Tuesday, August 05, 2008

"There's a one-eyed Yellow Idol to the North of Kathmandu..."

You know, I don't think I've ever mentioned something to /anyone/.

As much as I like to travel, I've never been interested in going to Japan. Or India. Or (most) of China. But I'd love to go to Central Asia. As in the northern branch of the Old Silk Road -- places in Xinjiang, the Chinese far West like Turfan or Urumqi or Gaochang or Khotan, the Tarim Basin where Tocharian mummies were found, The Flaming Mountains and the Tian Shan Mountains.

Places like Bukhara and Samarkhand (in Uzbekistan), Bamyan in Afghanistan, Hazrat-e and Tamburlaine's summer palace at Shahrisabz in Turkmenistan.

(And a little further away, but just as remote and seldom heard-of, the Amur River or the Sakhalin island)

The closest I've ever gotten to any personal contact with the area was my friend Phil who decided to travel the world. After I watched a years old (now) episode of Globe Trekker where Ian Wright goes to that part of the world, I convinced him through a series of lies and promises to get me a Kyrgyz hat. Yes, my virtue was used, but it was long gone before I knew Phil, so it wasn't that much to promise. Unfortunately, SARS broke out while Phil was in China, and he got the boot back home. He never got across the border into Kyrgyzstan, and I never got my hat.

Anyway, you almost never hear of most of these places anymore. Most of them are poor, or have unstable governments, and travel is pretty difficult there. But a few days ago, an attack in Kashgar made it into the news. It made me sad that something like that was the only reason the area got name-checked.

[Blogger, as far as I can tell, give you no options short of editing HTML (a bit beyond my ken) to select where the pictures go. They are -- from top down -- the Amur River; Registan, a citadel at Samarkhand; Shahrisabz; Khan Tegri, one of the tallest of the Tian Shan mountains; and the Flaming Mountains in Turfan.]

[The title quote, which has nothing to do with anything, really, is the opening to "The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God", an interesting poem set in Nepal during the Raj.]

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