A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about armchair travel

Afghanistan The Tortured Country

Nomads and their Caravans

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I have started reading Bob Woodward's book Bush at War. I have read the first 71 pages and it is clear to me that neither George W Bush, nor his close advisers, the CIA Chief, or his assistants nor Donald Rumsfel, the arrogant warmonger defense Secretary, had any clue about Afghanistan, the country they had decided to go to war with. Taliban were the creation of U.S.A and Great Britain to offset the growing influence of Mujahedin whom U.S.A helped militarily in the first place to defeat the Russian forces. The U.S.A has, throughout its history, created its own monsters and when these monsters grow out of control, they become Evil in the eyes of American politicians, and every thing is done to destroy them.

History shows us that no nation has ever conquered Afghanistan. England tried three times to conquer it and was defeated. So were the Russians and now American and Nato forces are struggling to control some areas and failing drastically. U.S.A is a warmonger country, since its inception as a nation, it has been involved directly or indirectly in more than 70 conflicts around the world. But what is disturbing is that Europe is waging a war ten thousand kilometers away in a country which has not raised its finger against them. The excuse is that they want to bring democracy to the country and defeat Taliban, but people who know anything about Afghans, know that it is wishful thinking and not only Europe but even U.S.A and Britain will be defeated in the end.

My intention is not to divulge in the present crisis, the war and its aftermath, but for some time I have been thinking about the Kochi nomads who have been wandering from the plains of India to the north of Afghanistan and Central asia since centuries, carrying their trade goods and their families with them, and no country has been able to sustain them.

I think the word Kochi is the English corruption of the word Kutchi, the people who live in the north west province of Kutch in the state of Gujarat (India). Kutchi people have been traders for centuries, from the shores of Arabian Sea they established trade with East Africa in the 1600s and had trade links even with somalia.

From the desert of Thar they traveled in caravans through the north-west frontier, crossing the province of Sind (now in Pakistan) up the Khyber Pass and crossed the whole length of Afghanistan, reaching Central Asia, returning to India in summer. These people have always been wanderers, always outside the laws and recognize no borders or governments. They can be friendly if they choose but seldom are, they are fiercely protective of their women and children. Their women are totally independent and wear gypsy dresses, no head scarves and no burkas, and when they camped, they camped outside the limits of the town or city they will be passing and discouraged any stranger who was foolish enough to approach them. Even Afghani people know that any physical contact with them could be dangerous.

The U.S.A's war against Iraq destroyed the ancient civilization of a millennium and its past history and they have achieved the same in Afghanistan. The great cities of Balkh, Ghazni, Qala Bist and Bamian are destroyed by daily bombardment of American and Nato troops. The footprints on the pages of these ancient places left by Alexander the Great, conquerer of India, Darius, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, are destroyed for ever. And the great travelers like Ibn Batuta, Hsuan Tsang and Marco Polo who wrote fascinating accounts of their travels through Central Asia, Samarkand, China and India, are destroyed by military invasion of so called civilized countries of Europe and America.

Many of you travelers might have heard about these nomads and I would like to hear from those who have been to Afghanistan recently or read about it. What has happened to these romantic wanderers of Central Asia and Afghanistan?

Posted by The Islander 09:43 Archived in Afghanistan Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

Thailand The fabled Country

Adventure in South Asia

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The school boy knowledge that I possessed about Thailand was, that Siam, as it was known in ancient times, in the Indian Ocean, was a fabled country, rich in culture, polite people, unending rice paddies. That the people were Budhists, that centuries ago, Hindu culture and religion were popular in the country. My hobby was to collect postage stamps and among Thai collection, I had many stamps with the picture of the king and many scenes of temples.

Later in life I saw the motion picture titled Anna and the King and although I was unimpressed by the scenes of romance lurking beneath the outward courtesy and court manners, I enjoyed the movie nevertheless. It reminded me of Shangrila and the forbidden city of Lahsa in Tibet and the kingdom of Sikkim. Places where adventure was, legends about mysterious monks who lived in mountain-top monasteries and in freezing weather, could survive for forty days without any food, which the villagers could not bring to them because of heavy snow and inaccessible mountain tracks.

The modern history of Thailand shows that the country was ruled by many monarchs and kings during 13th & 14th century, and despite political upheavals and military coups, the country, unlike its neighbors Malaya and Singapore, Indochina, Indonesia and parts of China, it thwarted attempts by western powers to become their colony.
So Thai people have no hang ups from any colonial masters. No shriveled Brit sitting in his bungalow in Simla or Darjeeling (India), no White Rajah reminiscing about his exploits in the jungles of Sarawak over his Gin and Tonic at six o’clock in the evening.

