Travel log

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Travel Log 2019 season ~~ August

Drifting the road less traveled

A, Good friend asked me  to write something about the recent travel experience. 

I am lazy bum. Mainly because my itinerary was always full,if not,there always be alcohol,dance party etc to fill it up. The sequel from my previous corporate life. Overbooking the time.

But coming to travel in Muslim world, specially in an off the radar destination,  I started noticed the free time gap here and there. After tired of my audio book, listening music and small talk with locals over a Chai.

Since this is the 100th countries and I finally get this item off my bucket list after 15 years traveling working abroad. For the memory, Let me write this part of trip so I can share with friends. . Plus, this piece of land, in my guess, most people wont set their foot here sooner.

Destination: IRAQ -Kurdistan


My 2019 travel theme was planned ALL about going dance festival(SBK Salsa Bachata Kizomba)and EDM (Electronic dance music)and its all about Europe.

Started in the beginning of May, Barcelona.  With our Shenzhen Kizomba dance friends we kicked off summer season. Russia, Baltic, Scandinavia, Iceland, Poland, Ukraine, Holland,Scotland,Belgium etc. It all went well. But after the Edinhoven Kizomba sensual festival. I was a bit tired for the all night activity and feeling the burning out.

My friend J invited me to visit her in her country(Armenia)in the past. Caucasus Georgia had been a well over discussed underrated destination of cheap wine etc between travellers. Waiting to be discovered. VS the bad boy Croatia, So touristy.

So wait no further. I found a week spot so bought a ticket flew over to Caucasus. Did I mention five hour flight 110 USD? A bargain to start with.

Ended up almost 3 weeks in Caucasus(GEORGIA,ARMENIA,AZERBAIJAN) and was flooded with good wine and delicious food etc. That will be another story.

Finally, Todo tiene su final, I am moving my ass again.

On The Way out of Georgia I met a fellow passenger Iggo.  He is from Azerbaijan and he used to work as a bartender in one of the most infamous Georgia underground night club Bassiani.

So he tipped me about this Elcetronic music festival happening in a corner of black sea Georgia.  I kindof knew this festival from a previous research.  I guess he knows what he is fking talkin about. ECOWAVE some good DJs are playing there. A good chance take a dip in black sea.

Enough reasons so I checked the ticket status its still avail. Hotel nearby is almost sold out or forbidden expensive. But managed booked a guest house 20 mins walk. Fair engough. Bought ticket online. Done before get off the bus.

I love those spontaneous travel and thanks for the Internet age!

Life is good!

The festival went well....

By Monday morning I merged from two days of craziness.  The party supposed to end at 10 am with the main big name DJ Dax J play. I knew nothing about DaX J. The guesthouse owner daughter apparent know who and how. I am just an attache with her and her friend.

We were waiting in the techno session before the finale. This dude non stop heartthrobing music got me after one hour. I felt need a break before a heart failure.

I whispered/shouted to Ava I will be out for some air and meet later at Dax show I didnt know if she heard or not, but anyway it was so loud dont even know what I was talking the same  as I was thinking. Sometime language is superfluous, my fatigue eyes and face should do the work of getting my point crossed.

The beach was still dark the similar crowd scattered around I like this venue for the balmy weather and the beach. I laid down and could feel my heart still speeding beat the rocks underneath me in the beginning. I planed to take a nap and regroup until 7AM. I guess I just passed out in a minute and second minute(actually one hour passed) was violently  shaking up by a security uncle.  He  must thought I was overdose dead.  I must had a nasty sleep posture.

He promptly apologized to me. But I was all cool. The sun is already out like new born on the horizon.

Black Sea sunrise

I realized that my body is still sleeping. There was not a single trace of desire to party further. Only one word flashing in my mind BED. The crowd was still staying strong mostly young and zombie like dancing around. It was impossible to go bid goodbye inside. So be it.

I walked back guesthouse dropped dead. Instead sleep a ten hours, before my alarm ring. Two hours later I waked up and felt fresh again. Showered up, settled my bill and I got on the road.

Journey begins to IRAQ.

Travel to IRAQ is an adventure itself, Maybe a very important part of the trip.

No guide book will say anything about going to IRAQ for sure.  All major western countries will advise not travel to anywhere near IRAQ in their gov advise. Their good standard citizen dont walk that line.

