S’porean photographer visited Afghanistan & took these stunning pictures

Some people like the road less travelled.

Tanya Ong | October 31, 2017 @ 11:12 am


In 2016, the top searched holiday destination for Singaporeans was Bangkok. Others on the list include Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul.

Some Singaporeans, however, prefer to take the road less travelled.

One of them is Laurence Tan, a Singaporean photojournalist with a thirst for adventure. He refused to settle for typical holiday destinations, and has travelled to places like Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

In August 2017, he embarked on his journey to Afghanistan.

Bamiyan Valley

Tan’s curiosity with Afghanistan was piqued when he was travelling in Tajikstan. Along the Panj river, he spotted some brick houses peering over the mountains and became determined to see Afghanistan for himself.

Even though Afghanistan has been plagued by war and instability for close to 17 years, he found that certain areas were more stable and relatively safe for visitors to explore.

Tan flew in to Bamiyan Valley, a destination located along the ancient Silk Road in central Afghanistan.

Screenshot from Google Map

There, he explored the town, which is famous for the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban, with a loaned bicycle.

Archaeological remains of the Bamiyan valley, with the site of the Bamiyan Buddhas in the along the cliffs. Source: Wikipedia

He wrote:

“In exchange for the bike, I brought in bicycle tires and spare parts from Hong Kong, since they weren’t easily available in Afghanistan.”

Tan told Mothership.sg that his photos captured a different side of Afghanistan:

“People usually think of war, death, and suffering in Afghanistan. I went there on a vacation and found the positive side, capturing life as how I saw it as a tourist.”

Band-E Amir National Park

Tan visited Band-E Amir National Park, Afghanistan’s first natural park, featuring six deep blue lakes separated by natural dams. On weekends, families would travel there to lounge and picnic, or dip in its waters.

Screenshot from Google Map

At the Band-E Amir lake, people can ride in a swan-shaped pedalo:

Photo by Laurence Tan via Getty Images.

He also captured Afghan burqa-clad women near the lake.

Photo by Laurence Tan via Getty Images.

Children were seen playing in a ferris wheel at the national park:

Photo by Laurence Tan via Getty Images.

A group of Afghan teachers from Kabul were also seen taking photos with the Band-e Haibat lake in the background:

Photo by Laurence Tan via Getty Images.

Nayak, capital district in Bamiyan

He then moved on to Nayak, the capital of a district in Bamiyan.

Screenshot from Google Map

There, he saw men harvesting wheat in the fields:

Afghans work in a wheat field during harvest at Nayak. Photo by Laurence Tan via Getty Images.

Tan told us that he finds many differences between Afghanistan and Singapore. After all, one is a war-torn country while the other is a peaceful cosmopolitan city.

However, there are still “similarities in humanity”.

According to him, the locals were very warm and hospitable. They got to know more about each other over tea and naan (a type of bread). This is a photo of them during breakfast:

Photo by Laurence Tan via Getty Images.

The locals were deeply curious about his decision to visit Afghanistan and asked him all sorts of questions, like where he was from and who he came with.

New perspectives on Afghanistan

This trip opened up new perspectives for Tan, who contemplated the realities in Afghanistan and how it would be like if it became more popular with tourists:

“Life in Afghanistan may have looked simpler from my altered perspective, but the country still faces a complex range of problems, from security issues to the lack of women’s rights and gender equality…I wondered how Bamiyan would look like if there were more international visitors, and if the scenic region is ready for mass tourism in the midst of a war.”

Photo by Laurence Tan via Getty Images.


You can view the full slideshow here.

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Top photo by Laurence Tan, via Getty Images.

About Tanya Ong

Tanya hopes to own a roller skate disco one day.

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