Missing: One Formerly Great Inland Sea

Bissell Speaking of studying your maps like a good little schoolboy, I was in school during the Soviet period and learned all about the Soviet Union’s great lakes. I knew them well, west to east, the Black Sea, then the Caspian, then the Aral (Lake Baikal was in Siberia and thus off schoolboys’ maps). By now I’ve been to the Black and Caspian Seas, but I’m afraid we may all be running out of time to see the Aral.

Tom Bissell took us there and told us as much in his 2004 Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia, and now there’s a nice update in Prospect magazine: the Aral Sea has shrunk to ten per cent of its original size and contends for “the worst pace on earth.”

Name That Stan

Most of us world travel fans who studied our maps in school will be able to tell you that Ashgabat is the capital of one of the five Stans that emerged from the Soviet Union – Turkmenistan, to be exact. NPR reporter Frank Langfitt didn't know where Ashgabat is, but he filed an entertaining little piece yesterday on "extreme travelers," in which he interviewed two of the top-ten-ranked people at mosttraveledpeople.com.

Just personally, as far as "where you've been" websites go, I like passportstamp.com better. Mosttraveledpeople.com is klunkier to get your information into, and passportstamp.com lets you map your visited countries on a fun little map you can use elsewhere, like so:


“I bet it will be vaguely disappointing.”


Featuring “soft tortillas overstaffed with supper tangy chicken.”

Can I Use Mastercard to Lahore?

You never know, but Sarwar Sukhera sounds honest in this review of flying the friendly skies of PIA Pakistan International Airways:

"Overhead compartments are jammed with carry-on baggage that make one wonder why the designers never thought of building the main cargo area overhead instead of down there in the belly of the plane."

Oh, and it just didn't get any better. Imagine. Read the whole thing.


Feel Good Quotes from Jeffrey Tayler, Continued

Jeffrey Tayler's fun adventure continues. Now he's in Osh:

"The door swung open and banged against the wall. In sauntered a low-browed thug with a crewcut, in tight-fitting trousers and pointy black shoes, with, on his fat arm, a sloppy-busted, pot bellied Kyrgyz woman whose mascara-smeared eyes and ill-painted lips could only be those of a hooker."

– Page 225 of Murderers in Mausoleums.

Kyrgyzstan, We Hardly Knew Ya


Here's a totally gratuitous photo of my Kyrgyz visa stamp, from the ill-fated trip we never took. I only put it here today because it's the only @!$#! way I'm ever going to be able to use it.

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The Central Asian State that Breaks Hearts

For a certain type of person, it’s fun to be completely out of your element – to have nothing but your bags and your wits to get you by. All the better when you’re in a place where, standing on the train platform, you can’t even recognize the script on the signs.

For English speakers there is a decided difference between negotiating, say, Portuguese and Korean, and for that certain type of person, the more foreign the better. It’s part of the allure. If you count yourself among those ranks (even if from your armchair), Slate has a story you’ll enjoy, about Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

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Air Miles? No. Free Psychological Counseling? So They Say.

In which we share one man's experiences with Ariana Afghan
, a.k.a. ‘ScaryAnna’ by its frequent flyers. Among his observations: "To be honest it’s all a bit
‘inshallah’,  a sort (of) Muslim ‘whatever’ only with god in it."

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The Kyrgyz Government is Here to Help

Kyrgyz Town Goes Without Drinking Water For Two DaysRFERL.org. The water department owes the electric department almost $100,000. Can't pay, don't get thirsty, apparently.

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25 Photos from Kyrgyzstan

Pertinent with the squabble over the U.S. military base in Kyrgyzstan, more great photojournalism on Boston.com: Kyrgyzstan and Manas Air Base, with photos by Vyacheslav Oseledko.

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