5 pm all shops are closed and the towns are deserted. There is absolutely no fun.” I am on my way to Gold Coast, to attend Byron Bay Writers Festival tomorrow; while Celine is heading to Melbourne and she will have some hours of transit in Sydney. Celine grumbles as she has no choice but to take this Qantas flight. She usually takes the Indonesian carrier, Garuda, which offers the only direct flight from Jakarta to Melbourne. But Garuda tickets are sold out, and only Qantas is available for her. But as I am a first timer to Qantas, I am very excited with this flight. In fact, I am first timer to any Western airlines. And I have to admit, I am shocked to see that all passengers were greeted by an overweight stewardess with thick lips [read more]

August 1, 2014 // 25 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

Tehran – Turkmen Visa (4)

Finally… the Turkmen visa. Only for five days though. Among the transports that somehow had become my routine in Tehran due to the Turkmen embassy visits, the shared taxi trip today might be the most interesting trip. In Tehran, shared taxi is much more common compared to the usual taxi we have in Indonesia. Shared taxi is a taxi which travel on same routes all time and may take up to 4 passengers. By this way, people travel comfortably with cheap price. Unlike most chances in traveling in the Islamic Republics, in a shared taxi a woman can sit next to a male passenger. I often got interesting stories from other passengers. In Iran, compared to Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is much more space of freedom of communication between men and women. I flagged down a taxi. There were three female passengers in the taxi. All were middle aged. The woman sat on the front seat was surprised that I spoke Farsi. She asked where I learned Farsi. I said I used to live in Afghanistan. Suddenly [read more]

March 13, 2007 // 2 Comments

Tehran – Turkmen Visa (3)

The beautiful Turkmen flag on a stamp. They have given up Russian Cyrillic and only use Latin With full of worry of not being able to get Turkmen visa, I visited the beloved Turkmen embassy again. It was more than a week since they received my photocopy of passport, and if it was approved, I should have got my Turkmen visa. I arrived at 9:15. There were already some Iranians waiting in front of a small window. The window was shut down. Many of the men, the visa applicants, were drivers applying for 6 month multiple entry visa, which with the invitation altogether cost 300 dollars. Some other men were businessmen who were applying for 1 month visa (91 dollar, plus the 100$ invitation). Turkmen visa was always bureaucratic and expensive. Even for 5 day transit I had to wait for 10 days, with repeated visit to the embassy and without certainty of getting the visa. Not before 10:45 the consul came. The Iranian applicants were quite annoyed by the consul being late. Iranians, unlike other [read more]

March 12, 2007 // 0 Comments

Tehran – Turkmen Visa (2)

The beautiful Turkmenistan visa…. Give one to me, please… I returned back to the Turkmen embassy. It was always a long journey here. A metro to Mirdamad (750R) continued by a bus to Nobonyod (200 R), then a 1 kilometer walk to the junction of Dr. Lavasani street, a shared taxi to Vatanpoor Street (2000 R), and at last, a short walk to the embassy. A journey to hell. A couple of a German guy and a French girl from the same hotel simply took a taxi from Mirdamad. They also brought flower and chocolate to be presented to the consul, who might help for the visa. When it came to my turn, the consul said, “Nothing can be done.” The photocopy of passport was already sufficient for the visa application. Nothing else. The application was forwarded to Ashgabat, waiting for approval. If the answer was positive, after 7 to 10 days a visa would be issued. The application form given to me yesterday was to be submitted when my visa was already approved. Now what I could do was only [read more]

March 5, 2007 // 0 Comments

Tehran – Turkmen Visa (1)

Uzbek visa was really a piece of cake. Smooth and delicious. Getting Turkmen visa was always tricky. I got very early to the Pasdaran Avenue to the Turkmenistan embassy just to find out that since January this year, the embassy had moved to a new address: 5 Barati Street, Vatanpoor, Farmaniyeh, which was quite a distance from its original place. The new location was more difficult to reach. I had to change transport three times and asked around until I found the building, exhausted. To get a transit visa for 5 days, one should submit a photocopy of the passport and Uzbek visa. I forgot my Uzbek visa photocopy and I had to return back to Farmaniyeh to find a photocopy shop. The embassy location was deep in the alleys of housing complex and the closest photocopy machine was two kilometers away. I returned back to the embassy. It was still 11 but the embassy operated from 9 to 11 only. The small window was closed. I knocked the window and the man accepted my photocopy and let me go. [read more]

