After an Amazing Silk Road Journey to Xinjiang and Hunza, Seasoned and Intrepid Globetrotter Ali Karim Offers Great Traveling Tips to Our Readers


Ali and Dislhad Karim have been travelling since 1977. Their latest journey took them to numerous cities, towns and villages along the the Silk Road in Xinjiang, China, and Hunza, Pakistan. Here they are pictured at the banks of the Hunza river with the stunning Cathedral Peaks in the background. The foot of the mountains at the right is etched with the words “Welcome to Pasu Our Beloved Hazar Imam 1987.” Photo: Ali Karim. Copyright.

Introduced by Abdulmalik Merchant
(Editor/Publisher Simergphotos)

Ali Karim’s 6-part Silk Road Travelogue has just concluded with a piece about Hunza’s capital town, Karimabad, which is named after Prince Karim Aga Khan. Readers from around the world were struck by Ali’s narrative and photos and the wealth of information he provided. Some of the many responses through the series: “This was fascinating! I can’t wait for more. Keep up your adventures and thanks for sharing them with us”; “Superbe voyage et magnifiques photos”; “I am loving every word of Ali Karim’s Travelogue”; “I was amazed to see mind boggling pictures – with very vivid description of places. I admire your skill in photography and the art of writing”, “Wow – breathtaking”, and “Ali Karim’s Hunza story and pictures are awesome and inspiring”, and many more such comments!

If you did not read the series, please do so by clicking on the following links:

We asked Ali to offer some tips from his life long traveling experiences. Here are his responses (photos selected randomly from Ali’s vast collection):


Fresh fish catch, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador. Copyright: Ali Karim

When did you first find that you loved traveling the world?

We fell in love with traveling right after we left Kenya and did a “young peoples” bus tour of 6 countries in Europe, which included multiple camping nights, in 1977. We still remember that first inspiring trip today. This opened our eyes to the many wonderful places to see in the world. We have been traveling the world ever since then.


Mysterious Taj Mahal. Photo: Ali Karim. Copyright.

What kind of trips do you like to take?

We like to take trips to less “touristed” places, where we can get immersed, and get a feel for the local, authentic character of the places. We prefer to stay at local establishments like local Bed & Breakfast places, drive ourselves in a rented car or take local public transportation. Since we now take 4 trips per year, we need to travel cheaper than normal.


Obligatory dip into the holy waters, Golden temple, Amritsar, India. Copyright: Ali Karim.

What kind of trips do you NOT like to take?

I don’t like cruises. We took 1 cruise, and hated it as I felt very confined and restricted (to the confines of the boat); and not being able to stop and explore whenever we felt like it. The huge amount of food daily and corresponding waste was something that put me off. That was the first and the last cruise we ever took.

We also don’t like to take the standard guided trips in buses with other tourists; reason being that we can do the same trip for cheaper, and have much more fun interacting with locals than we would ever be able to in a standard tourist guided tour.


Ramadhan in Istanbul, Turkey. Copyright: Ali Karim.

How do you plan and prepare for your trips?

We like to plan our own trips and then do them on our own wherever possible. We typically will spend 1-3 months before the trip researching where we want to go, what we want to visit, where we want to stay and how to best get around. We try and stay at local bed & breakfast places, or homestay type arrangements where we can get to meet and interact with locals; which is the best way to learn about them and their cultures. So we contact these places via TripAdvisor and establish email contact with a name, and not only can we book the stays in advance, but we typically get a lot of local advice of what to do/see etc.


Guanajuato, Mexico. Copyright: Ali Karim.

Where do you do your research for your trips?

I trust TripAdvisor a lot, and I am also a Top-Level contributor at TripAdvisor, as I write and review extensively the places I have visited. I read what others have written about the place and use that to guide us in our planning. Sometimes, like in the Xinjiang trips, there was not much recent information available, so we have to wing it and take our chances. Fortunately, we have not had any seriously bad experiences so far.


Climbing Sigiria, Sri Lanka. Copyright: Ali Karim.

How do language barriers impact your travels?

