Why Uzbekistan?!? Travelling the Silk Road in Central Asia

When I told friends that I would be travelling to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan this summer, I was met with a faces showing emotions ranging from confusion to surprise to bafflement and comments along the lines of “like in Borat?” (no, that’s Kazakhstan!). More often than not it was simply blank faces that stared back at me – where the hell is Uzbekistan and why on earth would I want to go there? This post is an attempt to explain why I would count our two weeks in Uzbekistan as one of my most successful trips, and why it’s an amazing place to travel to!  (more…)

Rosie’s Rules of the Road (Uzbek style) 

Guest post from Rosie on certain rules of the road we have noticed while travelling here: 


Preparation

1. Fill up with explosive propane gas. Thoughtfully make your passengers get out while you do this, just in case the car blows up.

2. Crack the windscreen. This will show you’re an experienced driver.

3. Get rid of back seat-belt buckles.

4. Only wear front seat belts in police presence. If passenger doesn’t remove once police have passed, kindly do this for them.

5. Remove speedometer needle

Ok, you’re good to go. (more…)

Elephant No. 37: Fergana, Uzbekistan 

I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled throughout Uzbekistan for an elephant to add to this blog, and finally I found this one on our last day in the country, in Fergana city in the far east of the country. We were walking through a park to get to the bus station, and came across a series of fairground rides which – for once – seemed to be functioning. All the fairground attractions we’ve passed in other city parks have been disused and rusting, though these ones were making such a disturbing rattling noise as they whizzed round that we were in no way tempted to try them out. Besides, we were on a tight schedule, trying to get through the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border that day, which was supposed to be a particularly difficult and lengthy border crossing due to ongoing land disputes between the two countries. (In the end it was possibly one of the easiest border crossings I’ve ever done so we needn’t have worried!)  (more…)

Uzbekistan: First Impressions 

One week into our trip to The Stans, I thought I’d write a quick post on our first impressions of Uzbekistan. I’m here in Central Asia for a month with Rosie, one of my oldest friends: we’re planning on spending two weeks in Uzbekistan followed by two weeks in Kyrgyzstan (though we might also end up making a brief trip into Southern Kazakhstan). Side-note that this blog has been rather neglected lately, and I do have a few elephants to add from London and Paris but that will have to wait until I’m home again! Unclear how many elephants will be sighted here…

Exploring Khiva with Rosie

 

The first thing to say is that the sites we’ve seen of this country are absolutely stunning and I do not understand why more people don’t travel here. I’ll probably write a later post about why we decided to come to this region (and why you should too!) but safe to say that we’ve been thoroughly wowed by Tashkent (the capital), Khiva (an old Silk Road city, awkwardly most famous for being a key slave-trading post) and Bukhara (another Silk Road city and centre of Islamic learning). However, it is definitely the most off-the-beaten-track destination I’ve ever been to in my life and we have hardly met any other tourists at all – this can give it a slightly surreal feeling. While wandering around the deserted palaces of the Khivan Khans a few days ago, we found ourselves almost wishing there were a few more people around to see these amazing places! A far cry from the 14th century geographer Ibn Battuta’s description of Khiva as somewhere so full of people it was impossible to find your way in the crowd… All the Islamic architecture is incredible (the newer Soviet-era builds perhaps less so) – and in particular the Uzbeks are especially fond of fine wooden carving, for example on doors and columns, most of which are covered with intricate, winding flower patterns and designs. And the sunsets and accompanying twilight peachy-pink glow on the buildings are to die for!  (more…)