March 4, 2007 // 0 Comments

Tashkent – Flying Home

The Uzbek Airways flight HY553 flight of Uzbek Airways left Tashkent airport at 11:30 exact heading to Kuala Lumpur. I was among the few passengers on that plane. Kuala Lumpur, compared to New Delhi, Lahore, and Bangkok, is a dry destination from this country in the central of Central Asia. This morning there were several flights to Asia, and all were full of passengers, but less than 20 people boarding from Tashkent to Kuala Lumpur. This morning started very messy. It seemed I was not prepared yet to leave Central Asia this sudden. The notorious Uzbekistan immigration officer was not that bad though. My embassy has prepared me with magic letter so that if they tried to find trouble I still have a way out. During my two month stay in the country, I had never registered myself to the OVIR office (Passport and Immigration office), thus my stay was illegal. Luckily the immigration officer was too happy to speak Tajik language with me, chatting about the luck of living in a Muslim country [read more]

February 7, 2007 // 6 Comments

Tashkent – A Call from Indonesia

An unexpected phone call This morning, my mother sent me an SMS. It says, “Papa wants you to go home for the Chinese new year, there is something to talk about.” I was so surprised. I am unable to call them back as international call is out of my limited balance. I sent them an SMS back but there was no reply. I ask help of my friend in Jakarta to call my family in Java. My friend says that my father was healthy, but he wants to gather in the New Year’s Eve. It has been 4 years already I missed the New Year’s Eve with my family. My father is sick, he gets a heart attack 2 years ago, and I always worry about him day and night during my travel. He always says that he is healthy and fine. But I know he is a strong man and dislike people to sympathize him. Never my father asks from me something, but now, he really begs me to go home. This is a sudden call from Indonesia. It was so sudden that I am still shocked. How about the traveling plan made up recently? I have obtained the [read more]

January 23, 2007 // 12 Comments

Astana – The New Capital

Welcome on board The 20 hour journey on a sleeper bus from Almaty to Astana was flat. From the window I saw the massive, flat land of Kazakhstan. My image of green giant steppe, in cold winter like this, was replaced by thick snow layer. Everything was flat and white. The sky was completely grey, adding the sorrow of traveling in Kazakhstan in freezing cold winter. But Kazakhstan was inviting. In this 2nd class sleeper, which cost 20 dollar a seat plus 250 Tenge for bed sheet rental (I tried to refuse but the train attendants said she wouldn’t allow me to sleep on the bedding without the sheets), I shared the compartment with two Mongolian Chinese and a Kazakh woman. The two Chinese men of Mongolian ethnic spoke good Chinese and Russian. They were all from Xinjiang province. One had Kazakh passport and the other, Mr. Ye Shunde, still possessed a Chinese passport. “It’s now easy to acquire Kazakh passport,” said Mr. Ye, “you just need to marry a Kazakh woman and you get [read more]

December 7, 2006 // 0 Comments

Bishkek – Kazakhstan Visa

Visa of the Republic of Kazakhstan Getting Kazakhstan visa in Bishkek was not difficult, but as for any countries in Central Asia, Indonesian passport holders need to be ‘consulted’. The visa application should be approved by central government by the respected countries. Only for Tajikistan we recently got exemption for Letter of Invitation (LOI) and entitled for visa-on-arrival at Dushanbe airport. Getting a LOI meant you have to get a pre-arranged invitation approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This can be arranged through a travel agency (30-80$). Many nationalities, included Malaysians, don need this invitation letter stuff and they could directly apply for visas in any Kazakh embassies. The Kazakhstan embassies were well-known all over the world for their cold service. And for this cool winter in Bishkek, the staff faces were even much colder. The embassy had moved to a new location recently, south part of the city. I came early but there were already many people [read more]

November 27, 2006 // 0 Comments

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 – 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

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

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 – 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 [read more]

October 15, 2006 // 0 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 – Tajikistan, First Impression