The Internet search engine nowadays bought out by major tour travel company. Its all rubbish in the first few pages. If dig deeper you may find some clue from travel blogger. But they also monetize their blog if you can find them on search engine. Better than nothing,No straight  answer but feels doable,Or worth to try.

Step by step, journey Starting from Anaklia.

Sitting down with my backpack cross the road from guesthouse its a bit past ten. Nothing showed up in the first 15 minutes,I was thinking the party wrap up at 10. Most taxi would be waiting in the entrance to fill up before head out. Standing in the middle may not work for my advantage.

Make the things worse two local dudes also stopped, initially asked using lighter but end up also waiting for transportation. So three person, more competition. But always looks the bright side they flagged down a passing car with no taxi sign.

Apparent conversation with the driver failed to reach a deal. He was pulling back on the road without them. I jumped the chance. A quick bargain round from 25 down 15 Lari. I think I should not try push my luck further today. Deal.

I am on the way. The guy seems to be well known locally we picked up three batch of passengers on and off before he finally let me off in a makeshift bus station Zugdidi. After confirmed the minibus is destined to Batumi I thanked him,embarked my 2nd ride.

The mini bus Marshrutka always wait until its full before departure we are lucky the wait not long I hit the road again before 12.

Blacksea Fish & beer

I was feeling energetic again after the beer and fried fish (12Rmb 5.5 lari)in the Batumi bus station restaurant, so scratched my Batumi rest overnight plan and decide to carry on to Turkey.

I have to pass through Massive Turkey East region before reach Iraq border.

There are numerous bus station in one town so find the right short transportation is challenging task. After a few round back and forth in the station I dont feel anyone full understand I am goin to turkey border. Maybe someone want me pay extra using their taxi and others just dont know.

Angel always choose the timing when they appears,my chicken to duck conversation was interrupted by this beautiful girl she offer help me and she speaks good English. 😻

We tried a few person I start to think this is not the station for marsrutka leaving for border. So I took her advise using BOLT called in a taxi. A Minute later I was in taxi heading out. It was a nice try.

The taxi driver speaks no English but we find no difficult he dropped right in front the border by showing him my passport stamp page. 😄 Street smart

Traded in all my leftover Georgian Lari into Turkish Lari. I am in. The border crossing is next to black sea and straight forward.  About 20 minutes later I am out on the other side with Georgia flag fly behind me.

Mini bus station is just down the road 100 metres its really crowded I took last seat its a stool put next to the regular seat in the aisle.

There will be five more stand in passengers before we pullout.

Border mini van

After got to the Hopa the next town in turkey. I was trying to find my way south. There is no clear route but instinct tells me getin to Kurdish territory will help me better find transport down south. So I locked my next destination as Diyarbakir I find on the map close south enough.

The mini bus driver unloaded other passenger and took me to another bus depot a few bus company runs here. It turns out there is no connection to Diyarbakir. But one bus company suggest to Erzurum and continue from there.

So I took the Chai and one hour later I am on my 5th ride of the day.

The bus ride was quite and comfort,the pee stop is only chance to socialize.  I meet some locals and find more suggestion on where to go in Eastern turkey. The bus pulled in Erzurum pass through downtown and passengers get off mostly before we end up in a remote corner out the city with no lights . 😭 I felt it was goin to be rough NIGHT plus the rain.

I got off the bus my backpack felt 50% heavier when it soaked up in the rain the rain got through the bus compartment. Always surprise in the trip.

Its a spacious bus station but totally dark outside within kilometers. Spooky. So I went to ask around the trip to Diyarbakir, its a NO Working. No body speak English at all. I realize I forget to download turkey language in my google translator. But somehow I find this company has Diyarbakir on their logo I am sure its just language issue prevent the old man there tell me correct infor. The no maybe is not a real NO.

After wait a bit there are less crowded I get chance ask him again this time my 2nd angel comes to help this time a male one ....

Using his cellphone google translate he helped me figure out different bus heading there I choose one more suitable so I can even have time do a city tour in Erzurum and ticket done. You see now the old man is talking.

My Lari is low he helped find ATM with new stack of Turkish Lari in hand I found fully charged。 😈 Now its time to look for place to sleep he asked me something how many stars you look for  its a hard one. The real answer will be NO Stars. 😎 I didnt spell it out. Instead I used his phone took out some budget hotel which has decent review to narrow the scope,he help me ring them and I can distinguish he did a good job bargain the price down for me.

