Seuraa blogiani Bloglovinin avulla Follow

Total views on my most magnificent blog

maanantai 21. elokuuta 2017

Indonesia, Cool Facts #187

<= 186. Brunei                                                                                                                188. Japan => 

- Monaco protested when Indonesia took a similar flag in use when the country got independence from the Netherlands in 1945
- The flag of Monaco had been adopted in 1881 and the colors had been heraldic colors of the Grimaldi family since at least 1339
- The proportion of the Indonesian flag is 2:3 and the proportion of the flag of Monaco is 4:5
- The colors of the Indonesian flag derive from the banner of the 13th century Majapahit Empire 
- It's suggested that the red and white symbolism has its origins in the older common Austronesian mythology of the duality of Mother Earth (red) and Father sky (white)
- That's maybe why the colors red and white are common in Austronesian flags from Tahiti to Madagascar
- The modern flag of Indonesia was first flown in Java in 1928, which was prohibited under Dutch rule
- Some nationalists tore the blue stripe of the Dutch flag to get the Indonesian red and white flag

Raising the flag of Indonesia in the national palace yard
Similar flags to Indonesia
How the Majapahit Empire naval banner inspired other flags

2. Geography of Indonesia  

- Indonesia is the largest archipelagic country in the world
- Indonesia extends 5120km from east to west and 1760km from north to south 
- Indonesia has 13,466 islands and about 6000 of them are inhabited
- Indonesia's largest islands are Java, Sumatra, Borneo (shared with Brunei and Malaysia), Sulawesi and New Guinea (shared with Papua New Guinea) 
- Indonesia's highest peak is Puncak Jaya at 4884m in Papua 
- Lake Toba in Sumatra is the largest lake with an area of 1145 square km
- Indonesia lies in the Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates meet 
- Indonesia has at least 150 active volcanos, in total there are 400 volcanoes
- Krakatoa and Tambora are both famous volcanoes for their devastating eruptions in the 1800s 
- In 1815 Tambora erupted killing 92,000 people, which was the largest eruption known on the planet during the last 10,000 years
- The eruption in 1815 of Tambora caused the whole world a year without summer because of the volcanic ash that spread in the atmosphere 
- The eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 was one of the most destructive volcanic events in recorder history as it killed nearly 40,000 people 
- The eruption of the supervolcano Toba about 70,000 years ago was one of the largest eruptions in world history and a global catastrophe
- The eruption is believed to cause a volcanic winter and cooling of the climate, which led to a genetic bottleneck in human evolution about 50,000 years ago

Mount Tambora

World's most explosive volcanic eruptions

- Bahasa Indonesia is the official language of Indonesia 
- There are almost 200 million speakers of Bahasa Indonesia in Indonesia
- It's a standardized register of Malay, an Austronesian language 
- The language has been used as a lingua franca in the multilingual Indonesian archipelago for centuries 
- There are more than 700 local languages in Indonesia 
- After Bahasa Indonesia the most common languages are Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese
- Old Malay was already spoken in the 600s in the Srivijayan Empire
- Old Malay spread in the archipelago and was used as lingua franca in the region 
- Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean and Brunei standards of Malay are essentially the same language 
- However Bahasa Indonesia and Malaysian Malay have differences in their pronunciation and vocabulary 
- Bahasa Indonesia has been influenced by Dutch, Javanese and Melayu pasar ("market Malay")
- The Dutch adopted Malay as the administrative language of their trading post, when the Dutch East India Company arrived in the archipelago 
- Unlike the Spanish, Portuguese, French or British, the Dutch didn't attempt to spread their language among the indigenous population 
- Unlike many other post-colonial states, Indonesia didn't adopt the language with most native speakers (Javanese) nor the language of the former colonial power (Dutch), but rather the second most widely spoken language 
- Bahasa Indonesia functions as a symbol of national identity and pride and it's a unifying among the various Indonesian ethnic groups
- Indonesian words borrowed to English include orangutan, gong, bamboo, rattan and sarong

Indonesian language infographic

4. West New Guinea in Indonesia

Facts about West New Guinea
West New Guinea or Papua is an island shared by two states, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. This part of Indonesia is the only Indonesian territory in Oceania. The estimates of the languages in this region varies between 200-700. West New Guinea has been part of Indonesia since 1963. The Indonesian people don't have cultural links to the indigenous population.

Independence referendum of 1969
In 1969 the UN accepted the annexation if a referendum was arranged and the population agreed to join Indonesia. Under the terms of New York Agreement, all women and men in Western New Guinea were supposed to have one vote in the independence referendum. However the Indonesian government decided the people there to be to primitive so they used a different method, the musyawarah, which was traditional Indonesian consensus of elders to decide the region's status. So Indonesia then hand-picked 1026 elders who were pressured to vote for union with Indonesia. Soon after West New Guinea became the 26th province of Indonesia.