Just across the river border, even the grilled meat looks very different, despite of the same name, kabab. Oh, it also gets a Russian name here, sashlik. Before actually physically stepped on the country, I had heard, and seen Tajikistan when I was still in Afghanistan. It is the country idolized by many people in the Badakhshan province. It is the country of freedom, flourished by goods, electricity, and public services. It is the country where women can walk on the streets freely without fear of not covering properly. Now, I am in Tajikistan, seeing and experiencing what man of the northern rural Afghans dreaming about. But for me, Tajikistan is not about dream. According to a reference, the average salary of the people in the country was only 61.81 Somoni (US$ 19.93/month, 2005) and average pension was as low as 16.92 Somoni (US$ 5.23/month, 2005). Life cost is not cheap at all, at least in Dushanbe, compared to the low income statistics. Long distance transport was incredibly [read more]

October 8, 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

Shir Khan Bandar – Last Day in Afghanistan

Let’s cross the Amu River and see the real world of Tajikistan And it’s time for me to say good bye to the Afghan land. Every Thursday during the Ramazan, the Muslim’s fasting month, the Indonesian embassy in Kabul hold ‘buka puasa bersama’ probram, or breaking the fast together. This was always a good opportunity for the Indonesian community in Kabul to gather and have chit chat about life in Afghanistan. I met some UN workers like Aini, Nita (going to Sudan), and Mr Saptono, who had worked in Papua as well for 8 years. I also met a ‘newcomer’ volunteer architect, Widhya, whose boss, Rowry Stewart, traversed the Central Route of Afghanistan on foot in winter 2001 and wrote a book. I also couldn’t forget the nice moments with Mr Ambassador, all of the diplomats, and staff in the embassy, and of course, the excellent food. It was a very beautiful memory with all you guys in Kabul. It was a coincidence that Tolo TV was broadcasting a program, ‘itfar in other [read more]

October 6, 2006 // 2 Comments

Kabul: Tajik Visa SCAM

The US$ 250 Tajik visa The ex-Soviet countries are notorious for difficult paperwork and expensive bureaucracy. The Central Asian republics are just example of this draconian governments. From my previous experience in Central Asia, the visa fee for Uzbekistan was 75$, Kyrgyzstan 55$, and 5 day transit visa for Kazakhstan was 35$. For Indonesian passport holders, the matter was complicated with ‘Letter of Invitation’. This is a procedure where someone should be our sponsor during our stay in the countries. The Letter of Invitation (LOI), or in Russian: priglashenie, or in embassies’ term: calling visa, then should be sent by the sponsoring organization to be then authorized by the ministries of foreign affairs of the appropriate countries. The process can take weeks. Fast service from Internet cost me 30$ per LOI. I am aware of these complexities of obtaining Central Asian visas. I have contacted my embassy in Tashkent who told me that they could arrange the [read more]

October 1, 2006 // 2 Comments

Herat – Back to Afghanistan Again

From Mashhad … After being 3 weeks in Iran, virtually doing nothing, now I am back into my life, traveling around, in Afghanistan again. I started quite early from a neighbourhood near the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad. When I was asking for direction for taking the bus, I was helped by a man from Tehran who was doing business in Jakarta and Bandung. He praised Jakarta to be a modern city and Bandung to be interesting traditional town (?). I took the direct bus from Mashhad to Herat. It was 60,000 Real. I was warned by my friend not to take the international bus, despite of the cheap price, due to the massive check from the Iranian officials toward the Afghans. It was the case coming to Iran from Afghanistan, as Iran worried about smuggling of drugs from their cute neighbor. I thought it should not be the case for the opposite way, as Afghanistan usually doesnt worry of anything coming to their country, and as today was Friday, there should be not many people lingering [read more]

September 8, 2006 // 4 Comments

Mashhad – Afghan Visa

From Mashhad … “You have to go to Tehran” – Visa Officer Mashhad might be not the best place to apply for Afghan visa. I had to go back to Afghanistan soon as my Tajik visa was ready already and I had to rush my way to Central Asia, through the difficult Afghan’s central route. The Afghan consulate is located near the Sevvom Isfand Square off the Imam Khomeini Boulevard in Mashhad. At 9 a.m. I arrived in the consulate, which is located in small alley in a neighbourhood. The consulate was very busy, there were many Iranians and Afghans. No other foreigners. Thus the security guards directed me to talk directly to the visa offcier through the window. The visa officer asked where I was from. “Indonesia,” I answered. “You have to go to Tehran!” said him. Full stop. I was surprised. Go to Tehran? Just for an Afghan visa? Tehran is located 1000 km away from Mashhad and I didnt really want the detour. I wonder whether Indonesia was [read more]

