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Archive for the ‘Border Crossings’ Category

Some reflections and memories from my continued travels. A busride to Kuala Lumpur, truly luxurious, three seats to a row and a bunch of Punjabi tourists on their way to Malaysia. These wealthy Indians give us a window back into the chaotic, happy-go-lucky ways of privilege on the subcontinent. They tell us we are friends, siblings, in-laws. Laughs. Offering to sharing every food or drink. They proudly announce their religious diversity: Sikhs, Hindus.

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A friend tells me it’s like the ‘wild west’ – the Thai outpost of Mae Sot, a small city situated along the border with Burma’s Karen state. In 2008 the General Secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU) was assassinated here while perched upon the balcony of his residence. Burmese spies, representatives from various ethnic factions, illegal immigrants, and a wealth of western NGO workers and Human Rights activists populate this town. A simple desire to view this ‘NGO’ town (and more) takes us here. NGO workers were drawn to Mae Sot over 25 years ago following an influx of Burmese refugees as a result of Myanmar military offensives against the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). There is certainly an NGO industry here.

Mae Sot

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This is just a quick sketch of one out of countless weird situations we have experienced on our trip. From tribal Shillong, Meghalaya, we crossed into Bangladesh via Dawki, a small border town that is rarely visited by foreign travelers. To my chagrin, there were a couple moments along the way in which I thought it would be suggested, for convenience sake, that we become part of the problem — that is to say: pay a bribe.

Indian coal trucks waiting to cross into Bangladesh.

As we dropped into the local police station with our packs, in the dark, we were asked to take a seat. We needed to be there in order to procure permission to stay the night in the “Inspector’s Bungalow,” the only accommodation available for guests in Dawki, and we were unsure of what this process would require. (more…)

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