Calls for a new and fair referendum
Several times after the event, there have been requests by different international organisations and for example Desmond Tutu. In 2011 the Federal Republic of West Papua was formed at the third West Papuan People's Congress and they declared the referendum of 1969 invalid and seeked recognition by the UN as an independent nation. Because of the referendum there were rebellions in remote mountainous areas in 1969, 1977 and mid 1980s. The area gained "'Special Autonomy" in 2001, although the implementation has been partial and often criticized. The Free Papua Movement still seeks independence in the area.

West New Guinea
Free West Papua Movement

5. Aceh Sultanate in Indonesia 

History of Aceh
The Sultanate of Aceh was a regional power in the 16th and 17th centuries, before experiencing a long period of decline. The Sultanate of Aceh was an enemy of the Sultanate of Johor and Portuguese-controlled Malacca, who all tried to control the trade through the Strait of Malacca. At the time the most important exports going through the strait were pepper and tin. In addition to its military strengths it was also a noted centre of Islamic scholarship and trade. Aceh is also thought to be the place where the spread of Islam in Indonesia began.

Dutch conquest in 1903
The Sultanate was established in 1496, when the first Sultan was coronated. The Sultanate of Aceh was the last part of the Indonesian archipelago, which the Dutch managed to conquer. The Sultanate of Aceh survived until 1903 with the support of the British, but in the end they weren't able to stop the Dutch conquest. After the Aceh War in 1903, the Sultanate of Aceh was annexed into the Dutch East Indies.

Rebellions after independence
After the independence of Indonesia Aceh was incorporated into the province of North Sumatra. This event led to the Aceh Rebellion between 1953-1959 after Daud Beureu'eh declared independent. The American gas and oil companies started exploiting Aceh's natural resources in the 1970s under an agreement by the Indonesian government. Aceh's oil and natural gas reserves are one of the largest in the world.

Free Aceh Movement
This resulted in the independence declaration of Aceh in 1976 and started the Free Aceh Movement. Aceh didn't get independence, but the movement got large support from the Acehnese people in the 1990s. As a result the Indonesian government broadened Aceh's autonomy in 2001. In 2003 after some repressive measures an offensive began in Aceh and the province was proclaimed in a state of emergency. The next year in 2004 the people of Aceh suffered greatly from the tsunami.

Peace Treaty in 2005
In 2005 the Acehnese rebel movement GAM signed a peace deal with the government after fighting for independence for 29 years. There was a perception that the tsunami was a punishment for insufficient piety in this proudly Muslim province. Aceh got broad autonomy and the former rebel leaders became the leaders of the Aceh administration.

Flag of Aceh Sultanate
Last Sultan of Aceh, Tuanku Muhammad Daud Syah Johan  Berdaulat
Free Aceh Movement women soldiers and GAM commander in 1999


45,000 Homo Sapiens reached the region around this time
2000BC Austronesian people arrived in Indonesia and pushed the indigenous Melanesian people to the far eastern regions
600s Srivijaya kingdom flourished as a result of trade
700s-900s Agricultural Buddhist Sailendra and Hindu Mataram dynasties thrived and declined in Java, leaving religious monuments like Borobudur, Sewu and Prambanan
914 Bali Kingdom was established
1200s Islam started spreading to Sumatra with Arab merchants
1293 Majapahit Kingdom was established, which was one of the last major empires in the region and one of the most powerful empires in the history of Indonesia and Southeast Asia
1512 Portuguese traders led by Fransisco Serrao sought to monopolize the sources of nutmeg, cloves and cubeb pepper in Maluku
1602 The Dutch established the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and it gained foothold in Batavia and Ambonia in the following decades
1800 Following bankruptcy the VOC was formally dissolved and the Dutch East Indies became a Dutch colony 
1903 The Sultanate of Aceh was conquered by the Dutch
1922 Nationalistic students in the Netherlands formed the Perhimpoenan Indonesia movement to campaign for full independence of Indonesia from the Dutch
1942 Dutch rule in Indonesia ended when Japan occupied the country
1945 The Japanese withdrew from Indonesia, which was declared independent and Sukarno appointed as president 
1949 The Dutch recognized the independence of Indonesia after an armed struggle in which the Dutch tried to re-establish their rule in Indonesia
1965 An attempted coup by the the Communists against the authoritarian president Sukarno
1968 General Suharto was appointed president 
1969 The Dutch territory of West New Guinea was incorporated into Indonesia
1975 Indonesia occupied the Catholic East Timor, former Portuguese colony
1990s The Asian financial crisis in the end of the decade hit Indonesia the hardest
1998 Suharto resigned after popular protests around the country 
1999 East Timor voted to secede from Indonesia
2002 East Timor became independent from Indonesia under UN surveillance
2004 First direct presidential elections were won by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who won a second term in 2009
2005 A political settlement to the armed separatist conflict in Aceh was reached

sunnuntai 20. elokuuta 2017

Brunei, Cool Facts #186

<= 185. Afghanistan                                                                                                  187. Indonesia =>   