September 4, 2006 // 0 Comments

Tehran – Indonesian National Day

The border to Iran The Afghan-Iran border is a busy but very strict border, both on Afghan and Iranian side. The border is about 120 km away from Herat, can be reached by bus, Falancoach, or Volvo. I was in rush to go to Iran right after getting the Iranian visa, and I took the luxurious Volvo to go to Islam Qala, the border. The Afghans had to queue very long outside the immigration office. There were hundreds of people crossing the border, but they still had to pass many checks before being able to go to the ‘outside world’. I also queued. The people grumbled about how hot the weather was. Suddenly a soldier grabbed me from the queue, and put me directly to the gate. “Khareji! (foreigner!)” he said to his colleagues. In fact foreigners didnt need to queue together with the Afghan nationals outside the immigration hall. They were queuing for a slip for luggage search. I was not given the slip and was asked to go directly to the passport stamp window. [read more]

August 17, 2006 // 2 Comments

Herat – Iranian Visa

Iranian visa applicants “Come again at 11” – Visa officer Tomorrow is the national day of Indonesia, and from here, Herat, the closest Indonesian embassy is in Tehran. I do really wish to spend this year’s national day in an embassy with fellow Indonesians. Somehow the feeling of nationality arouses tremendously after long period of traveling, and “Agustusan” – our national day which is on August 17, doesn’t only mean Indonesian food party with fellow countrymen. I miss the ceremony, something I used to condemn as nationalism propaganda when I was in high school. Anyway, I have to be in the Indonesian embassy at this national day. Tehran is in Iran, it’s another country. According to the recent news, Iran is a visa free country for Indonesian passport holders for 2 weeks. But Iranian embassies and consulates say different things about it. The consulate in Peshawar said that the visa free agreement was valid for all land borders, the embassy in Tashkent (thanks to [read more]

August 16, 2006 // 3 Comments

Ishkashim – Peeping Into Tajikistan

Welcome to Badakhshan “In Tajikistan they have everything but money. In Afghanistan we have money but nothing else.” – Mehruddin The distance from Faizabad to the eastern town of Ishkashem is merely 160 km, but as anywhere in Badakhshan province, the road is unpaved and dusty. The transport is also difficult and unreliable. I was staying in the house of a journalist-cum-farmer, Mr Jaffar Tayyar, in the outskirt of Faizabad. As customary in Afghanistan, all long distance public transport departs very early in the morning as traveling after dark is dangerous. To reach the bus depot in Faizabad I had to walk from the village of Mr. Tayyar as early as 4 a.m. There is no direct bus to Ishkashim. First one has to get to Baharaq, 42 km or 2 hours from Faizabad. It costs 150 Af. Baharaq is a nondescript little bazaar village. Here the onward transport to Ishkashim might be found. They only depart when there are enough passengers, and as Ishkashim is not a major destination, thus [read more]

July 28, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kabul – The Long Way to Afghanistan

Let’s go to Afghanistan! The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is described by the Durand Line which devided the land of Pashtuns, the Pashtunistan, to two different countries. The Pashtuns in the Pakistan side, according to the agreement of the government and the tribal leaders, were given special autonomy to preserve their tribal culture until nowadays. The tribals have their own law, and Pakistani law barely has any effect on them. These tribal areas in the NWFP border province had been given agencies status, and are under control of Politcal Agent. The agencies of NWFP province are notorious of being troublesome. Waziristan is always on the top of ‘the place you likely want to visit’ among Pakistanis, and completely closed to foreigners. Not only once I read news about mission of Pakistani armies there in Waziristan, about terrorists (probably included mis-hit civilians) being killed, and about propaganda against foreigners who were accused by the [read more]