Since we only speak a few languages, we find that on most trips, we don’t know the local language. However, we make the effort to learn a few basic words in the local language like please, thank you, Good morning, where’s the bathroom etc. And we use them and it is very surprising, but the local people appreciate us making the effort in trying, and this makes them open up and go out of their way to help us. For anything more complicated, we can usually make ourselves understood with simple English words or signs. Google translator comes in handy in a pinch, but needs the internet.


Milna, Croatia. Copyright: Ali Karim.

What are the countries or areas of the world you like from all your travels?

We prefer Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and various Asian countries, including the “stans” and especially those countries that have a Muslim influence.


School bus, Delhi, India. Copyright: Ali Karim

What advice would you give?

Our advice is never to let language barrier hinder you from traveling. Just go with an open mind, learn the basic few words of the local language, smile a lot at everyone, and soak in the local environment. Try and stay at local places and use public transportation, eat at local places; you will be surprised at how good the local food is, and how helpful people are. And don’t be afraid; but always be careful and be aware of your surroundings. And take your children with you; chalk it up to education.


Friends, Mombasa, Kenya. Copyright: Ali Karim.

What places did you enjoy the most, and why?

This is a difficult question to answer, as every part of the world has some unique and interesting things about them; and we have visited 74 countries all around the world. If I were pushed, I would say my best places to visit have been:

  • Istanbul, Turkey, because it is a perfect blend of the East and the West, you can be as liberal as you want to be, and because it has a rich Muslim history, and architecture. Istanbul is one of the few places I have been to 3 times;
  • Guanajuato city, Mexico. This place is wonderful, as it is built on hilly terrain around old silver mines, and the now abandoned mines are used as underground roads to get around the city. It also has the typical Spanish colonial architecture that we love, and every house is painted in a different vibrant color; very colorful;
  • Hunza, Pakistan; we loved this place because of its immense natural beauty, and because of the warmth of the people despite their simple lifestyle with few of the conveniences we are used to;
  • Amritsar, India. The Sikh Golden Temple is an awe-inspiring place architecturally, but more importantly for the spiritual nature of the place, and the huge hearts the Sikhs have, where they feed 40,000 people daily, without asking for a penny. This was very spiritual; and
  • Israel & Jordan; which have a tremendous amount of history, preserved architecture, and places of huge biblical historical importance.


Hawa Mahal admirers, Jaipur, India. Copyright: Ali Karim.

What was your most memorable moment, while traveling?

I will always remember when we went to Maputo, Mozambique, and we were taking in the sights of the city while walking, and there were multiple street hawkers selling their wares. Suddenly, a bunch of policemen appeared and scared the hawkers away (I assume that it was illegal for them to be selling/hawking on the street). One policeman grabbed and took away one hawker’s tray of sunglasses that he was selling. That was probably that person’s livelihood and lifetime investment in those sunglasses. Zameer, my youngest son, who was probably 14 at the time, took all this in, simply walked over to the policeman, and pleaded with him to give the sunglasses back. Surprisingly, the policeman gave the tray to Zameer, who walked over to the street hawker and handed it to him. The hawker took the tray, and gratefully walked away and we all felt much better. For some reason, this moment always stands out in my mind as being super memorable.


San Juan del Sur sunset, Nicaragua. Copyright: Ali Karim.

What do you have planned out for the future?

My bucket list of  places to visit in no particular order is: Mongolia, Brunei, Borneo, Bhutan, Sikkim, Burma, Malaysia, Philippines, New Zealand, Galapagos, Fiji, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Armenia/Azerbaijan/Georgia, Romania, Moldovia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Tunisia, Surinam, Guyana, as well as other places in South America. I am also open to suggestions and recommendations.

I am already exhausted just thinking about this bucket list. Perhaps it is too much for the remainder of this lifetime!

Are you open to answer readers’ questions and offer them more advice?

Absolutely. I can be reached via email at I also have a travel blog, which is a work in progress, and they can follow me on Facebook at

I would be delighted to give more information about any of my trips!

Date posted: February 13, 2017.


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