1. Bolkiah Dynasty in Brunei 

- The Bolkiah Dynasty is one of the world's oldest dynasties
- Since 1368 Brunei has had 30 Sultans
- The first Sultan was Muhammad Shah, who established the Sultanate and reigned in 1368-1402
- Hussin Kamaluddin reigned twice, in 1710-1730 and 1737-1740
- Only the 14th wasn't from the House of Bolkiah
- The 14th Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin killed his predecessor and thus started the civil war
- Abdul Hakkul Mubin ruled in 1660-1673, he was killed and followed as Sultan by Muhyiddin from the House of Bolkiah
- Brunei is the last of the several small Sultanates in Southeast Asia that still survives until this day
- The full title of the Sultan is "His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam"
- It's not certain if the House of Bolkiah was named after the current Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah or the 5th Sultan Bolkiah
- Brunei is one of the only 7 absolute monarchies in the world
- Currently the only absolute monarchies in the world are Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, Vatican City and the United Arab Emirates

Personal Emblem of the Sultan of Brunei

Monarchies around the world

2. White Rajahs of the Sarawak Kingdom

- White Rajahs of Brunei were a dynastic monarchy of the English Brooke family
- James Brooke founded and ruled the Kingdom of Sarawak
- Six members of the Brooke family ruled the Kingdom of Sarawak between 1841-1946
- In 1841 James Brooke was granted a landmass in Sarawak as a reward for helping the Sultanate of Brunei fight piracy and insurgency among the indigenous people
- The landmass received independent kingdom status and James Brook was confirmed with the title of Rajah of the territory
- The Brooke administration leased or annexed more land from Brunei
- The Kingdom of Sarawak grew and developed during the first two Rajahs occupying much of the north region of the island of Borneo
- The second Rajah encouraged the migration of Chinese workers from China and Singapore to work in the agricultural fields of Sarawak
- Sarawak emerged as one of the world's major producers of black pepper, in addition to oil and the introduction of rubber plantations
- Sarawak and Borneo were occupied by Japan during World War II
- After World War II the Kingdom of Sarawak was ceded to Great Britain as a Crown Colony in 1946

James Brooke
Kingdom of Sarawak map

3. Only Elections in Brunei in 1962

In 1962 the only parliament elections in Brunei were held. The elections were won by the leftist Brunei People's Party, which opposed the authoritarian Sultan and favored joining the North Borneo Federation. The result of the elections was invalidated, which led into an uprising. The Sultan managed to suppress the uprising, the constitution was invalidated too and the country was declared to be in martial law. Opposition leader Yasin Affandy was imprisoned for 10 years without a trial. The revolt influenced the Sultan's decision of not joining Malaysia in 1963. This incident is seen as one of the first stages of the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation, which ended in 1966 when Indonesia finally accepted the formation of Malaysia.

Brunei Revolt 1962-1963

4. Living Conditions in Brunei 

- The government of Brunei ensures the citizens a free and high-class healthcare, free education, full employment of the population, fair pensions
- There's no income tax in Brunei
- The small country finances its welfare by oil revenues
- There will be potentially problems when the oil reserves of Brunei will end in a couple of decades
- Brunei is the only country in the world with a public debt of 0%
- Brunei's wealth has allured migrant workers especially from the Philippines and Indonesia, who form over one third of the work force
- Migrant workers don't get their share of the welfare, education and other benefits as the Bruneians
- Brunei has sharia law so it's banned to sell and consume alcohol
- The death penalty is still used for many crimes, because of the sharia law
- Non-Muslims are allowed to take a certain amount of alcohol from their point of embarcation overseas, but only for their own private consumption

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
Brunei exports map 2012

5. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei 

- The 29th Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei since 1967
- Hassanal Bolkiah's father abdicated in 1967 and Hassanal's coronation was held in 1968
- The 1st Prime Minister of Brunei since 1984
- Minister of Finance since 1984
- Minister of Defense and Commander in Chief of Royal Brunei Armed Forces since 1986
- Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Brunei since 2015
- The Sultan is also the religious leader of the country
- During his rule Brunei gained independence from Great Britain in 1984
- Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah appoints the parliament and picks the other members of the government from his family
- There are no parties and the law inforcement is dependent on the Sultan's will
- Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah was estimated to have a peak net worth of 20 billion USD in 2008 by Forbes
- In 2016 after the death of Thai King, the Sultan is the wealthiest monarch in the world
- As of 2012 Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has five sons and seven daughters with his three wives
- He also has 11 grandchildren
- The Sultan's primary residence, the 1800-room palace Istana Nurul Iman is considered the world's largest private residence
- The Sultan is passionate about cars, he has over 100 cars in the underground garage of his palace
- The Sultan's brother Prince Jefri Bolkiah used billions in different indulgences and landed him in trouble and the royal family in a financial crisis

