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Dangerous Places: Adventure Guide to Afghanistan

By Anatta in MLP
Sun Sep 23, 2001 at 06:03:33 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

I came across this Adventure Guide on the net and found the information it contains absolutely fascinating. It is a guide to moving about "safely" in the most war-torn, poverty-stricken, lawless places in the world. Dangerous Places (DP) is published by author, marketing consultant, and Danger Traveler Robert Young Pelton. He had a show on the Discovery Travel Channel called The World's Most Dangerous Places, which included an episode on Afghanistan.

The guide is written mainly for journalists, aid workers, and businesspeople, those who have to go to dangerous places in order to do something (and wish to come back alive), and is even used by the CIA. It is well worth taking a look at in order to learn about Afghanistan from the perspective of someone who has met many of the most influential figures.

In the Afghanistan section of the guide, Dangerous Places describes the political and cultural climate, gives information on how to find and talk to people like Mullah Omar and Ahmed Shah Massoud (it even gives vague directions to find Bin Laden's al Qaida!), and explains how the many forces (opium cultivation, availability of arms, religious fervor) collide and create the current situation. It contains stories of "Binny" and the "Talebs" as well as an in-depth history of Afghanistan. The guide was last updated in 2000, while Massoud was alive, and before the recent WTC events, but much of the information is still quite relevant.

The guide talks about what life is like in Afghanistan from the viewpoint of a thoroughly non-hairsprayed, non-CNNified journalist. As far as I could tell, Dangerous Places has no real political position, and seemed to be as neutral as it could be.

I highly recommend this read, written by a man brave enough to call the Taleban "women" to their faces. In order to fully understand the current situation, a glance at Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and Iraq will probably be required. Sadly, it seems that many of the World's Most Dangerous Places are thoroughly intertwined.

Note, there is a Disclaimer to those who think this information is 100% accurate and wish to base their travels on it. Some how I don't think too many K5ers will be interested in voluntarily traveling to Afghanistan in the near future, though.


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Related Links
o Adventure Guide
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o Pakistan
o Tajikistan
o Iran
o Iraq
o Disclaimer
o Also by Anatta

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Dangerous Places: Adventure Guide to Afghanistan | 14 comments (8 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
small gripe #2 (3.00 / 5) (#2)
by core10k on Sun Sep 23, 2001 at 02:45:36 AM EST

Iran isn't one of the world's most dangerous places by any definition. Unless you decide to play a riveting game of 'American Cowboy' and break the law whilst there. I really wish people would stop portraying it that way, and linking to a sensationalist site called "comebackalive" doesn't help matters.

Did you bother to read the entry? (none / 0) (#4)
by Anatta on Sun Sep 23, 2001 at 09:01:42 AM EST

Dangerous Places clearly mentions the current moderate tendencies, the overwhemling majority who want a moderate government, and the... "vocal"... minority that has the troubling tendency of spraying government buildings with machinegun fire, exploding the occasional bomb, kidnapping/murdering Western tourists, etc.

From the Guide:

Forget about crime. A pickpocket would have two strikes and then he could audition for Flipper sequels. The problem in Iran is everyone wants to know what you're doing here. U.S. citizens traveling in Iran have been detained without charge, arrested and harassed by Iranian authorities. Persons in Iran who violate Iranian laws, including Islamic laws, may face penalties that can be severe.

The eastern and southern portions of Iran are major weapons and drug smuggling routes from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Drug and arms smuggling convoys may include columns with tanks, armored personnel carriers and heavily armed soldiers. Right now, Iran is a brave new world for U.S. travelers. Most of the country can be considered safe (that's the good news), but it's still very much a police state (the bad news).

Finally, so that you can get some perspective, the Guide also includes The United States as one of the World's Most Dangerous Places.

Do some research before you criticize.
My Music
[ Parent ]

As a matter of fact (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by core10k on Sun Sep 23, 2001 at 03:38:08 PM EST

I did read the entries beforehand. And maybe you should read the United States entry again - they work you up into a froth on the main page (that you linked to), but in all the subsections, they make the US look like a Disney paradise. To top it off, they claim that the US has an excellent medical system, but fail to mention that if you don't have traveller's blue cross (for example), you're fucked for thousands of dollars.