June 9, 2006 // 0 Comments

Peshawar – Permit to Afghanistan

June 6, 2006 Bodyguards of Afghan consulate in Peshawar Three years ago, July 17, 2003 exactly, I was applying for the permit to pass thru Khyber Pass to go to Afghanistan. This is one of the essential procedure for foreigners to get to Afghanistan by land ‘legally’, as those areas bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan are all tribal controlled areas. I was with my travel companion, Adam from England, in the Home Department Office to apply for the permit for both of us. The Home Department didnt allow anybody to bring camera inside the office. I guessed maybe because that the office was too filthy. At the third floor we saw that the floor was flooded by water, leaking from cooler machine apparently. The rooms were all dark, with water on the floor, thousands of papers every here and there, … But something more embarassing about the office that we experienced. First we were directed to go to the third floor where we were supposed to get the form. The old man in charge, [read more]

June 6, 2006 // 3 Comments

Peshawar – Afghanistan Miayam

The guys in Afghan consulate in Peshawar My trip in Pakistan is about to finish, the six months of time, seemingly long enough, is still not enough for me to visit even all of the provinces of Pakistan. And I still feel very hard to leave this country in very near future. But the journey has to go on, and the next trip is Afghanistan. Afghanistan Miiayam, in Farsi means Afghanistan, I’m coming. I have got the visa easily from its consulate in Peshawar. It cost 1$ per day, and I applied for three month visa which cost me 90$. Mr Rasuli, the visa officer, said that the visa started from the date of issue, but it seems that after confirmation with other traveller, the visa started from the date of entry and not the date of issue. I think that there is even miscoordination between the government and the visa officer of the country. I picked my visa at 3 pm. There were to Afghans sitting, also waiting for their passports. One of them thought I was from Afghan (I dressed in shalwar [read more]

June 5, 2006 // 2 Comments

Peshawar – Afghan Consulate

With guys in Afghan consulate April 13, 2006 Lamli, my Malaysian friend, is prepared to go to Afghanistan. She got the Afghan visa already, quite easily, she said. I thought it should not be a bad idea also to get one before I got back to Pindi. Her visa is for two months, 60 dollars. Afghan visa is like a ticket, for a month it is 30 dollars, for 2 it is 60 dollars. You can buy any number of duration of stay, and the price is 30 dollars per month. The visa procedure is easy and straightforward. Today is Thursday, and Afghan embassy is supposed to open. The consulate stated that it only accepted visa application on Tuesday and Thursday, but apparently it worked everyday. I went early to the consulate, got the application and filled it. When waiting for the interview, there was a fat bodyguard staring at me for quite long time. Then his first sentence, instead of a salaam greeting, was: “kukukukukakakakakikiki….” Three years ago, in 2003, I came to this consulate to [read more]

April 13, 2006 // 0 Comments

Gilgit – The Story of My Visa

Some tricks are needed to get a new visa extension March 9, 2006 Sorry for being snobby about visa, but I dont know why I have to be the poorest creature to be created to always have tragedies with visa, especially in this trip. From the Indian visa in Nepal, Pakistan visa in India, and now, Pakistan visa extension. As what I was believing, Pakistan visa was easy to extend, as the country is promoting tourism now. My visa was about a week left when I was in Muzaffarabad, and Rashid, the guy from our NGO, said that if that possible, than it would be very easy to extend. He just came back from Islamabad Monday 6th, and on Tuesday we started our ‘visa extension struggle’. First of all, instead of directly went to the DC Office where the extension and passport paperworks are done, we visited the Muzaffarabad SSP (I dont know what this stand for), the man with highest position in police department in Muzaffarabad. U know, in Pakistan you can go anywhere with connection. Knowing [read more]

March 9, 2006 // 0 Comments

Rawalpindi – Cantontment?

I never expected that it’s very difficult to find a place to stay in this city Imperial Hotel, Muree Road, Rawalpindi 400Rs/double bed room After the 5 hour bus journey from Lahore to Islamabad, and long taxi drive to Saddar Bazaar in Rawalpindi, I was really resent by the hotel owner who refused me to stay in his hotel. Saddar Bazaar is the place for the budget hotels in Rawalpindi, where 2 years ago I used to stay. Today, they refused to accept me as their guest, as there is a stamp ‘Visa not Valid for Cannt Area’ on my visa page. I didnt realize what the meaning of the small stamp on my visa before today. The feeling of being refused in a hotel was very bad. I can imagine the same feeling of people being refused to enter a certain country despite of possessing the valid visa. And I felt disappointed, badly treated, being looked as second class man, etc. Cantontment is military area, which sometimes also include residential and bazaar area, as in this example [read more]

December 17, 2005 // 0 Comments