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah
Istana Nurul Iman


1300s Brunei was part of the Majapahit Empire
1368 Sultanate of Brunei was created
1521 Portuguese navigator Fernao de Magalhaes was the first European in Brunei
1660-1673 Civil war in Brunei
1700s Dutch East Indies Company ruled islands in Southeast Asia including the southern parts of Borneo
1841 James Brooke was granted a landmass of Sarawak and received independent kingdom status after helping the Sultanate of Brunei fight piracy and insurgency among the indigenous people
1846 The British attacked Brunei due to internal conflicts over who was the rightful Sultan
1888 Brunei became a British Protectorate
1890 The Kingdom of Sarawak annexed Brunei's Pandaruan District and this led Brunei to its current borders
1906 Brunei's administration was reformed and British advisors were sent to help the sultan
1929 Petroleom was discovered in Brunei 
1941 The Japanese occupied Brunei in World War II
1945 Japanese occupation ended
1959 A new constitution was written declaring Brunei a self-governing state
1962 A rebellion against the monarchy erupted, which was suppressed with the help of the British
1963 Unlike Sarawak and Sabah, Brunei didn't join Malaysia
1967 Sir Muda Hassanal Bolkiah ascended into the throne
1984 Brunei got independence from Great Britain 
2013 Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced his intention to impose Sharia law on Brunei's Muslim population 

Afghanistan, Cool Facts #185

<= 184. Andorra                                                                                                             186. Brunei => 

- Afghanistan has the world record of having most different flags in the 1900s
- Afghanistan has had 19 different flags in the 20th century between 1900-2000
- Also the name of Afghanistan has changed several times as it has been an Emirate, a Kingdom, a Republic, Democratic Republic, Islamic State, Islamic Emirate and Islamic Republic at times 
- The current flag of Afghanistan was adopted in 2013 
- The flags of Afghanistan and Cambodia are the only two state flags in the world featuring a building 
- The building in the Afghan flag is a mosque with its mihrab facing Mecca

Flags of Afghanistan 1880-2004

2. Afghanistan Demographics 

The Afghan population is divided into several ethnolinguistic groups. 

Estimates of Afghan population: 

Pashtun 42%
Tajik 27%
Uzbek 9%
Hazara 9%
Aimaq 4%
Turkmen 3%
Baloch 2%
Others 4% (Pashayi, Nuristani, Arab, Brahui, Pamiri, Gurjar

Language of Afghanistan 

Dari 50%
Pashto 35%
Uzbek and Turkmen 11%
30 others including Balochi 4% 

Pashto and Dari are the official languages of Afghanistan. Dari is Afghanistan's Persian and it's the lingua franca in Kabul as well as in many northern and northwestern parts of the country. Pashto is spoken in the central and eastern parts of the country. Many people are bilingual in Pashto and Dari. Some Afghans are also fluent in Urdu, English and other foreign languages. The Pashtun and Baloch are largely connected to the culture of South Asia as the remaining Afghans are culturally Persian and Turkic. 

Religion of Afghanistan

Over 99% are Muslims in Afghanistan. It's estimated that up to 90% of the people are Sunni Muslims. The remaining 7-15% adhere to Shia Islam.

Ethnolinguistic Groups in Afghanistan

3. Afghanistan Drug Trade

- Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the heroin used worldwide
- In 2007 a staggering 93% of the non-pharmaceutical-grade opiates in the world market were from Afghanistan 
- Afghanistan is also the largest producer of cannabis in the world- About 80% of the Opium plantations of the world are located in Afghanistan 
- Opium production has been in rise since the U.S. occupation started in 2001
- Before the U.S. occupation the Taliban had succeeded to eradicate poppy farming 99% in Taliban-controlled areas, which was one of the world's most successful anti-drug campaigns
- All Afghan warlords have financed their wars with drug trade 
- In 2013 it was estimated in a report that up to 3 million people were involved in the illegal drug business in Afghanistan, from a population of over 33 million people
- It's estimated that about 11% of the country's economy is derived from the cultivation and sale of opium 

4. War in Afghanistan 1978-

Saur Revolution 1978
Since 1978 there has been a constant war in Afghanistan. In 1978 there was a Communist insurrection called the Saur revolution. The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan seized power in Afghanistan, which expanded into a civil war within months. The Communists installed Nur Mohammed Taraki as president and started widely unpopular modernization reforms. Anti-government forces were formed and the government itself was unstable. There was rivalry inside the party. 

Soviet involvement 1979-1989
In 1979 Nur Mohammed Taraki was assassinated in a coup led by Hafizullah Amin, who became the president. In December 1979 the Soviet Army was involved in the war and the Soviet special forces assassinated Hafizullah Amin and installed a Soviet loyalist as president. The anti-Soviet insurgents started getting a massive amount of aid and training from Pakistan and China. USA and Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf funded the mujahideens a lot. The mujahideen waged a guerrilla war in small groups operating in 80% of the country that was outside the control of the government and the Soviet forces. In 1989 Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan because the diplomatic and military cost of the war was too high and they couldn't win the American supported mujahideens.

Islamic State of Afghanistan 1992 
The Soviet backed Afghan Communist government survived until the fall of Kabul in 1992. The Islamic State of Afghanistan was established then by the Peshawar Accord. Militia leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar opposed the agreement and with Pakistani support he started the bombardment campaign against Kabul. Additionally three militias who occupied some suburbs in Kabul started a violent war against each other. Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India and Uzbekistan each supported and even controlled one of those militias in some point as they were seeking influence in Afghanistan. In the early 1995 the Islamic State was able to defeat most of the militias and restore some calm to the capital. However the Taliban emerged as a new faction threatening Kabul.