I detect no grounding in reality in their US entry, or their Iran entry, so why should I believe a word of the Afghanistan entry?

[ Parent ]
The US/medical entry is correct (none / 0) (#13)
by /dev/null on Sun Sep 23, 2001 at 11:07:49 PM EST

While you may think that the US medical system is horrible because hospitals may charge you thousands of dollars, compare that to what you might find in some third-world countries: a doctor with a hacksaw. If you're lucky, it's fairly sharp and he might even have some ether. There are many countries in the world in which you can die from diseases easily treatable in the US. While you may be out a few grand, the US hospital system can usually provide enough care to allow you to leave the hospital alive. Isn't that what you really want?

[ Parent ]
Take DP with a grain of salt: (5.00 / 2) (#6)
by Canimal on Sun Sep 23, 2001 at 10:37:03 AM EST

I read the Afghanistan section too, and thought it was interesting. Then I started poking around the descriptions of other countries. For example, read the description of Mexico. Sounds like a crazed hellhole according to the DP guide: kidnappers, corrupt cops, false imprisonment, violent drug gangs and murderous taxi drivers. If you've ever been there, you know better. For that matter the description of the U.S. is pretty lurid too.

It looks to me like DP is really just there to work folks up, sort of a supermarket tabloid for travellers. Not that I'd recommend a visit to Afghanistan, but I would cross check anything I read in DP before taking it too seriously.


On the Other Hand... (none / 0) (#8)
by Anatta on Sun Sep 23, 2001 at 11:13:25 AM EST

Most people who go to Mexico are going to sightsee, shop, tour, eat, drink, etc. Most have next to no interaction with danger, other than perhaps a pickpocket or the equivalent.

The DP people are searching out the drug lords and the militias. Naturally, they're going to meet some not-so-nice people. They're specifically targetting the most dangerous places in Mexico.

In the US, people who travel to LA probably go to see Burbank studios, maybe drive down Mulholland Drive, experience the LA nightlife, etc.

The DP people go to Compton at midnight. Naturally, they're going to run into some not-so-nice people.

The point is that it reads like a tabloid at times because they are specifically going into the areas that others don't want to go into. The amount of danger is obivously extremely hightened relative to most travellers, who are safe. Take what they say with a grain of salt (they encourage you to do so as well), but recognize the goal of these people is to find the worst places to go, and to get out.
My Music
[ Parent ]

depends on your experience (none / 0) (#10)
by f00b4r on Sun Sep 23, 2001 at 12:22:11 PM EST

Growing up in a border town, it was popular to go over the border to mexico for the night life. The drinking age was 18, but any high school freshman had no problem getting drinks. The dollar ruled all negotiations when it came to dealing with bounces, bartenders, waitors, and especially the police. I have heard many stories about people being pulled over by the police for no stated reason... and having their watches taken in return for not being taken to jail. If you have any run in with the police down there, no matter how silly, if you dont have money you will be going to jail. It sounds crazy, but it happens. There was a period where the drug situation got pretty bad... Two rival drug lords battled for control of the territory. Restaraunts where shot up with machine guns, and high speed chases down the freeway happened on both sides of the border. Things are pretty bad over there. I dont want anyone to get the wrong impression... I have been over the border many times without incident... My family have taken relatives over the border for shopping without incident. But bad things can happen if you arent carefull.

[ Parent ]
I'm sorry... (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by tkatchev on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 09:14:11 AM EST

But that article has no connection to reality whatsoever. Basically, the guy collected some media cliches from the TeeVee and added some blood-curdling (but completely inadequate and silly) exaggerations. Take anything you read on that site with a couple of pounds of salt. (Basically, the guy is speaking out of his ass.)

If you really wanted to find out more about Afghanistan, try asking somebody who is a native. There are a surprising number of Afghan natives living in the West.

P.S. I am personally not connected with Afghanistan in any way.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

Dangerous Places: Adventure Guide to Afghanistan | 14 comments (8 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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