Published: September 2nd 2010July 26th 2010
Dushanbe (Tajik: Душанбе, Dushanbe; Dyushambe until 1929, Stalinabad until 1961), population 679,400 people (2008 est.), is the capital and largest city of Tajikistan. Dushanbe means "Monday" in Tajik, and the name reflects the fact that the city grew on the site of a village that originally was a popular Monday marketplace. (WIKI INFO)
For the last month or so I have been travelling with Russ and now we split as he takes on Uzbekistan while I have another week to chill in Kyrg. I had the intention of spending some time in Arslanbob, near the town of Jalalabad, I went online and had a look at things to do, the place sounds promising, walnut forests, waterfalls, great hiking opportunities but the problem was majority of LP thorn tree forum reviews on the CBT there was bad and since I am alone I was hoping they could help me out find other fellow hikers to share the cost, but it seems now that CBT has gone bad and only wanted money from tourists, so rather than deal with that i decided at last minute to just hang out in Bishkek. I made the decision after breakfast on the day I
was supposed to leave, the Belgian bikers went on to Naryn and I was left with Chris, a motorbiker from Switzerland, we explored the city again on foot, scoured the Osh bazaar and ended the day at the Zirgal banya, the big cold pool was so refreshing we stayed for hours in the banya. In the eve, returning to the hostel at Nomad's house I have a new dorm mate,Joseph from France, here on an internship program working for a tourism agency. The 3 of us shared dinner and beer.
The next day Chris and I wanted to go to Ala Archa gorge for a day hike, it has rained the night before and now it's cloudy and windy, we followed the LP directions for cheap transport, standing at the Sovitskaya street for ages waiting for the bus that never came, we contemplated on taxi but they are asking for 1000 soms when LP said only 200soms. It should have not increased that high, we felt we are being conned so we ditched the idea and instead did some errands in town, we looked for my travel agent to confirm my flight to Isfana, I was assured I can
cross the border to Khojand from there but gut feeling tells me not, LP never mentioned this crossing so we went online and I found a Tajik travel website where all the crossings between Kyrg and Taj were listed and who can cross it, Isfana-Proletarsk crossing isonly for locals! So i hurried back to the agency and changed my bookings to fly straight to Dushanbe, the Batken flight is booked through till 2 weeks from now! I was told most who escaped the Osh violence are now slowly returning home but did not want to take the road so the flights are full. 2 police officers stopped us near the Ala too square and asking for our passports, they wanted us to get in the car, we suspected foul play so we just walked away from the scene, they could not do a thing, they never chased us, we knew what they are after, bastards!
Having sorted my mess we now looked for the Mongolian embassy for Chris to apply for a visa, we walked in the rain only to be told he has to get to Alma-ata, Kaz to get it. Exhausted we had lunch in one of
the parks in town eating our supposed to be day trek picnic basket sortee'. We then went back to Nomad's. A new addition to our group, Johanne from Innsbruck, Austria, quite a funny fellow, very Austrian in every way! He joined us for dinner and a few beers. The next day we said goodbye to Chris as he motorbike his way to Almaty, Chris and I went to town to play tourist again, we searched for the map office in town so he can buy his trekking maps.Then again to Osh bazaar where we bought Korean pickled veggies for lunch and had a picnic in the park, it was a pretty sunny day a stark contrast from yesterday. We of course ended the day at the banya once again, it's addictive, the sauna and steam bath and the cold pool makes you relax and distress, backpacking is hard you know.
The French sister Emily and Joanne came that night, great to see them again, we had a fun night drinking and eating, they left the next afternoon, Johanne and I went to town again and to Alameddin bazaar, I had my shoes fixed, he bought his provisions for his
solo hike. An Israeli dude joined us that night, he seemed weird but we warmed up to him later. We had a great last dinner together, and we bought Kyrgyz cognac which was superb! Early morning I was dropped off at the airport by Ernest from Nomad's, i got there too early, A security officer started to chat with me, at first I was a bit defensive then I warmed up to him, very friendly guy, just bored I guess, he asked for my passport then asked about my life why i am still single etc. He is a muslim, he wanted to get married in 3 months, he said he had met prospective wifes to be,and interviewed them, she has to be younger than him and muslim, he wants to have more than one wife in the future, good looking lad so I won't be surprised if he does have more than one wife, but how about finance? Life is hard here, great insights on young men of the marrying age here.