Rise of the Taliban
The Taliban had conquered many southern and central provinces in 1994, that were not controlled by the government. In 1995 they launched a failed attack against the government in Kabul, but by 1996 they had regrouped with massive military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia. In September 1996 the Taliban took power in Kabul and established the Islamic State of Afghanistan. The United Islamic Front (Northern Alliance) was created then as a military-political resistance force against the Taliban Emirate.

US invasion in Afghanistan
After the 9/11 attacks USA invaded Afghanistan and removed the Taliban from power, because the US forces had the objective of defeating the Al-Qaeda operating inside Afghanistan.

Taliban insurgency 2001-present-day
The Taliban insurgency has been on-going in Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban government was deposed by USA. In 2010 president Hamid Karzai attempted to hold peace negotiations with the Taliban leaders. In 2014 Ashraf Ghani followed Karzai as president. In 2014 the USA war in Afghanistan ended as well, however thousands US-led Nato troops have remained in the country to train and advise Afghan government forces. As a result of the war up to 2 million people have died and over 6 million Afghans have left the country, but some of them have returned.

US troops combat footage in Afghanistan

5. Taliban in Afghanistan  

- Between 1996-2001 held power in Afghanistan 
- Means "students" in Pashto
- The Taliban refers itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 
- The Taliban emerged in 1994 as one of the most prominent factions of the Afghan Civil War
- During their control of Afghanistan they enforced a strict interpretation of Sharia law
- People committing adultery were stoned, the limbs of the thieves were amputated, women were forced to stay at home and the schools of girls were closed
- Flying a kite, playing cards or chess, watching television and listening to music were forbidden and people who did these were punished
- The Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues in 2000, because human pictures and statues were forbidden according to Islam
- The Taliban succeeded to eradicate poppy farming 99% in Taliban-controlled areas, which was one of the world's most successful anti-drug campaigns
- Most Taliban are Pashtun tribesmen
- Pakistan supported the Taliban, but it states that it stopped supporting Taliban after the 9/11 terrorist attacks
- Taliban got financial support by Saudi Arabia
- Al-Qaeda supported the Taliban with fighters from Arab countries and Central Asia

The life of women under the Taliban 
Taliban laws


2000BC Semi-nomadic people from Central Asia began moving south into Afghanistan
500s BC Achaemenid incorporated Arachosia, Aria and Bactria after overthrowing the Medes
330BC Alexander the Great and his Macedonian forces arrived a year after defeating Darius III of Persia
305BC Maurya Empire got much of the territory from the Seleucid Empire as part of an alliance treaty
185BC The Mauryans were overthrown
0-100 Kushan Empire conquered the area and introduced Buddhism
642 Arab Muslims brought Islam to Herat and Zaranj
870 The Saffarid dynasty conquered the area
977 Ghaznavid Empire was established and it conquered and Islamized Afghanistan, but the Ghaznavid dynasty was later overthrown by the Ghurids
1219 Genghis Khan and his Mongol army overran the region
1370 Timur Lenk established the Timurid Empire, which conquered Afghanistan and other areas
1500s The Khanate of Bukhara, Safavids and Mughals ruled parts of the territory
1709 Mirwais Hotak of successfully rebelled against the Safavids and made Afghanistan independent
1722 Mahmud Hotak captured Isfahan and proclaimed himself King of Persia
1729 The Hotak dynasty was ousted from Persia by Nader Shah
1738 Persians conquered Afghanistan and ended the Hotak dynasty rule
1747 Ahmad Shah Durrani became the leader of Afghanistan and his dynasty ruled until the 1970s
1776 The capital of the Durrani Empire was transferred from Kandahar to Kabul
1826 Dost Mohammad Khan declared himself emir and ended the turbulent time period with many temporary rulers
1834 The city of Peshawar was captured by Ranjit Singh
1839-1842 First Anglo-Afghan war
1878-1880 Second Anglo-Afghan war
1893 Mortimer Durand made Amir Abdur Rahman Khan sign an agreement to divide ethnic Pashtun and Baloch territories by the Durand Line
1919 After the Third Anglo-Afghan war, King Amanullah declared Afghanistan a sovereign and fully independent state
1923 Slavery was abolished
1926 Afghanistan became a kingdom  
1929 Amanullah was forced to abdicate after rebel force leader Habibullah Katakana assumed power, who was later killed by Amanullah's cousin, who declared himself King Nadir Shah
1933 King Nadir Shah was killed by a Hazara school student after which his son Mohammed Zahir Shah succeeded to the throne
1973 King Zahir Shah was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Daoud Khan, who became the first President of Afghanistan 
1978 Saur revolution, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan seized power in Afghanistan, which expanded into a civil war within months
1979 Nur Muhammad Taraki was assassinated in a coup led by Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the presidency but was assassinated by Soviet special forces in December
1989 Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan after failing to win the American supported mujahideens
1989-1996 Afghan civil war
1992 After the fall of Najibullah's government, the post-communist Islamic State of Afghanistan was established by the Peshawar Accord
1994 The Taliban took control of southern Afghanistan 
1996 The Talibans seized Kabul and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
1996-2001 Al-Qaeda operated inside Afghanistan 
2001 USA invaded Afghanistan and removed the Taliban from power 
2010 Hamid Karzai attempted to hold peace negotiations with the Taliban leaders
2014 Ashraf Ghani became President after Karzai
2014 US war in Afghanistan ended however thousands US-led Nato troops have remained in the country to train and advise Afghan government forces

