The Myanmar visa ready-to-be-used in both our passports. The necessary documents for the special permit to cross the India – Myanmar border from Moreh to Tamu in India’s far east overland all sent to an agent in Yangon. The border not more than two daytrips distance away, as we watch the clouds build up in eastern Assam, at Majuli Island – a pretty piece of slowly vanishing land in the mighty Brahmaputra River.
Is it the rain that irrigated the seeds of doubt?
Until here and no further – 180° turn westwards
Majuli Island should be for the near future the easternmost point we would reach on this voyage. But why the sudden turnaround?
Well, while Maria was curious about what would await us in South East Asia, I was never 100% convinced about our decision. With the border coming closer, the payment for the special permit waiting, I couldn’t ignore my inner feelings anymore as my motivation dwindled. During my first time in South East Asia I discovered countless places I loved and surely many more would await us. Especially the thought of returning to Indonesia and the Philippines had great appeal. But the main problem: If we’d go to SEA, we were about to stay there nearly a year.
Why that? The land route back west would lead us into western China and Central Asia – and to travel those parts in winter would mean serious hardship to acute danger. So the decision would be, to rush through everything in Eastern Asia and reach the ‘Stan’ before winter or wait till next spring…2016. we just could not see us spending that much time in SEA.
Three months in India brought us pretty far away from our usual way of traveling. We barely hitchhiked, rarely camped, stayed in hotels a lot, planned our destination more and felt like ‘tourists’ pretty often. That fault lies partly in us but partly in the conditions given. I know from experience, that in too many places in SEA we could just end up traveling the same way – and it is absolutely not what we are longing for right now! We felt we could have made an adventure out of it for about two or three months….but not for a year (especially considering how the monsoon would limit our movement till around November).
Lastly, we are completely aware, that Myanmar and also Thailand afterwards would mean nothing but enduring devilish heat. Up to 45°C in the dusty plains would restrict us even more than the monsoon possibly would. So what the hell should we do there?? Two countries of nearly pure transit to reach Malaysia and Indonesia?
The last minute emergence brake finally put the red light up for South East Asia. To summarize, no SEA…
- …because we are looking for a different idea of traveling, which is much more likely to be found around the Middle East or generally speaking: In less touristy developed places.
- …because we are not ready to stay in SEA for nearly a year due to climatic conditions and neither to take a flight out when getting sick of it.
- …because we would be killed by heat in April / May / June until we would be limited by the monsoon rains in wide parts of SEA afterwards from June – October / November.
- …because…apart from all rationality our feelings voted against it.
Where now? What now?
Browsing the map, playing with our imagination and remembering traveler’s tales there is one specific area in the direct surroundings the makes us pretty excited: Central Asia.
After we couldn’t go from Iran due to freezing temperatures in December and January, right now a brilliant season to be there started. Yet, it is so close but so far away: How to get there??
One other rumor we heard is cause for great but careful excitement: The perspective of finally getting a shot at the Pakistani visa in Kathmandu, Nepal. The idea of finally managing to reach Pakistan and eventually crossing the legendary Karakorum Highway into Western China surely increases our heart beat rate dramatically just thinking of it! The next step is clear: Nepal! From Assam in eastern India we made our first moves westwards after seven months towards the sunrise and arrived in Varanasi from where Nepal is in direct reach.
Nepal itself is a tempting place as it allows us to escape the crazy heat building up in central India (Today: 42°C) and the thought of hiking in the Himalayas is not without any appeal at all! A good practice for what would await us in Central Asia in any case.
Now chances are not exactly insignificant that the road to Pakistan would be blocked one more time. After long negotiations with ourselves and in between us we declared ourselves ready to possibly take another very bitter pill in form of a short flight. Eventually straight to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. Or…
A dark horse in play, a pitch black one
Right now it might be nothing more than a plan C. But of all possibilities in this world, none could be cause for more excitement. The thought of visiting the one country that fascinates us, and especially me, since so many years. One of the last countries on any tourism statistic. A country associated with some of the worst imaginable things possible yet a place few people whisper stories of boundless amazement. A place surely not to be taken lightly by anybody and far away from any holiday destination like Thailand. But can’t a pitch black stallion offer a great, great ride if handled the right way? Afghanistan…
- “Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
- Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
- One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
- And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls”
- (Excerpt from “Kabul”, by Saeb-e-Tabrizi, 17th century)