I checked in to my flight, I met a Finn named Tapio we are in the same flight, our plane is an old looking Soviet type
twin propeller engine plane, I thought it would never lift off! the seats are old all signs in cyrillic, compartments were old fashioned, I felt like in a movie set of an old Russian movie. the flight was about 3 hours, I passed out quickly, the cognac is still alive in me. Arriving in Dushanbe, Tapio applied for his visa at the airport whilel i tried to elbow my way into the immigration booth, they don't queue up here! I waited for Tapio at the baggage claim, an Iranian woman was talking to me, she wants me to visit her country, she is here transitting for Teheran, lives in Bishkek. Tapio came out and we walked to the departure hall to get money, it's in another building to the right of the arrivals hall. Then the locals helped us to find a bus to the center, someone pointed us to bus 8, so cheap! It was slow though and all the locals stare at us but they are very friendly, Rudaki, the main drag is filled with leafy boulevards, big tall trees lined up the center island opposite tall buildings from both sides, certainly nicer than Bishkek. Nice pink, pastel
buildings too. We got off somewhere, we found an Italian place for brunch then walked to find the Acted homestay, took awhile and in this heat I got exhausted easily, everyone was kind to point us to the right direction. we found it, $15 a night with breakfast nice place and not a pit toilet anymore as LP mentioned, what a relief. 3 beds in our room(maybe the only room), I left Tapio and I took a walk into town, i found the Voshebni Sir internet cafe near our place the dude who works there is so friendly, i tried to skype my CS friend but i can't connect so he lent me his cell phone and never accepted me to pay, kind heart, Kahid his name was, just happy to help a foreigner, spoke perfect English too, the kids in my street were all saying hello to me, word got out there's a foreigner in town, they are so welcoming here I love it already. it was too hot to do much though, i visited the Museum of Antiquities but it was shut the area is nice, looks like rich people live in the neighborhood, i took the trolley
bus back and met up with Tapio in the homestay.
We had dinner at Salsa, an Ecuadorian restaurant, food was good but small serving, I called Firuz from couch surfing, he is at Hotel Dushanbe attending his cousin's wedding, the staff at the restaurant talked to him on the phone to know where we are exactly, then we got told they will hire a taxi for us and we will be dropped off at Dushanbe hotel, ok so we paid quickly, the staff here will bend over backwards to help you. We bartered for the taxi fare, it started at 20 somonis and we got it down to 10, the driver wasn't happy but took us anyway. At the swank Dushanbe hotel i made the reception staff call Firuz to let him know we are here, he appeared 5 minutes later and instantly I felt at ease, very charming kind dude, he introduced us to his family, brother, father, cousins, we then got invited to the celebration inside, lots of singing, dancing, we filmed some the only thing we noticed is the married couple does not seem to be enjoying, with a forced smile they parade around the room
and out towards the car outside for the finale goodbye with guests, after all is said and done, our throats are parched so we asked Firuz if we can have a few drinks, he said there's a lot of left over booze from the tables so he got us a half full bottle of fine Tajik cognac, score! After bidding him bye and hope to meet him to stay with him in a week's time, we sat down in the lobby and downed the fine smooth cognac. We don't belong here, in shirts and casual t shirts, if we were not foreigners we would have been thrown out.
We walked back to the GH and stopped by the store next door to the homestay, a woman there will get married tomorrow and we chatted with her for a bit, they are very friendly people here and tries their best to speak in English, anyway, back to the homestay we quickly passed out, it cooled a bit that night but the room is stuffy. off to Penjikent tomorrow.
There are more photos below