tiistai 27. kesäkuuta 2017

My Tibet Trip 2017 with Budget Tibet Tour

Compilation video of my trip 

My 8-day tour itinerary 

Day 1. Lhasa

15th June, 2017

So I had been in Chengdu for five days, before I flew to Lhasa. In the morning I took the taxi to Chengdu airport. I was fortunately early there, because it was a bit confusing to get the information where to go, while it was hard to find people, who could advice me in English. I survived to the plane and after a flight of a couple of hours we arrived to Lhasa. One of the most amazing views from the plane were the Himalayan mountain peaks, that arose above the clouds. I wondered if the mountain climbers on Mount Everest frequently see planes flying around when they climb the peak. 

At Lhasa airport me and some other tourists were picked up to the bus and we drove to Lhasa. I enjoyed the views during the ride to our hotel in Lhasa. I could also feel the altitude of 3600 meters a bit. The scenery reminded me slightly of southern Peru with its arid and dry nature with mountains surrounding in all the directions. 

The first day I just walked a bit with some new friends that I met during the bus ride. They were also tourists, who had come to a tour in Tibet. Fortunately two of the people were originally from China, so they spoke Mandarin which was useful when we went to eat. For lunch we had some Tibetan food and for dinner we ate in a place where you pick the barbecue sticks with different meats and vegetables, which were then fried and brought to our table. The food was very tasty and enough spicy for my taste.

Chengdu airport

Day 2. Lhasa

16th June, 2017

After resting and taking easily the first day, we were ready to get to know the Tibetan culture. We visited Sera and Drepung Buddhist monasteries. One of the really cool things was to see a bunch of Buddhist monks debating. They clapped their hands and said something. I hadn’t seen that kind of debate before and I would have wanted to know what they were debating and what was the result of their debate. 

One other surprising thing was to see so much money in the monasteries. People prayed there and left money with probably the aim to bless them and give good luck. In one room I saw a Buddhist monk with the biggest pile of money I had seen in one place. He was counting the money and it looked like it would take the whole day to count that much money. Our guide told that the money goes to renovate and maintain the monasteries. I also wondered how the monks could pray when all the tourists walk around and watch them. 

In the evening we went to a welcome dinner and saw different dances performed by Tibetan people. I enjoyed seeing their different outfits, which were very beautiful and colorful. The performers didn’t really seem that enthusiastic about their performance, some even seemed a bit bored. Still the food was good and I enjoyed the evening with my new friends, who were in my travel group. 

Monks debating at Sera monastery

Day 3. Lhasa 

17th June, 2017

On the third day we visited the monasteries of Potala and Jokhang. Potala Palace is the icon of Lhasa, which everyone associates with Tibet and Lhasa. It’s like Eiffel Tower and Paris or the Statue of Liberty and New York. Like you could expect, there were a lot of other people willing to go to the palace. After being in the queue and waiting for a long time we got inside the palace. It’s really huge and not all the rooms are available for the public. Because of the massive crowds visiting the palace, there’s a restriction that one group can be around one hour inside the palace. For me the time was sufficient as we walked around the palace and our tour guide talked about the history of Potala Palace, which included stories about the Dalai Lamas, Penchin Lamas, past, present and future buddhas and generally a lot about Buddhism. 

After a while of rest and lunch, we headed towards the Jokhang monastery through the Barkor street. There were a lot of small shops along the way, but I decided to only photograph the places I saw. It was a warm day and the sun was quite high in the sky very late, which is why I also felt a bit exhausted of the whole day when we arrived at Jokhang monastery. 

I lacked concentration and felt like the things that I saw in the monastery very almost the same that I had seen in all the previous ones. Also the decoration and statues started to look quite the same, although they were very beautiful and impressive in all the monasteries. Like some buddha statues were thirty meters tall and they were made hundreds of years ago. 

Potala Palace

Day 4. Lhasa-Shigatse 

18th June, 2017

We woke up early and started to drive towards Shigatse. We drove along a route, which included a lot of scenic spots to take pictures. We stopped at the famous Yamdrok Lake. Unfortunately the weather was a bit cloudy, so the crystal clear water of the lake couldn’t be seen as clearly. When we ascended from the top down to the shore of the lake, we saw local people who sold souvenirs to tourists and offered the chance to take a picture with a yak for money. I don't know was it a good think or not according to the animal activists, but I finally decided to take a picture. 

