Nov 30 2009

Fergana to Andijon, Uzbekistan

Asia hotel provided quite a good breakfast.
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Jerry had an appointment to meet a prospective bride in the morning. We met up later, walked around the park.
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Statue of Babur
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Like most countries around this region, Uzbekistan is famous for its carpet. This huge carpet 3X5 meters cost around USD$150.
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Street performance
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Another Bazaar
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We met with Jerry’s prospective bride at a bazaar and I tagged along to visit the girl’s workplace,
Law faculty
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and then had lunch together. It’s kind of hard to understand the conversation because it’s a three way conversation. The guide translated Russian to Korean for Jerry and Jerry then explained to me in some English.
Hang around the city with Jerry.

Then took a shared taxi at around 5pm to Andijon which is around 75kms away (1 hour, 2,000 Som~USD$1).

Took a cab to Hotel Andijon recommended in lonely planet guide book. However, the staff working there mentioned that I am not allowed to stay there after giving me the price. I don’t understand what’s the reason because she couldn’t speak English.

Took marshrutka 33 to Hotel Voldyn instead (16,500 sum~USD$8).
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Andijon Plov for dinner
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Met a friendly Uzbek guy, Bakhtiar at the internet café and he told me that he is willing to show me around the city tomorrow.

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Nov 29 2009

Fergana, Uzbekistan

Nov 29th Fergana Sun
Went to Fergana with Jerry and his guide, Eh Jah. Jerry’s guide is a Korean grandmother who was borned in Uzbekistan. She can speak both Russian and Korean fluently. We took a taxi to Qoylok Bazzar and then took a taxi to Fergana at 11am (325km, 5 hours drive away. 50,000 Som~USD$25 for a car).
Passed by some very nice mountains.
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Local Uzbek family picnicking
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Local Uzbeks selling their goods.
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Back to the Mountains
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Arrived at Fergana around 4pm and the weather here is colder. Fergana is a city of around 200,000 people situated at the Fergana Valley. A third of the population of Uzbekistan live in Fergana Valley. The Fergana Valley is a flat bowl surrounded by Tian Shan mountain to the north and Pamir Altay to the south.
We checked in at Asia hotel which is quite a nice hotel. Usually I prefer to stay at budget hotel but since I am with Jerry, we shared a hotel room for USD$25 each.
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Visited Eh Jah’s relative then had Shashlyk for dinner.
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Eh Jah and Jerry
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Nov 28 2009

Tashkent 2nd day, Uzbekistan

Nov 28th
History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan
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Metro
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Went to Hotel Intercontinental which is at the north part of Tashkent to get USD from Asaka ATM.
Met Jerry, a Korean guy at a bar. Jerry’s mission is to look for a wife in Central Asia and traveled all the way here from Seoul.

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Nov 27 2009

Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Nov 27th
Tashkent is the biggest city in Central Asia with a population of around 2 millions. Tashkent was hit by a big earthquake in 1966 and most part of the city were destroyed. Uzbek is now the official language after the Soviet Union broke up but Russian is still the primary language used because Tashkent is quite cosmopolitan. Most signs are still in Cyrillic. Spent the morning looking for another place to stay and found Hotel Orzu (60,000 Som~USD$30) which is at the south west part of Tashkent.

Lunch (a kind of gravy and soup, I forgot the name of the dish but it’s Uzbek food)
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A Medressa
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Walked around Chorsu Bazaar.
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Seoul Plaza
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There are many Koreans in Central Asia including Uzbekistan, especially in Tashkent. During the world war I many years ago, Stalin moved many Koreans from Vladivastok to Central Asia so the army can identify the Japanese from the Koreans.

There is a street called Broadway around Mustaqillik Maydoni which has some shops and restaurants.
Ate fast food and checked out the night life in Tashkent since it’s Friday night. Walked a lot today and covered most part of the city on foot.

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Nov 26 2009

Samarkand to Tashkent, Uzbekistan


After having breakfast at the hostel, walked to the ancient Samarkand site called Afrosiab, northeast of the Bazaar. It’s a 2.2 sq km site and there is a museum at the site.
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Walked another 1km to Ulugbek Observatory.
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A local wedding. Uzbeks and Tajiks marry pretty early, it’s not uncommon to see married couples who are just 18 years old.
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So far in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the local people I met will usually ask if I am married and looked surprise that I wasn’t because the marrying age here is quite young.

