After a month long travel on silk road without shaving ,I had started attracting a lot of attention.Throughout silk road and especially in Xinjiang region, I was often asked by curious Uyughurs “Are you a muslim?”.To which I’d often reply with a smile and salaam waleykum.
Pooja and I started our journey from Chengdu, Sichuan and the plan was to wander through the old silk road without any itinerary. When we arrived in Urumqi, the world’s farthest city from the sea, after our longest non-stop train journey, the first thing we noticed was that there were hardly any travelers in the city. There was a bit of tension in the air. There were tanks on the street and it looked like the army has taken over the city.
From the train station, we went straight to the youth hostel we had booked counting the number of tanks on the way. Every shopping mall, 5 star hotels and big supermarkets were heavily guarded.
At several public places we noticed posters like this one showing DOs and DON’Ts. There was a clear instruction from the local government about what one should wear and what is not allowed. We also noticed people not adhering to these instructions and the consequences.
We spent our first day doing some bit of research and getting hold of the situation and then keeping the situation in mind, we decided that wherever we will travel in Xinjiang, we will travel together, always holding each other’s hand.
Xinjiang offers a lot in terms of people, culture and natural beauty. It makes up 1/6 of all of China’s land area and is home to China’s finest mountain views, grasslands, lakes and dry deserts but still remains as one of the most under-appreciated destination in China. We spent more than a week wandering through Xinjiang’s beautiful grasslands and deserts eating Uyghur naan bread and samsa.
One day while Pooja and I were waiting at a bus station in the town of Ili, I decided to go for a stroll as the bus to Urumqi was delayed and we had more than an hour to kill. I was not even a minute away from the bus station when I noticed few army men secretly following me. They were watchful and curious. I was not sure why I’m the only one watched after. Then I realised there were hardly any outsider in that town and with my unshaven, tired and dusted look, I definitely looked suspicious.
I had two options, either to continue strolling and wait for them to come to me or head back to the bus station. I chose the latter for I’d no idea what I’d to if they come to me when I’m all alone and question my whereabouts. I noticed one of the army men looking at me and speaking to someone on his walkie talkie when I took the turn towards the bus station.
Just when I reached the bus station and had an eye contact with Pooja, I saw a troop of army men rushing inside the bus station. I ran towards Pooja and they ran towards me. I had no idea why I ran but I just wanted to hold her hand before they ask me to surrender or fire a bullet. I was next to her and now both of us were looking towards the commander.
What happened next was something we could have never imagined.
The commander saluted us and asked us for our passport. “Ah, Indian”, he smiled and then left us without asking a single question.
We kept holding each other’s hand tightly till our bus arrived.
Music accompanying this piece :
While I was waiting for the bus to Bucharest at Sofia bus station at the middle of the night, I thought of grabbing a tea before boarding the bus. The only cafe at the bus station, which too was about to shut down, refused to accept Euro or my international debit card and I had no Bulgarian leve left in my pocket. Right then a stranger came out of nowhere and bought me a Nestea telling the cashier – “Take my money, give tea to Che Guevara”
Thank you Stranger! Thank you Che!
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We all practice our spiritual beliefs in our own little ways and as the holy month begins today, I’m grounded for the next few weeks reflecting a little harder on the blessings that surround me, focus on cleansing the mind to be free of intrusive thoughts and to arrive that state of (elusive) calm. Have a blessed Ramadhan everyone #karakoramrange #kashgar #kashi #karakoramhighway #xinjiang #chinachronicles #wanderlust #mountainporn #travelporn #exotictravel #mychinagram #syaandthesearchforhappiness
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Since last 8 years, I’ve been chasing wonders and collecting countries. It all started with three weeks of Eurotrip back in 2007 during which I got inflicted with an untreatable addiction to world exploration. After an year, I made up my mind to visit all 198 countries.
It’s been 56 countries so far and here are some highlights from the journey :
At one of the world’s best island – Santorini, Greece
At the lowest point on Earth, Dead Sea, Jordan
Get, set, ‘Gho’ at the world’s happiest country – Bhutan
Kissing my love at the world’s farthest city from the sea – Urumqi, China
Enjoying hot spring with friends at the spa town of the world – Rotorua, New Zealand
Showing the world the inspiration behind 20 Yuan at Yangshuo, China
Pretending to be a Masai in Kenya
At the highest motorable road of the world – Khardungla, India
When in Dubai, do it like Emirati do – Dubai, UAE
Climbing up the world’s only double decker living bridge – Meghalaya, India
Posing as a Cu Chi Warrior in Vietnam
At the Victoria harbor, Hong Kong
At the centre of the backpacking universe – Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
At one of the world’s most remote border crossings – Irkeshtam pass, Kyrgyzstan/China
In awe with the beauty of Laos
Pole dancing in a yurt in Osh, Kyrgyzstan
After remarrying my girlfriend at Dongguan Mosque, Xining, China
Pretending to be a Baba in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In awe with the beauty of Kyrgyzstan
Stilt fishing in Sri Lanka
At the largest ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world – Borobudur, Indonesia
Chilling at the Stonehenge, England
With the most-photographed mountain in the world – Matterhorn, Switzerland.
‘Yes, I did it!’ moment at the great pyramid of Gyza, Egypt
With one of the best sunset ever – Boracay, Philippines
Riding the fastest at the world’s largest metropolitan area – Tokyo, Japan
Meditating in the sea of temples – Bagan, Myanmar
At the only city in the world that straddles two continents: Asia and Europe – Istanbul, Turkey
At the largest religious monument in the world – Angkor Wat, Cambodia
In the land of Marco Polo and Nikola Tesla – Croatia
In one of the cleanest capitals in the world – Stockholm, Sweden
In the world’s most expensive city – Oslo, Norway
In the land of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and the Serengeti – Tanzania
This New Year, start by tracking your happiness every single day. Neither do you need to install an app nor you need to be active on social media.Pick a pen and mark. Let us go primitive.
How? It’s simple!
Everyday before crashing on bed, look at yourself in the mirror and ask – How was your day? Mark your response on this calendar by making the corresponding emoticon.
HWYD calendar is a funny and unique calendar in which you can represent graphically your everyday mood.
Each day can be represented by a clear emoticon face to draw how you felt that day. We suggest five moods : Very Happy, Happy , Vexed, Shocked and Scared. You can also draw many other faces or even include little notes that you might want to remember.
There are 365 emoticon faces in the calendar, one per day, numbered and ordered by month. You can start the first day of the year or in any special date, like for example an anniversary. Once finished, the calendar becomes a very personal keepsake that can decorate a special corner of your home.
Order your HWYD calendar here