The other really impressive place was the glacier of Mount Nyenchen Khangsar. The altitude was above 5000 meters so I really felt dizzy there, but the view was amazing. Someone filmed with a drone there, but I couldn't hear the drone flying for more than a couple of minutes. I think the police asked the drone pilot to take the drone down, since it's forbidden almost everywhere in Tibet to fly drones. 

I was quite tired of driving towards Shigatse and slept for a while in the car, once when I woke up I saw really amazing grasslands with a lot of yaks. This sight was something I had seen on the internet, while googling pictures from Tibet. Unfortunately we didn't stop close to these landscapes to take pictures. It was quite late in the evening when we arrived at Shigatse. The hotel was there as well as in Lhasa better than I expected, because I had read that they were three star hotels and that the standards in Tibet are not as high as European people are accustomed to. So the hotels were actually really clean, comfortable and they had western toilets and hot water in the shower.

Yamdrok Lake

Day 5. Shigatse-Mount Everest Base Camp (EBC) 

19th June, 2017

In the morning we started driving from Shigatse to EBC. The landscapes were very varying during our way to there. I started feeling the altitude a bit more in my head. The streets zig-zagged up and down along the hills. In the evening we reached the EBC, which was very impressive. I had seen this mountain range already from the plane and again from very far distance as we drove there through some mountain passes. We put our stuff to the tent, or yurt actually, and then took the bus from base camp 1 to base camp 2. Some decided to hike there and back. Me and some other group members took the bus, which was a good idea, because we had more time on a hill at base camp 2 for taking pictures with the peak of Mount Everest in the background.

We were very close to the border of Nepal and that's why there were soldiers around the area. It was quite late and one soldier asked the people leave from base camp 2 back to base camp 1, so we started walking back. We didn't take the bus, because the 4-5km hike back to our tent was much more exciting and it might have been the only time to hike at Mount Everest, if I don't return there some day. We walked slowly back and took pictures during the time of sunset. I felt very dizzy at our tent, but after eating and resting for a while I went outside to take some pictures of the night sky. My brain didn't work normally, so afterwards I noticed how I should have used totally different settings, while taking the pictures of the night sky. 

Me and two of my group members at Mount Everest base camp two (5200m)

Day 6. EBC-Shigatse 

20th June, 2017

I slept really badly in the tent, which was quite crowded. There were 10 people sleeping and I woke up a couple of times during the night. I got a really bad headache and when I woke up I felt really bad. We had ascended from 3800 meters to almost 5200 meters in one day, which I really could feel in my body. We drove back to Shigatse and during the drive I felt worse than in many years. I was close to throw up in the car as we drove the hills up and down. I managed to sleep and started to feel slightly better when we arrived to some lower altitudes.

During the whole day I couldn't eat anything hot, I only ate bread, fruits and drank water and sodas. I felt already much better at Shigatse, where we visited one monastery before returning to our hotel. For the first time I used my 70-200mm zoom lens and I got really amazing portrait pictures of the local Tibetan people. I wish I had used it many times before, but I had left the lens in the bus, because I didn't want to carry all my camera stuff, which I really should have done. 

Buddhist monk at Tashilumo monastery

Day 7. Shigatse-Lhasa 

21th June, 2017

The last day of our trip we drove from Shigatse to Lhasa. This time it was a route, that didn't have that many places to take pictures. I used my zoom lens again to take pictures of Tibetan people along our way. I took the photos through the window, which was a bit tricky, but I actually managed to get quite many pictures that showed the authentic everyday life of some Tibetan people. There was a traffic accident in one part of the road and we had to wait for over an hour. During this time we took pictures and talked to other tourist group members. This was a good time to interview some of the group members in their native languages. I did this for my future vlog, where I reveal the stories of people who I met during my travels. I spoke and asked questions with an Estonian guy in Estonian. He had lived in Hong Kong for 4 years and the past year in Beijing. Then I filmed a Swiss guy working for an insurance company and spoke three out of the four Swiss official languages, German, French and Italian. One French friend also joined the conversation, when we talked in French. I also talked to an Argentinian in Spanish and he was studying also in Beijing like many people in our group. At Lhasa I had no energy to do anything, I only went to eat to a Tibetan restaurant with my two Asian Australian friends. The rest of the evening I just laid on my bed and talked a bit with my friends in Finland through Whatsapp, because Facebook and many other applications and websites don't work in Tibet. 

View from the bus, while driving back to Lhasa

Days 8.-10. Lhasa-Chengdu 

22th-24th June, 2017

On 22th June I boarded the train at Lhasa, which went along the world's highest railway track in the world. The railway track is on some places built on permafrost and it goes until Beijing. I had to change the train at one station to the train going to Chengdu. The train ride lasted about 44 hours from Lhasa to Chengdu. Fortunately I had a hard bed. I mostly laid on the bed, because I was so exhausted of my trip, but I managed to take pictures on the second day. I took pictures for about four hours and the scenery changed unbelievably much in such a small time period. After all I arrived to Chengdu and I had a really amazing 10 day experience. I had been at the world's highest mountain in Tibet and returned to Chengdu by taking the train on the world's highest railway track. 

