Uzbekistan - Highspeed on the silkroad

Being in this country is completely different as it comes over with its reputation as a “breeding country for terrorists”. I never felt uncomfortable or being threatened or felt not being welcome. Instead, people are all outstandingly friendly and try to help as much as they can and more, even with the language barrier. Its the same as in Kazakhstan or Tajikistan, they think western people think they are all terrorists and are under general suspicion of being terrorists.

December 30 - Arriving in Tashkent

Came here from Tajikistan with a stopover in Kazakhstan. The arrival in Uzbekistan was one more I have to add as one of my worst international arrivals :) People went off from the plane all in one bus, transferred into immigration, there was one small aisle where all the 200 people got cramped into and wait to get handled by one of the three immigration counters. No need to mention that this ended up people running into the aisle, pushing into every inch and skipping line wherever it was possible.

So yes, of course, I did my best to keep up with that tactic and I guess I was quite successful for my first Uzbekistan arrival and continue with my further plan in Tashkent

Map of Tashkent.
Tashkent Tourist Map

No mean taxi drivers here

As in other Central Asia states, also here in Uzbekistan, there was no hassle with taxi drivers. No stupid bargaining, questioning or arguing.

15 minutes later I was at the train station in Tashkent, for buying a ticket to Samarkand with the superfast “Afrosiab” train. That highspeed train which drives at a speed of 250kmh.

There are no queues, nowhere
I found out that queues do not exist here. People do not wait in lines behind a counter, they wait in circles and everybody in the circle is pushing in from the side, looking what the person, in turn, is saying or doing at the counter and add comments to the happenings :).

It's easy to become a millionaire here...

1 Million Uzbekistan SOM = 120 USD
After waiting again for a long time in the ticket line, I was told that buying tickets is only possible with Uzbekistan currency SOM. That was what I didn't have and so had to leave the line to get Uzbekistan SOM.

My thinking was, better exchange more money here in Tashkent, as the opportunity to exchange cash over public holidays might be difficult the next days. So I exchanged 120 USD and got almost one million Uzbekistan SOM, which is a big stack of money and totally impossible to fit into three wallets :)

... but not easy to find restaurants

Chicken + Lamb Shashlik
Finding a restaurant was already a little challenge, as it was December 30 and which means restaurants already shut down for new years celebrations. However, I found one and got delicious lamb and chicken skewers with rice for only 3 USD. Wow, I liked this.

Am now in the Hotel and locals in the courtyard are having a pre-new years eve celebration, which is usual here, to first celebrate with friends on the 3oth and on 31st with family.

December 31 - New years eve in Uzbekistan

Walking in Tashkent
Got up early to explore the city of Tashkent.

While pinning all the things to see on google maps, I found out that each site is very far from the other one.

But anyway I decided to walk as much as possible instead of taking a taxi, cause as usual when I take a taxi I miss out some very good and interesting views along the way.

I ended up walking the roads up and down and after a few hours of wandering, visiting the Bazar, Hotel Uzbekistan, world war II memorial and many other sites, it was already in the afternoon and became tired from all the walking.

New Year's Eve in Uzbekistan is not so funny as a hungry tourist

It was definitely time for a coffee, but which was however not as easy to find in Tashkent.

Delicious Uzbekistan Bread
A good coffee shop with a real cappuccino machine was indeed very difficult to get, especially as at this time of the day already even more shops and restaurants have closed down. The topping of the "closing time" started after 6pm on the 31st.

Basically, ALL restaurants have shut down by now and it was impossible to find dinner. I searched for one hour but didn't find any open restaurant, except for two ice cream shops and a few kiosks, where it is possible to buy water, candy and stuff and noodles.

So, the only thing that seemed legit to eat for dinner was noodles. Bought a few packs and cooked it in hot water back in the hotel lobby. That was my last day of 2017 and new years eve in Taskent.

January 1 – Time to roll to Samarkand

Uzbekistan Train
Up until entering the Afrosiab train towards Samarkand, I was sure that Uzbekistan conditions surely also do exist in the train itself. But after entering the train, it was like being in another world. The train was one of the cleanest and most comfortable trains I have ever been before. They even served free tea and cake.

Wow! Comfortable seats, nice view, highspeed train. Everything a tourist needs. 

The whole route in Uzbekistan is from Tashkent to Samarkand to Bukhara and back. I have six days for this:
Tourist Map Tashkent Samarkand Bukhara

Samarkand in one day

Samarkand was one of the most famous places on which the famous Silk Road action took place, the ancient trading route from far east Asia to central Asia towards Europe.

