Oh, if our passports could talk! A quick look at the numbers and some stories and lessons behind my newly-fattened American passport.
This is it. After this, no more.
– An American embassy employee in Berlin hands back my passport with a third – and undoubtedly final – set of extra pages.
What do you think of when flip through your passport? Countries visited? Number of visas and passport stamps? Possibilities? Continue Reading »
Deserts and dictators. Yurts and nomads. Silk Road cities, staggering yet underrated mountain ranges, Soviet detritus, and one of the world’s greatest road trips.
This is Central Asia. The ‘Stans. Never well understood, but absolutely worth an attempt to understand.
A glimpse of Pik Lenin (23,000+ feet) along the Pamir Highway near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.
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Three years. Yes, we are aware that this is an insanely long time to be on the road and living out of backpacks. So before we attempt to enlighten you with our travel secrets, we reflect.
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We realize that we may confuse our readers occasionally. One day we’re writing about Tajikistan and the next day about Myanmar, all while traveling through Thailand.
Why so much bouncing around? Continue Reading »
Several people have asked us, “How did you get into Turkmenistan? Isn’t it closed to foreigners?” Turkmenistan is a special bureaucratic animal. But, with a little bit of advanced planning and an expanded daily budget, it really isn’t all that difficult, particularly if you don’t work for a media company or human rights organization. We believe our visit there was well worth the effort and adjustments required. Continue Reading »
I just want to go home. I’m tired of all this visa stuff.
– A distressed traveler at the Kazakh embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
So what does sex have to do with Central Asian visas? Simple, really. Thinking about, planning around, and procuring visas for Central Asian countries begins to dominate one’s time and mindspace — almost to the point of obsession. We’ll leave it to you to do the rest of the comparison. Continue Reading »
A couple of notes, dear reader. We are headed to Myanmar and things may be quiet, or they may not. We just don’t know. If you don’t hear from us on the home page, take a look at “The Very Latest” on the left-hand sidebar. Twitter seems to have worked in most countries, even those with heavy internet controls and painfully slow connections.
We are also still catching up on Central Asia. It left an impression on us that has rendered us far behind in our writing. While we figure out Myanmar, we offer you the following: the best people, food and landscape/cityscape shots from a journey that still leaves us surprisingly nostalgic for the intensity, challenge, and people of Central Asia. Continue Reading »
When we arrive in a new location, we usually seek out the local market. This is how we orient ourselves. Markets provide an easy way to meet real people in a friendly context. They also offer an insight into local food and culture. Central Asian markets proved no different. We found ourselves frequently sampling local fruits (OK, having fruit heaped upon us by the lapful) and talking with vendors about their products. We decided that the markets, the vendors and the produce in Central Asia deserved a video. Continue Reading »
One last thing about Turkmenistan before we move on…camels.
No animal seems to capture the essence of grace while embracing its own awkwardness like the Dromedary camel. Though you’ll catch the occasional loner wandering the open scrub or tracing the roadside, camels are actually domesticated. They move in herds and are raised for their meat and milk. If you have the chance, try chal – a fizzy, fermented version of camel milk.
We never could get our fill of camel-spotting, camel-chasing and camel-filming. Our group regressed into a Romper Room of riotous pre-schoolers each time we spotted one of these unmistakable beasts in the distance. Continue Reading »
While planning our itinerary through Central Asia last May, we dismissed Turkmenistan mainly due to Audrey’s impressions of the place. She envisioned a dark, totalitarian state where people mysteriously die in jail. The outlandish whimsical declarations of its leader, Turkmenbashi, would be humorous if they didn’t encase the six million people living there in a difficult reality. Having worked with Turkmenistan and some of its neighbors in the job she’d recently departed, Audrey was certain this wasn’t her vivid imagination running wild.
Dan kept Turkmenistan in sight and brought it up often enough to keep it on the radar of travel possibilities.
Considering that Turkmenbashi had just died in December 2006 and that we might not have this unique opportunity again in the near future, we decided to give it a go. We left it to fate and the Turkmen government’s willingness to grant us adequate visas.
As fate would have it, the Turkmen authorities said yes. So did we. Continue Reading »