However, the political situation in Thailand has always been unstable as was demonstrated by the recent military take over of government ruled by Thaksin Shinawatra, and his party’s very recent win in national elections. It is the deep reverence of the King by his people that has kept the country united and there is no visible tension of political unstability in the country. But the political situation could again end up in a turmoil. I sincerely hope not, I like Thailand and Thais very much.

In the early 70s, in London, I used to frequent a dilapidated Thai restaurant which had two tables, four chairs and a small counter behind which an old woman did the cooking, assisted by another young woman, when not attending the few customers. There was a permanent presence of steam and wet linoleum.

In South East Asia, Thailand attracts the highest number of western tourists, and although the country was devastated by a powerful earthquake and a tsunami in 2004, which destroyed many islands and tourist resorts, it seems to have somewhat recovered from the enormous disaster. And the tourists have flocked back to this beautiful country. I think everybody loves Thailand and its people.

Thais like to talk and are curious people. Every body wants to know where you come from, if you are married and how many children you have. They are also very polite and helpful although sometimes we found them ubrupt in their response. It was my impression that the moment a taxi driver, a boatman or a shop assistant saw you hesitating over something, he lost interest in you.

Thais can not get visas to European countries unless some one acts as responser. They can travel to Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore without any visa, but there is a shortage of work in these countries. And Thai are poor people. We met a young Thai girl in Hua Hin, who had come from Bangkok with the idea of working there but was going back, because there was no work in Hua Hin. Another girl who had started work behind the bar only a few days before our arrival, had come from Pukhet as there was no work there. All young people want to go to U.K or Europe and work for five years to save Ten Thousand Pounds or Euros and come back and buy a house. On the other hand, we met many Europeans who had come to Thailand for a visit and have stayed on. They are treated well, properties are comparatively cheap and so is the food.

Posted by The Islander 11:16 Archived in Thailand Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

Travel The World...

Thoughts on Travelling Trends

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I started this travel blog with the intention of writing about my travels and the pleasure it has always given me to go to different places, meet people of different cultures in their native lands, eat local food and have a good time in general. Unfortunately my travels have been limited to short trips. One month, three weeks or a fortnight, but every time I go on a trip, I make it as if it is an adventure.

Today when travelling has become so common, so many people can go to places where 30-40 years ago only persons with a sense of adventure ventured. Overland trips to India and Nepal, were hippie culture. Now people go to China, Russia, Viet Nam and Cambodia and Burma. You name it. Few people then traveled to Australia and New Zealand.
In europe people started going to Spain, Greece, Yugoslavia and Turkey, because things were cheaper there. I remember in England in the sixties and seventies, when some one went to Costa Brava or the Canary Islands for his holidays, he had gone "abroad" or people said "he is on the continent"'

Today's traveler is neither an explorar who has to travel to discover the north-west-passage or go to the South Pole for the glory of his country, nor an adventurer, who has, for his personal glory, to meet the natives of Papua New Guinea or to climb the peak of Machu Pichu.

Most of the people I have met in Spain, Portugal, Greece etc, go there for the sun in winter, to escape the harsh winter of their own country or to go there for holidays, not because things are cheap there. Today it has become far more cheaper to travel to distant lands, long haul holidays, and one of the reasons is the fact that things are cheaper there, you can stay there longer and visit many interesting places. And you find travelers from USA, Europe, on trips in South Asia, South America, Middle East. Any where. You find back packers in Bali, Phi Phi Islands, Goa and Kerala and taking it easy in China Town in Kuala Lumpur. I have met travelers who have been to Phi Phi islands in Thailand because lonely Planet Guide described them as one of planet's jaw dropping beauties. And indeed it is so. That the beaches in Prehensian isles in Malaysia are divine and there is no motorized traffic, white beaches and turquoise-blue water, is also true. What better reason one needs to travel to these distant places other than visit them because they are there?

Travel guides, travel forums, internet and never ending stories of travelers to distant places, their experiences, cheap travel etc, all have contributed to more people traveling to more places. Be it to meditate in Puri, take Yoga lessons in Kerala or Rishikesh or go snorkeling in deep green and dark blue waters of Thailand, it is almost always a pleasant experience to look forward to.

Posted by The Islander 22:42 Archived in Malaysia Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

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