Train compartments 

Soft bed = most expensive 
Hard bed = cheaper than soft bed 
Seat = the cheapest and most uncomfortable 

The view from the train

Questions and information about my trip 

1. Which tour operator I used ?

Budget Tibet Tour

My 8-day tour itinerary 

Like probably most of you who are going to Tibet know that it's prohibited to travel in Tibet on your own. Every foreigner has to go to Tibet through a Chinese tour agency, who also apply for the Tibet permit. You are not able to go to Tibet without the Tibet permit. 

2. What should I keep in mind in Tibet ?

Keep your passport and Tibet permit somewhere safe all the time. You will need to show these two nearly every day at the hotel or checkpoints, when you're driving anywhere from Lhasa. 

Don't photograph the police officers or soldiers in Tibet. 

Tibetan people are prohibited to pick up foreigners, so just forget hitchhiking in Tibet if you want to keep out of trouble. 

3. How did I manage with the altitude ? 

I arrived to Lhasa from Chengdu, so from sea level to 3600 meters. I had three days to acclimatize and I got used to the altitude during that time. At Lhasa I had no problems with the altitude. From Lhasa we went to Shigatse, which was at 3800 meters, but during that day we passed places over 5000 meters and there I really felt a bit dizzy. From Shigatse we went to Mount Everest Base Camp, which was at 5150 meters, where we slept. At the base camp I felt very dizzy in the morning, I had a really bad headache and overall felt quite weak. Many people at the other group had vomitted, because of the altitude sickness symptoms. I started feeling better the day when we left the base camp and arrived under 4000 meters again. 

4. Which medicine I took with me ?

Diamox (for altitude sickness) = I should have taken it for 4 days twice a day, but I took only the day before arriving to Lhasa and in the morning when I was in Lhasa. The medicine removes fluids from the brain and makes you go to the toilet several times a day, which was very uncomfortable so I stopped using it. 

Diarrhea medicine = I took something to prevent diarrhea and it was very helpful, I used it almost every day. 

Painkillers = mostly for headache 

5. Which clothes I took with me ? 

T-Shirts = I should have taken much more t-shirts, but I thought it will be cold in Tibet. In June when I was there the weather was sunny and above 20 degrees in Lhasa and Shigatse.

Shorts and long pants = I used mostly the shorts, but at Mount Everest and some places on a high elevation I used my long pants.  

Winter jacket = I needed my winter jacket only at Mount Everest base camp. Also some areas close to the base camp it was necessary. 

Sneakers = I brought my winter hiking shoes from Finland, but left them to Chengdu in my apartment. The normal sports sneakers were enough during my stay in Tibet. We didn't walk on snow in any point. Even at the Mount Everest base camp there was no snow in June. There was snow much higher from the two base camps. 

6. Which camera equipment I had with me ? 

1 Camera: Sony 6500
3 lenses: 25mm, 50mm, 70-200mm 
1 charger (very important ! don't forget these in any hotel rooms) 
1 Tripod 
1 GoPro 
A camera bag for the camera and lenses

I shot the scenery pictures with the 25mm lens. If we were near some monasteries with people and buildings I shot them with the 50mm lens. I shot some candid portrait pictures of the local people with the 70-200mm lens. I got the shots in the streets and from the car with a very fast shutter speed. I also took some landscape pictures with the 70-200mm lens, but only from places that were too far for the 25mm and 50mm lenses. 

7. Photography tips in Tibet 

- Like mentioned before, don't take photos of any military or police officers 

- It's not forbidden to take pictures of monks and local people, but some times they don't want to be in the pictures, so it's better to have a zoom lens and take the photos so far away that they don't notice like I did. The pictures will this way be also more authentic and natural without any posing. 

- Bring a tripod to Mount Everest base camp. There were quite many people taking pictures of Mount Everest with a night sky and milky way in the background. My head didn't work well on that altitude so I used really bad settings. I should have used a much higher ISO and longer shutter speed. My pictures ended up to be too dark. My ISO was about 800-1000 and shutter speed 10 seconds.  

- Drones are forbidden at Lhasa, at Mount Everest base camp (military area close to the border of Nepal) and in quite many other places. I didn't take my drone with me, because I didn't have space and I heard that there wouldn't be many possibilities to use it during the tour. 

8. Budget for a 8-day trip in Tibet 

8-day tour: 700-800 euros (includes accommodation, Tibet permit, Mount Everest permit and transportation) 
Food and drinks: about 10-15 euros/day so 70-105e in a week 
Tips for the driver and guide: 200 yuan (100 and 100), which is 26 euros 
Entry tickets to monasteries and other places: 850 yuan = 111 euros 

8-day budget in total: 907-1042 euros

This doesn't include the flight or train tickets to Lhasa and back or the Chinese visa

Click on the topics below to know more about some things that I didn't cover that much in my blog:  

Mount Nyenchen Khangsar glacier