Uzbek Kids
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I spent a lot of time looking for Plov for dinner yesterday and couldn’t find it. So that’s my mission for lunch today. (4000 Soms~USD$2).
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The only shopping mall I found.
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Took a Marshrutka to the train station and then got a 5pm train ticket (18,000 Som~USD$9, 300km 3.5 hours ride) to Tashkent.
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Arrived at Tashkent around 8.30pm and took the metro to Gafur Gulom stop which is at the north west part of the city. Tashkent is the only city in Central Asia with a metro system and the architecture inside each station is different and very pretty. Every metro station has many police and since I have 2 backpacks, they knew I was a tourist and asked for my passport and questioned me. Being a police is a boring job in Uzbekistan. There are so many police everywhere and they just stand at the same spot the whole day without doing much. Found Hotel Hadra and it’s the cheapest hotel in the guide book and cost 13,000 Som~ USD$6.50 but it’s dirty and empty.
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Later someone told me that the building is also used as a brothel.

Samarkand is one of Central Asia’s oldest settlement. Since it’s located right in the middle of the crossroads leading to China, India and Persia. The city had a few rulers such as the Turks, Arabs, Persians, Mongols. It was destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1220 but then Timur decided to make Samarkand his capital and built many nice buildings in Samarkand.
In Bukhara and Samarkand, there are many Tajiks and most people here speak Tajiks, which is a language similar to Farsi instead of Uzbeks. During the Soviet Union times, Russian is the official language so even though not everyone speak Uzbeks in Uzbekistan but most people do speak Russian.

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Nov 25 2009

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Nov 25th

Got up at 6am and took Marshrutka 68 to train station.
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The train station is around 10 km away from the city.
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Arrived at Samarkand train station at 11am.
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There were many taxi drivers trying to get me in their vehicle but since I don’t like taxi drivers, took public bus 22 to Registan which is located in the old city. Met a Japanese lady who was going to the same hotel as me. Even though the hostel was close by, but we spent an hour trying to find the place.
Hotel Antica (26,000 Soms~USD$13)
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Smarkand is bigger than Bukhara and the city looks more prosperous. There are around 500,000 people living here. In 1370, Timur decided to make Samarkand his capital and the city became the cultural and economic epicentre of Central Asia.
Guri Amir mausoleum. Timur, his sons and grandsons were buried here.
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Donkeys were used as transporation tool
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The Registan. The 3 edifices here are the world’s oldest Medressa.
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The Registan

There are many police around in the country and the police forces are very corrupted. The police wanted some bribes and willing to let me in if I pay them 7000 Soms without tickets. Since I had seen many similar buildings and that’s not my main interest, I decided not to go in.

Siob Bazaar
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Sweets
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Bibi-Khanym mosque (4200 Soms~USD$2). Bibi-Khanym is Timur’s Chinese wife. The door is around 35 meters high.
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Bibi Khanym

Amir Timur’s statue.
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Orthodox Church
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Samarkand University
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Dinner (kebab, Mimosa Salad, coffee, fries cost 7700 Soms~USD$4)
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Night view of Guri Amir
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Nov 24 2009

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Nasruddin guesthouse
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Walked around Lyabie Hauz, the name in Tajik means around the pool. Most people in Bukhara and the southern part of Uzbekistan speak Tajik and they look a little different from people in the northern part of the country.
Medressa
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Met a Japanese biker
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Changed a hundred dollars to Som.
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It’s so thick that the money can’t fit in my pocket.
Kolkhozny Bazaar
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The Ark, a old town inside a fortified wall.
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I didn’t go in because some travellers adviced that it’s not worth the price of the ticket to go in.
Plov is sort of the national food in Uzbekistan and there are competitions on who can make the best Plov. Asked around and someone told me yesterday that theirs is a place which sell pretty good Plov, they were the champion in Plov competition.
Took bus 55 to the restaurant.
Plov with bread, tomatoes and tea (4400 Soms~USD$2.30)
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Walked around the southern part of the city.

Bought a train ticket to Samarkand which is around 250km, 3 hours away. (11,000 Som~USD$5.50)
Internet is cheap here, around USD$.50 per hour. However, the speed is quite slow so I can’t do much.

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Nov 23 2009

Turkmenabat, Turkmenistan to Bukhara, Uzbekistan

This is my 5th day in Turkmenistan so I better get out of the country soon because my transit visa only permit me to stay here for 5 days. Went to the taxi stand at 8 something and tried to take a shared taxi to Farab. Had to haggle hard and those guys weren’t honest. After getting my money, the drove me to another shared taxi stand and had to bargain with the driver again to get to the border. Finally, arrived at the border around 11am.

Passing the Turkmenistan border was quite smooth, I just need to fill up a custom declaration and a custom official just did a quick search on my bag. I heard some stories such as the police will look at every pictures and will check on the laptop but that didn’t happen to me.

In no man’s land, between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan border
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Had to walk around 2km to the Uzbekistan checkpoint.
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The Uzbekistan checkpoint is more bureaucratic, there are a lot more checks and forms to be filled. In total, I think the border crossing took around 2 -3hours. Changed into some Soms at the border.

