Bonjour from Islamabad,
Some 2 hrs drive to Torkham from Peshawar and 5 to 7 hrs drive to Kabul from Torkham border through Mahiper, a beautiful trip especially Sarobi area and try some fish there from the reservoir.
I have found some best quality Afghanistan websites which contains only Afghanistan materials free of charge, No Adult content.
here are the links of it.
Afghan Jokes http://www.AfghaniJokes.com
Afghanistan Photos http://www.AfgPictures.com
Afghanistan Forum http://www.AfghanistanForums.com
Afghan Complaints Board http://www.AfghanComplaints.com
I just got back from Kabul, Herat, Baghlan, Mazar and Ankoi. (see my pre-travel post dated December). Kabul and Afghanistan are very expensive. You can thank the NGOS for that. Their company pays the expenses, and no-one seems to care about high prices, or cant do anything about it. And there may be a security premium added to the price. The one I stayed at was good concidering circumstances, with good security. ($80.00 per day). I do not want to mention the name , but if one wants to correspond by email I may. Outside of Kabul you can expect $30.00 to $80.00 with less security. Conditions in Herat are better. Most NGOs and expats in Kabul are not allowed to walk the streets. Their companies forbid it. If you are traveling on your own, like I was you can do whatever you want. Businesses that cater to foreigners don't have any signs, so it's a bit difficult to get around at first. Taxis are cheap and convenient, but don't take any taxi that approaches you (for obvious reasons), you need to approach them. And they will have no idea where you want to go. My first five days in Kabul saw three IEDs, but it's a big city, and your risk of getting caught in one is small. Take a lot of money, or better, several ATM cards. Is a cash society. A few ATMS take plastic and dispense USD.
Fondest memory: i missed food, good clean food.
I did this at least once a day- often in the middle of a busy marketplace- set up my tripod on top of the vehicle and shoot from there...
Looked a bit awkward to those who noticed obviously, but that was the best way to shoot in relatively crowded places...
Favorite thing: When coming to Afghanistan you will see Toyotas everywhere. It seems like 30% of the vehicles there are Toyota Corollas and 25% are Toyota Land Cruisers if not a higher percentage for both of them. At one point all taxis were Corollas. A lot of these vehicles are smuggled into the country. After 911 Toyota became uneasy being associated with the Taliban and Al-Qaida because all images of them shown them driving Toyotas. A Toyota spokesperson, Wade Hoyt, said "It is not our proudest product placement, but it shows that the Taliban are looking for the same qualities as any truck buyer: durability and reliability."
Men in uniform and Women clad in burkhas is still a common sight.
The uniforms come from the various militia and the warlords that still are all-powerful in much of Afghanistan. Its not easy to change that i guess, since Afghan society is very `tribal' in essence. The number of uniformed local militia to be seen on the streets is much lower than what i saw in 2002 though.
The women- one way to look at it is to say that they are still dressed in `burkhas' and thats not `liberation', but then again, i think somewhere its a cultural thing as well. As long as you see the women out in the streets and doing their thing, its a positive sign. Given time, things should change hopefully.
One lady we chanced upon on our first trip, when things were still pretty unsettled, stood in the middle of a busy road with her daughter-in-law, surrounded by curious men- onlookers, and gave us a long and highly interesting interview. That was quite an experience.
There are stories abound about women who had risked their lives while fighting for their rights during the taleban times. Today there are signs of change and there are a lot many women stepping out, gaining employment and many women feature in the Afghan parliament as well.
So, I thought I'd share my getting a VISA experience if anyone would find it helpful.
The Afghanistan Embassy in Peshawar, is close to Saddar Road (it has recently moved, post Taliban).
As a US citizen, the VISA cost $30, which seemed to be what other European counties would be charged as well.
You need to drop off the VISA application in the morning (9a-noon) on Tues or Wed, and the process takes 2 days, though the guy was nice and did it 1 day for us. You have to go through a little interview to answer where you plan to stay in Kabul, etc.
You pay the fee at a bank close by, and then come back with a receipt.
Well, I found the staff at the Embassy to be very friendly.
I had to get a reentry VISA to Pakistan in Peshawar as well, as I originally entered on a single entry VISA. This cost $100, but was processed same day (though it seemed they might have had us come back, but we got lucky); it took 1 1/2 hours, and was not as friendly, but more procedural, and a bit amusing.
