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My Silk Road The Piglet stumbles across the continent

56 - Martyrs, mausoleums and mourning

IRAN | Friday, 16 Nov 2012 | Views [408]

The country seems to be obsessed with death and martyrdom.  It may seem laughingly improbable, but one cannot drive for more than an hour in Iran, I think, without passing by a mausoleum; many of these are modest monuments, now on an inconspicuous ... Read more >

55 - Southwards towards Qom - "the King is in between books!"

IRAN | Wednesday, 14 Nov 2012 | Views [452]

Driving southwards from Tehran, one passes the mausoleum of the Ayatollah Khomeini at the outskirts of the capital.   There are hundreds if not thousands of parking spaces surrounding the mausoleum along with colourful covered park tables and ... Read more >

54 - My favorite Iranian dessert

IRAN | Monday, 12 Nov 2012 | Views [818]

My favorite Iranian dessert - indeed it could be my favorite "cookie" for all times - is "sohan".  It is a buttery honey-coloured crisp with a generous sprinkling of chopped pistachios on top, its sweetness somehow balanced by the richness of the ... Read more >

53 - Unexpected contrasts and reflections

IRAN | Monday, 12 Nov 2012 | Views [397]

Mashhad is a city of unexpected contrasts.  The entrance to my hotel (Pardis Hotel – Pardis as in “paradise”) is tucked away in a deadend alley behind some gold and watch shops, and its lobby is dimly lit and deserted.  ... Read more >

52 - The holiest place in Iran (Part 2)

IRAN | Sunday, 11 Nov 2012 | Views [551]

Apart from the Imam Reza mausoleum itself, the most beautiful part of the Holy Shrine complex at Mashhad is said to be the Goharshad Mosque which has a distinctive turquoise dome with yellow Kufic calligraphy at its base. Viewed from afar, the sight ... Read more >

51 - The holiest place in Iran (Part 1)

IRAN | Saturday, 10 Nov 2012 | Views [421]

The Shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad is the holiest place in the world for Shi’ite Muslims and the second holiest place for Muslims generally (Mecca of course being the holiest).   Non-Muslims are not permitted to visit Mecca but parts ... Read more >

50 - Random food notes from Mashhad

IRAN | Friday, 9 Nov 2012 | Views [489]

Saffron, a key souvenir from Mashhad, costs just under US$2 per gram here.  And a gram goes a long way in cooking, probably at least 12-15 servings.  For the quality, it is very inexpensive.  But the yummy discovery is saffron ... Read more >

49 - Bad hair days are a-comin

IRAN | Friday, 9 Nov 2012 | Views [371]

Left Turkmenistan and crossed into Iran by road via Sarakhs, which is about 3 hours away from Mary.  The border office is a small tin-roofed hut crowded with travelers, most of whom seemed to be women from Turkmenistan who tried to stop ... Read more >

48 - The ancient civilisation of Merv

TURKMENISTAN | Thursday, 8 Nov 2012 | Views [500]

The visit to Merv really began with the National Museum tour at Ashgabat where many of the artifacts found at Merv are kept.  The ruins themselves are about 30 mins drive away from Mary.    They were discovered in the 1970s when a ... Read more >

47 - From Ashgabat to Merv (from new to old) or so I thought...

TURKMENISTAN | Thursday, 8 Nov 2012 | Views [748]

From Ashgabat, there is a 6 hour odd drive to Mary, the nearest city to the ancient ruins of Merv, my next destination.  Merv is my main reason for visiting Turkmenistan.   Merv was an important crossroads between China and the West on ... Read more >

46 - Ashgabat - Ken and Barbie and Big Brother

TURKMENISTAN | Monday, 5 Nov 2012 | Views [903]

Landed in Ashgabat past midnight last night after 20 hours of travel, with stopovers in Beijing and Urumqi (and had to take out my luggage and re-check in at each leg... though that meant some certainty that my luggage would reach the next destination, ... Read more >

45 - Off to the "Stans"

HONG KONG | Saturday, 3 Nov 2012 | Views [486]

Continuing along the Silk Road again after a HK work/rest hiatus.  Next destination Turkmenistan, the hermit state.  This is the country where the past President (now the President for Life) apparently renamed the months of the year after ... Read more >

44 - Royal gardens in Srinigar

INDIA | Friday, 12 Oct 2012 | Views [404]

Kashmir was a favorite place for the Mughal emperors to cool off during the summer. We visited two lovely Mughal gardens this afternoon.  And what a difference these were from the Mughal garden we visited in Lahore.  The Nishat Garden in Srinigar ... Read more >

43 - Srinigar's fairy tale old town

INDIA | Friday, 12 Oct 2012 | Views [294]

Srinigar has a fascinating old quarter with preserved wooden houses that have carved terraces and rounded balconies.  The old town has windy and twisty lanes, with a thriving market selling everything from food to copperware ... Read more >

42 - Floating in Kashmir

INDIA | Wednesday, 10 Oct 2012 | Views [544]

After almost 20 days on the road, I have now arrived at Kashmir, the last stop of this journey (Part 2 of the Great Silk Road trip). Kashmir (or at least the part of Kashmir in which Srinigar is located) is in the Jammu and Kashmir province ... Read more >

41 - In Jammu enroute to Kashmir

INDIA | Tuesday, 9 Oct 2012 | Views [442]

Not much to offer in Jammu other than a pitstop enroute to Kashmir which is disputed territory, fought over by India and Pakistan.  I am still on the Silk Road, on the route that ended in Delhi.  Key ... Read more >

40 - Travelling on the Indian railway

INDIA | Tuesday, 9 Oct 2012 | Views [709]

Five hours from Amritsar heading north to Jammu today (a stopover enroute to Kashmir).  The train ride was comfortable enough and as expected - two tiered bunk seats/beds, Railway-supplied cotton sheets and pillows, a stranger's feet hanging ... Read more >

39 - Amritsar - the Golden Temple

INDIA | Monday, 8 Oct 2012 | Views [616]

Amritsar is only about an hour's drive from Lahore, one of the biggest cities in Pakistan, and yet it feels like it's a world away.  On the road from the border crossing driving into Amritsar, it's farms and small shops along the way and yet gone ... Read more >

38 - Namaste India!

INDIA | Monday, 8 Oct 2012 | Views [470]

Today, it's a fond goodbye to Pakistan after 12 days in the country, and Namaste India!  Again, we are the first people to reach the border office at Wagha and the Pakistani officials seemed slightly overwhelmed at having to deal with multiple ... Read more >

37 - The Pakistan-India border "performance"!

PAKISTAN | Sunday, 7 Oct 2012 | Views [868]

Wagha is currently the only road crossing from Pakistan into India.  It is well-known for its daily flag-lowering ceremony and parade which takes place in the late afternoon on both the Pakistan and Indian sides of the border.... Read more >

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