And Samarkand was also one of the most important places to do the trades goods from the whole of Asia. The trading place in Samarkand is nowadays the tourist hotspot in Uzbekistan to visit the ancient buildings.

Impressive to have a look at these buildings, the Registan and the mosques. Didn't inform about the background story of each building, but I was happy just strolling around them and take photos.

The not so impressive thing was that it was 1st of January and so public holiday still was going on, which meant I one of my biggest fears came true and I will have to eat noodle soup again, for lunch and dinner.

The Amir Temur Mausoleum

The Registan Ensemble. The most famous Silk Road Building.

Why every restaurant CLOSED?

Trying to find something for lunch. But New Years Eve celebration is sticky and keep almost all restaurants closed. Only butcher and grocery stores on the streets are open. None of them can provide me a meal :)

The Bibi-Khanym Mosque

January 2 – The annoying public holiday is over in Bukhara

After Samarkand, it was time moving forward to Bukhara. A 2500-year-old place with ancient buildings, which was also a trading hotspot during the Silk Road times.

Again the highspeed Afrosiab train was my choice to move from Samarkand to Bukhara, which was a 1.5-hour ride.

How to lose a passport..

Bukhara Trainstation
In Bukhara, after leaving the train I nearly put myself into a situation where I had to deal with police and law enforcement.

Somehow I was so stupid and left my briefcase with the passport and other documents in it in the train.

A few minutes later when I wanted to buy the ticket, I noticed that and immediately pushed myself back through security check while running past police officers, which were shouting at me something. However, in that moment I didn’t care, the only thing I saw was, the doors of the train are closing and with running at full speed I luckily was able to get to the last open door where the employees of the Afrosiab stood. Told them I have left my passport in the train, run past them to my seat, got the briefcase and exited the train. Yes, this is what I call being lucky!

Helpful afrosiab staff
But my luck continued this day and the January 2nd is definitely the luckiest day in 2018 so far! I wanted to buy a train ticket, to get back to Tashkent in a few days. I thought I was early with buying the ticket but I was wrong, all tickets are sold out for that specific day.

 I left the queue and asked one employee of the Afrosiab staff if she can help me get a ticket somehow – for an extra fee of course:).  After she has done a dozen calls and I had to wait beside one hour, I finally got a ticket…haha.. I thought she probably will ask for a hefty extra “bribe” fee. She said she wants an extra fee of 50’000 SOM which is about 6 USD…:D! Hope luck while traveling will continue being on my side for the rest of 2018!

The Afrosiab Train

Lyab-i Hauz. The so-called city center.

Taki-Telpak Furushon Bazaar

Kalon Mosque and Minaret

The Ark.

A massive fortress that was initially built and occupied around the 5th century AD. It was used as a fortress until it fell to Russia in 1920

Chor Minor

Khoja-Gaukushan Madrasa

January 3rd – Bukhara is nice, but three days?

When I checked on different sources from the internet, I found out that two or three days is a good time to spend in Bukhara. After one day in Bukhara, I would say:

NO. In my opinion, three days is way too much. 

All the nice sites in Bukhara can be seen easily within one day. I should have come in in the morning and leave the next morning. My time in Bukhara is two days, after prioritizing Bukhara as more interesting than Samarkand. It was nice to walk the ancient town of Bukhara and visit these ancient buildings and the big “so-called” Ark, which is a fortress with massive, huge walls, but after one day, there is not much left which has not be seen.

I tried to waste time with drinking coffee and eat delicious fresh, warm Uzbekistan bread, learning some Russian language and bought Asprin tablets for back home, as here 10 tablets cost about only 10 cents. Also, the selection of restaurants or coffee shops with good cappuccino machines is very limited.

So I will leave tomorrow back to Tashkent and afterward fly to Kyrgyzstan, from where I will fly home.

Bukhara souvenir and stuff

1 comment:

  1. Your blog reminds me of the work of Edward Said who talks about perception vs. reality in his famous book on Orientalism. Orientalism in a nutshell, posits that people in the West get their concepts of life in the East from things like books. Unfortunately, these books often put a Western spin on things. This can be expanded to the idea that people see media perceptions of the East in news, film, and movies, so they’re usually not getting a realistic picture. The best way to experience and understand any nation is to visit it as you do here with Uzbekistan. Your journey through some of the Silk Road sounds fantastic. I love history and can’t imagine the feeling you get being there.