Angel is angle......the rest is get me the taxi I am on the way. It turned out I paid more on taxi than the standard room.

Trip within:Turkey East.

Turkey I have lonely planet and other travel app mostly about Istanbul.

But this part of turkey is on the list NO GO zone because the ongoing turkey Kurdish conflict. I browse through some travel blog trying to find some bus route infor and one girl story has one line cached my attention. She said travel is south Turkey changed her life. So I decide made few stops along the way check it out.

Erzurum is a city in Eastern Anatolia, and is the hub for visiting eastern Turkey.

Take advantage the gap time before my bus departure in the afternoon.

I took a quick run of the city major attractions.

Chai place

Emir tomb

Medresesi Minarate



Diyarbakır is the largest city in Southeastern Turkey, on the banks of Tigris one of the greatest rivers of Middle East and considered by many to be the most beautiful city of the southeastern Anatolia.

The most interesting will be the city wall. Locals called Turkey great wall. It almost intact but certain section is cut off so no possilbe to make a loop. Strolling on the top watching the world goes by inside and outside wall is a delight of the trip.

It remind me the XIAN city wall you can ride a bike on it.


great wall
View from city wall of the tigres valley

Turkish dinner

City wall

Mardin is a historical city in Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey. A city situated on the top of a hill, it is known for its fascinating architecture consisting of heavily decorated stonework cascading from the hilltop.

The whole place built along the slope. Now the top citadel is military based surrounded by barber wire. No go zone. 



Mesopotamia plain

Only tourists

Continue south

The bus to Iraq is full of question marks. Without doubt I will be the only tourist.

But it turned out cant be easier!

It was loaded full but there is only one passenger is destined to the last stop Sulamaniya. We were pulled over stopped off numerous time for ID checkin and luggage checking before finally get the Ibrahim Kalili border crossing.

At two o clock the Turkish border is empty.  With no delay we were out of turkey. The authority did verify the visa infor before let me go. But no incident at all.

So I guess this is exceptional good day. We are ahead of schedule to the Kurdish side. However we waited 3 to 4 hours before the Iraq shop open. The officers on Iraq side come to work around 6AM. Regular routine check luggage and stamped. We are in by 630AM.

The bus made a few stop before pull in last stop Erbil.  Without even bother me, the bus company has a guy leading me to some taxi driver I was passed over he paid the taxi fee and transportation between Erbil and Sulamaniya. So me the human package passed through good hands. The shared taxi finally took me to the final after 16 hours. Not a word had been exchanged. 😇

In Sulamaniya its get realistic no one speaks the common laguange, the taxi dropped me off no where near my hotel. I dont blame him its hard to communicate since the address in all English not clear at all for him.

I walked last half hour with some help of passing by and locate the Dophin hotel/Hostel.

The only hostel in IRAQ.


So the first question many people ask will be why Iraq?

All the bloody Tv cover footage,Suicide bombers coming from nowhere in the past 30 years has already marked this place. Doomed, Forbidden. Or if there is still left to see for this land. Crazy people goes to those dangerous places.

Since the first gulf war this land has been tied down on the road to hell and off the travel list for decades.

However, Iraq is the birthplace of many of the Earth's oldest civilizations, including the Babylonians and the Assyrians. It was  the center of Great Mesopotamia Civilization dates way back more than 8 thousands years.

What we see now is just piece of numerous circle happened here in the past.

The people stands strong.

Travel, not necessary tourism on this regard, is about being there, feel the smell, listening the foreign noise of the bazaar. Being flagged down by smily strangers and sitting for Chai and being watched like an curiosity.

And Being called Jacky Chan through out the trip! It exists in those land less traveled.  A time traveller.

For the quesiton why here:

The answer is easy because you can only NOW. So why not.

The Iraq still has hot zone in south and close to Syria and many uncontrolled land patch. But north part is general safe to travel with caution.

People come here may not be crazy, maybe admittedly a bit Strange. 😉

saddam tank
ex secret police building
saddam chemical attach on Kurds

dark past chemical attack
Erbil Citadel 8K + years human lives there

Citadel Inside

Citadel in closeup

The app is upto date!

Kids in Halabal

One of numbers Street Chai session.


Road ahead, Baghdad

Sunday, October 11, 2009

La Isa bonita --Cuba