The official market rate is 1USD~1500 som but the black market will provide 1USD~1900som. The biggest bill of Uzbekistan Som is just 1000som, around USD$0.50. So if I am changing USD$100 into Som, I will have around 200 bills of 1000 Som. Since I don’t trust the guys at the border, I just changed some small amount. It takes a lot of effort to count every single bill and the money won’t even fit in my pocket. Sometimes money changer will give stacks of ~ 400 bills of 500 Som for a bill of USD$100.

Then took another shared taxi to Bukhara from Uzbekistan border (an hour drive, 16,000 som~USD$8). The taxi driver quote me 60,000 Som at the beginning. Took some effort to haggle the price down. I am tired of taxi drivers, in most countries, taxi drivers are just waiting to pounce of unsuspecting travellers. That’s why I seldom take taxi, it’s not so much about the money than the feeling of being cheated.

Got to Bukhara at 3pm. There are many hotels and B&B guesthouses in the old city. After visiting a few hotels around Lyabi Hauz square which most of the hotels and attractions are located, got a deal at Nasruddin guesthouse. (16,000 Som~USD8 for a room because it’s the low season).
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Around Lyabi Hauz area
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Use the back road to city center
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Finally ate something at 4.30pm. Plov is sort of the national dish of Uzbekistan, every region has a different way of cooking it. (3000 Som~USD$1.5)
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Got some fries at a caf? and the people there are very friendly.
Friendly owner of the cafe
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The owner even drove me to the Ark at the north part of town.
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I remembered some travellers told me that the Ark is a waste of money, so I didn’t go in.

Across the ark
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Walked around the old town, Lyabi Hauz area.
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A Uzbek girl, Habiba invited me to her house
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for tea and pasta.
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She told me that the average salary in Uzbek is just around USD$40 a month and life is pretty tough.

Camera shy
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It’s very quiet at night around the old city because weather is getting cold and most guesthouses are empty.

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Nov 22 2009

Merv and Turkmenabat, Turkmenistan

Took a taxi (USD$10) to Merv which is around 30km away. Merv is a UNESCO heritage site and is a pretty big area which not possible to walk around in just few hours. In its heyday it was known as a great center of Islam, like Damascu, Baghdad and Cairo. However today, almost nothing remains because the sons of Ghenghis Khan destroyed the city and slaughtered its population in the 12th century.

Kyz Kala
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The driver drove around Sultan Kala then to Erk Kala

The taxi driver dropped me at a shared taxi stand in Bairam Ali bazaar. Took a shared taxi at 12pm (20 new manat~USD$7) to Turkmenabat which is around 2 hours ride. Arrived at Turkmenabat at around 2pm and figured I might as well stay a night since it might be dark if I continued my journey to Bukhara.

Walked around and found Hotel Lebapgurlushyk. After haggling, I got the price down from 50 new manat to 35 new manat ~USD$13.
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Turkmenabat is the 2nd largest city with a population of around 200,000. There isn’t a lot to see or do in the city. I decided to stay overnight here since I always prefer to cross borders in the morning so I will have more time and won’t feel too much pressure from the border guards and taxi drivers.

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Besides Ashgabat, other cities in Turkmenistan looks very old and poor.
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Guess who?
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President’s Niyasov statue is everywhere

Zelyony Bazaar
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Found a small restaurant and had lamb soup (5 new manat~USD$1.8).

A friendly Turkmen waitress
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Ate Shashlyk for dinner (3 new manat~USD$1 for a stick) and met 2 travellers who traveled with their bikes at the restaurant. There weren’t not many travellers around Turkmenistan, so I was kind of surprise to meet the 2 cyclists.

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Nov 21 2009

Ashgabat to Mary, Turkmenistan

I have not been posting any videos recently because the connection speed in Iraq, Iran and Turkmenistan has been pretty slow. Furthermore, countries like Turkey and Iran are blocking youtube. I will try to post some videos when I get a chance.

Square
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Mr. President rotating with the sun
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Arch of Neutrality again
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Earthquake museum
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Took a bus to Tolkuchka Bazaar.
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Colorful cloths
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Shashlyk
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Sheepskin hat
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Turkmen’s carpet
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Cloths
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Korean Kimchi
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Went to the terminal at 2pm to get a shared taxi to Mary. Waited for an hour for the taxi to be full. The ride to Mary is around 350km and that took 4 hours. (20 new Manat~USD7).
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There weren’t any hostel in Mary and had to check in to a hotel. There is a different price for locals and foreigners for hotel accommodation. The hotel is pretty old and paid USD$30 for a crappy room. This is the most I have paid for a night of accommodation in my trip so far.
I can feel that spring under the mattress all over my body.
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Walked around Mary at night. Mary is not a big city, with a population of just around 100,000.
Typical white marble buildings
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Mr. President
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Mosque
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Witnessed a local Turkmen bar brawl later at night.

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