The Rinpoche Bagsha temple crackled with the deep murmur of Buddhist prayer. Under the gaze of a golden cross-legged Buddha, eight monks in crimson robes sat at a low table in the centre of the room, ethereal chants bursting from their throats. A bell tinkled. During the final prayer the congregation, squeezed together on benches close to the monks, picked up parcels of food and waved them in front of themselves in clockwise circles. The bell tinkled one last time.
And with that, a hundred Russians put on their hats and coats, and came outside to where six marshrutka buses were waiting. The driver took their 20 roubles before taking them down the hill to Soviet Square. So begins a Sunday evening in the republic of Buryatia, Eastern Siberia’s Buddhist province. … More Letter from Ulan-Ude (Republic of Buryatia – Siberia, Russia)
Arriving in Baku, I would always come here first. Each time I would explore the maze of narrow sandstone streets within its walls, and walk past every little pale house – some empty, some with chattering coming from inside. I would drink sahlep on a low sofa at a cafe on Boyük Qala, while watching the street outside wake up; always climb up the Maiden Tower for a first sight of the Caspian Sea; always go into the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, to hear again the stories that Azerbaijan tells about itself. … More Waking up in İçərişəhər – Baku, Azerbaijan
I dreamed of Uzbekistan for 12 years. Imagining being under an Uzbek sky – wandering through a market, exploring, talking with people, taking their photograph, savouring every taste, sound and smell – became a preoccupation. Then it became an obsession: with each year that passed, overdrawn, tied to a different life, this journey seemed more impossible, until just the word ‘Uzbekistan’ made me upset. I gave up on my dream, and resigned myself to always feeling this way. … More Memories of Chorsu Bazaar – Tashkent, Uzbekistan
The loveliest parts of Tbilisi are the easiest to miss… … More Spotted in Tbilisi, Georgia (photo)
A thousand miles from Moscow, a thousand kilometres from St. Petersburg, the Arctic town of Kandalaksha, on the frozen shores of the White Sea in Murmansk oblast’, is one of Russia’s most northerly communities. Founded 500 years ago as a fishing village, but with an aluminium smelter and locomotive depot giving the area an industrial purpose under the Soviet Union, Kandalaksha has been forgotten for the last twenty years. It is now only a dot on the vast Kola Peninsula – a 100,000 square kilometre expanse of pine forest between the White and Barents Seas. … More Kandalaksha – Russia’s Arctic North
In October 2017 the Guardian newspaper ran a series of features from Central Asia on the Guardian Cities webpage. The article “The decline of Russian dominance is striking: readers respond from the Stans” includes one of my photographs, of some men playing chess in Almaty in Kazakhstan. … More Chess in Almaty, Kazakhstan: a photo on Guardian Cities
I recently spoke with the people behind the #TRLT Twitter chat about my travels on The Road Less Travelled. The interview can be found in the chat’s Facebook group, and is also copied below.
… More Interview: Talking #TRLT (The Road Less Travelled)