Definitely stop by the tourist office in Peshawar for help/advise on visiting Afghanistan, as they are very helpful (and you are not obligated to pay for their jeep service, which is a bit pricey)
UPDATE (Feb 2005) I heard from another traveler that the border from Peshawar is now closed to foreigners; he tried crossing 6 months ago. I think he still got a visa there however and snuck across the border. Nuts.
Favorite thing: This is Afghan side of Pak-Afghan Torkhum border. Most of the travelers are using illegal channels to travel in Afghanistan like from Dera Ismail Khan into Paktia and Paktika as such are bit safe and short distance and as there is no rule of law inside the country so one only need to keep some extra money in the pockets to give to the officials wherever one is going to be questioned same on this route too however. But as it is still bit dangerous and lengthy, most of the frequent visitors travel from the other sides. But those who do not have any familiarity with the country and are going for some genuine purpose are strictly suggested to get a real visa from Afghan Embassy in Islamabad instead of 15 days permit letter and use this proper way of Torkhum border (if intending for Kabul) or Chamman border (if intending for Kandhar). Something one must to remember, everyone from the first person (immigration officer), who will put an entry stamp on passport to all the rest will expect some money, and they will not feel shy or sin.
PHOTO : Young Mujahid ( fighter ) On Stand By To Defend His Family And Village. His Elder Brother Far A Way At The High Mountain. His Father Long Time Sahid ( past a way in the fighting to defend a religion ).
In 1947, the political status quo in this area was fundamentally changed by the withdrawal of the British from the Indian sub-continent, an event which left a political vacuum for Afghanistan. Faced with the negative attiude of late President Truman, for the purchase of American arms, Khrushchev stopped over in Kabul, to offer arms deal and the long term loan $100 million dollars was granted to Afghanistan. The new era and problems start at here.
One of the most evident changes after the fall of the Taliban's regime, especially in Kabul, is the quantity of children (mostly girls) who are back to school.
You can feel their strong will to learn... to forget about the dark days... and go on...
The school buildings are often half-destroyed, and they have almost nothing as supply, so the work to do is still huge !
One of the organizations we met there was the "School of Hope" ... committed to providing education for the children of Afghanistan. They need HELP !!
In large areas of Kabul destroyed buildings are part of the landscape...
Reconstruction is going on very slowly, and you can see very clearly the signs left from all the wars that stroke the country.
Some of these buildings are used anyway ... and often they host schools...
People of all sorts work very hard for the reconstruction... but mostly to survive...
In Kabul shops and offices open very early in the morning even 7 or 6 am... and they close late at night 10 or 11 pm !
Cellular service had begun in Kabul when we were there. AWCC is the local service provider there. However, it did not extend anywhere beyond the city itself (though i believe things have changed now), and so its advisable to have a sat-phone handy if you are tavelling and need to be in touch.
The system used there is GSM, though the kind of sim cards that i know were no use there. They seem to use something thats closer in size to a credit card...
Also, cybercafes were begining to show up in Kabul.
Fondest memory: http://www.afghanwireless.com/
About the single and most important activity in Afghanistan, I believe it's the soccer game held every Friday in Kabul stadium, which used to be the public execution place during Taliban regime. With the arrival of the new administration, however, it has returned to its due function as the public garhtering and sports activities. In 1970s, the stadim was also the first place for all kinds of national celebrations such as millitary inspection, independence celebration. Anyway, you wll feel amazed when you stand in the middle of the stadium, which is equivellent to the middle of Afghan history.
Fondest memory: The friendship between Afghanistan and China apperas just before my eyes, though it sounds far and empty from books. The vast majority of Afghan people with whom I met , no matter high-profile goverment officials or ordinary citizens admires China for its non-involvement in the Afghan politices and the humanitarian assistance from China. One interesting story is that a taxi driver did not accept the trval fare when he knew I am from China, saying that it's the honor and obligation of Afghan people to entertain their good friends. Such true and sincere friendship can hardly be found in other countries.
Take a tour of Kabul with someone who has lived there for a while, preferably someone who remembers it before it was the shell it is now. It will be fascinating to see through their eyes and will open yours to see what people love about this place.
Fondest memory: I love this nation, more than i can describe in words, but by far my favourite memory is waking up at 6 am in Kabul and taking a deep breath of the scented air and realising that i was actually there after years of dreaming about it! I miss Afghans, their joy and hope for life and their hospitality, sadly this is so obscured by the harshness and oppression of their lives very few people get to see it.
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