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Northern AsiaTopics specific to Russia, Central Asia (also known as "the 'stans"), Mongolia, Japan and Korea
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Location: somewhere on the road between Ushuaia and Alaska
Alternatives for getting into India (avoiding KKH)
With recent political developments in Pakistan, I am looking into alternatives for crossing from Kyrgyzstan towards India. (Things might get better in Pakistan, but for now I'm playing on the side of caution. The US and their chief cowboy won't be happy if nuclear weapons get into the wrong hands).
My initial plan was to get a guide for China, to go from Kyrgyzstan via Kashgar into Pakistan/KKH.
I've heard there was a pass/border crossing between China and India (west of Nepal) that re-opened in 2006. Is this possible to do on a motorbike/as a tourist?
Alternatively: Is it possible to cross from Lhasa/Tibet into Nepal (i.e. with a guide)? How long would it take to get from Kashgar to the Nepalese border? I heard the road there is one of the worst in China.
(Before I go on, I should mention that Pakistan is one of my favorite countries and I do not quite understand why it got it's bad reputation for travelling - political issues aside. Plus I am in my mood for a sunday salmon, so: )
Why not stick to the original plan? The Karakorum is very beautiful, and the conflict is an internal one, so you will probably not be bothered. Pakistanis are generally very friendly to foreigners and with good reasons struggle to fight against their image of a dangerous country. Just stay informed and clear of demonstrations and you should be fine (in the countryside anyway).
I always found police very helpful, too. Sure, they can be a hassle when you are on a tight schedule, but, from my experience, they most of the times really try to help you and the time-consuming bit is just how it is in Pakistan (I never understood fellow travellers ranting about police in Pakistan).
I suspect that we all get a slightly wrong picture from the media, as alway.
As to the alternatives you mentioned: I think they are both doable but I don't know details. But I do know that others do - I think they'll help
Location: somewhere on the road between Ushuaia and Alaska
I completely agree – Pakistan struggles with their bad media reputation. Personally, I don't buy all the media hype anyway and I know a few Pakistani, including some workmates (one from Kashmir, who recently went to visit his relatives there) and they're all very lovely & amicable people. Hospitality and a visitor's safety & wellbeing is very important to them.
BUT (and this is my only concern):
What if the conflict in Pakistan does NOT stay an internal one? After all, there is a possibility of extremists gaining more control – and the US might not like this at all, because Pakistan has nuclear missiles.
(OK - from what I know their nuclear heads, rockets and detonators apparently are all kept in separate locations. But as we all know, Bush's last war was justified with nothing but lies about WMDs anyway, hence I think they won't give a shit and start lying again, if Pakistan's elections point in the wrong direction).
Personally I think & hope that things won't escalate in Pakistan – though it is possible.
First off, after being there in 2006, it is my opinion that most Pakistanis don't do politics and don't want to get involved with anything associated with violence - especially in the Northern Areas. My opinion is that if you steer away from any kind of political rally, there should be little to worry about. Of course, in a country like this, anything can happen overnight, but this has been true for the last 50 years or so..
There is NO open border for tourists between China and India. This may change in the future, but not in the short term.
There is a border with China in Spiti, but only the locals (i.e. natives from Spiti) are allowed to cross doing some trade with neighbour villages.
There is a border post in Sikkim, but only for trade, not for individuals.
As for Kashgar to Kathmandu, I have no direct experience but anything is possible in China if you have the money (and the patience). Probably not worth the hassle though.
Regarding safety in Pakistan, I also agree with the other posts here. I'd recommend that you contact a few reputable Pakistani tour operators. There are some good ones with offices in the Northern Areas as well as in Islamabad. They will have a keen interest in your safety and be able to keep you posted regarding safe or unsafe areas. In the best of times (recent years) the area south of Chilas has had some problems, but the police are very nice and will look out for travelers. If you get concerned when you are there, you could hire cheaply a guide escort on-demand to take you through certain areas. The KKH in the Northern Areas is very peaceful and if you are needing a rest, it is a great place to kick back and relax.
I would guess that if Pakistan ever destabilizes in a big way, that the entire region will be affected and travel restricted (eg borders closed, etc.). Hopefully, this does not happen. Tourism is a major part of the Northern Areas economy and it has been hit hard since 9/11.
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