July 4 - I feel like I've never started a blog post with how much sleep I've gotten. This will be no exception. Last night I thought I would get to sleep pretty early, but in the end it was about 11:30pm when I finished reading. It's been hard for me to get sleepy earlier, despite being tired, but more importantly, it's a dorm and the light was still needed by others. Another problem is my earplugs. The pair I've been using no longer seem to work and I've got a new pair to use tonight, but that is all. I should have brought more. I hope they get me through the trip. A guy in my room got up at 4:45 to go to the bathroom, so I woke up then. It was also a little cold from the air con. Hard to go back to sleep. But the worst part is the other girl in my room. She woke up around 5:45 and started repacking. Everything. And everything seems to be in plastic bags. It was so loud and just rude. I don't know why it is so hard to know how to be considerate of others. By 6:45
I just had to get up, even though I was still tired. I could not lay there any longer or I would smack her.
I went outside to the courtyard and waited until 7:30 to order breakfast. She came out as well, since she was leaving early, but I didn't feel like chatting. Richard came out too, since it was impossible to sleep. After breakfast I repacked and by 8:45 or so it was time to go. We were taking a share taxi to Bukhara and the driver came to pick us up. We then drive to Urgench to pick up the other two passengers. It did not take long. By 9:30 we were on the road. And what a road it was. Dusty, bumpy, pot-holed. Some of it was good highway, some of it had so many large holes that we drove in the gravel next to the road. Sometimes we drove in the middle of the road, sometimes all the way to the left, when there was no oncoming traffic. Always at the fastest speed he could go. We passed many cars and trucks. I read the chapter on Bukhara in my guide book. I read my
novel. I tried to sleep. We stopped for gas twice. At the gas stations here, everyone but the driver has to get out of the car before it pulls in to fuel up. Weird. It was a cloudy day and even raining a little when we left. Thankful for that, as it made it much more comfortable. The car had the windows down and I was soon covered in a thin veneer of dust. I was sitting in the back on the left, not squished in the middle, which was nice. We made the trip in much shorter time than expected - less than six hours. Towards the end we lost the hubcap, went back for it, and stopped at a nearby shop for the guy to hammer it back on.
We finally got into Bukhara and stopped near the hotel, but he was not sure exactly where it was. We waited 10 minutes for him to figure out it was basically across the street. Bukhara is a much nicer town than Tashkent, and much larger than Khiva. It is considered the holiest site in Central Asia and has many beautiful old buildings spread around. Richard and I checked
into the dorm and eventually walked around the town for a bit. It was nice to wander with someone, because it meant I didn't have to use my map or be concerned about where exactly I was. I just took some pictures and enjoyed looking around. We ended up back at the hotel and then went for some dinner. My first real dinner. I finished the antibiotics today, which is exciting. I think things are getting back to normal now. The food here is greasy, so it' a good test, I suppose. After dinner, I came back, had a shower, and hand-washed my clothes. The same outfit I've been wearing for nine days. I had washed the shirt once before, but this was the first time for the pants. I don't know why I like having so many clean clothes in reserve, rather than on my body. There is just something defeatist about putting on clean clothes, knowing they will be sweaty in minutes. But it is nice knowing there is the possibility of putting on lean clothes if I want to. Tomorrow I am going to wear a new outfit, so that should please all of you who care
about such things.
July 5 - The dorm has air con and I woke up very cold last night. I grabbed my towel and put that on top of the sheet for an extra blanket. I had trouble getting back to sleep, and slept on and off until about 7am. I got up and looked out the window and saw that my clothes were no longer on the drying rack. I asked someone from the hostel and he said to wait a second. Then he had me go up to the room of three people who were leaving this morning. The hotel did their laundry yesterday and included my clothes in the ones returned to them. I had to sort through their clean clothes to find my clothes. Funny, but so glad I was up early to catch them. I had talked to them briefly last night. They're from Slovenia and are driving a car back to Slovenia from here. Afterwards I had breakfast with two others - an Australian guy and a girl from Germany. She was very chatty and just finished a PhD in physics. She headed off for Khiva but will join me in Samarkand to
get a taxi to Tajikistan later this week. He was heading off to Iran via Kazakhstan tonight. Almost everyone I meet is going to or has been to Iran on this trip. I know that Iran does not strike most of my friends as a safe place to visit, but everyone I've ever met has only said good things about their trip and the people they meet there. Super friendly. The only problem is that Americans, Canadians, and Brits have to be on a guided tour to go there, making it very expensive and not very fun. Also, I read that Europeans who go there cannot simply go to the states on an ESTA (visa-free basically). I think Jeroen would have to have an interview to enter the states if he went to Iran, and the visa could be denied. I'm not sure, but it seems like a chance not worth taking.
Anyway, he gave me a lot of good advice about my trip, as he is coming from the direction I am heading. Breakfast was good - small servings of many things - egg, bread, yogurt, noodles, rice, sausage...It was filling. After breakfast I tried to change money,
but the guy in the hotel wasn't around. So I got ready and headed out for a day in the sun. The past few days have had their share of clouds, so this was much hotter again. Feeling like my skin is actually burning all the time. I am getting a nice brown, for me, anyway. I have two full days here when I probably only needed one, so I thought I would go methodically through the sites in my book based on where they are. I visited ones that were close to the hotel first and then decided to go see one that was slightly in the other direction, in case the lighting was right. I had to take some alleys to get there, but it was very cool to see in person. It's called Char Minar, and it is actually the building on the cover of my Lonely Planet. It looks somewhat more photoshopped and stunning there, but it was very cool.
I visited a lot more buildings, going inside some and taking my time. It was very hot and I sweated all day. The last main site I saw is called the Ark. It is a
city within a city, and it where the Emir (king) of Bukhara used to live. The last one was there until 1920 when the Bolsheviks attacked. He then went to live in Afghanistan, in Kabul. I decided to have a tour of the Ark, because the cost for the tour and ticket was about $3. He spent an hour showing me around and telling me about it. Quite worth it. And as I was leaving, I stood just inside the entrance, in the shade, looking at my map to see where to go. A woman walked in past me, and than came back and said "Take one of these." She had a plastic bag with still warm fresh doughy pastries. She told me that everyone will be cooking them, because today is the last day of Ramadan, and tomorrow there is a big celebration. The scent of the pastries cooking is supposed to go to heaven, for the dearly departed. Pretty cool, and so nice to stop and give me one. People here are really very nice.
Next up I tried to find the old city walls, which were not too far way. I got mostly there and then
this man selling books started to talk to me and tried to sell me some books about Uzbekistan in English. He was very nice actually, and he didn't really speak English. While I was standing there, Richard walked up. The guy was trying to explain something and then he called his son and had me talk to him, since he spoke English. It was pretty cute. Eventually he pointed out the ways to walk to the wall remnants and off we went. From there we went to the Zindon, the jail of old. It is not so large and we looked at the old cells, including what could be called the pit of despair, as it was a hole that people, including two British officers, were kept in with bugs and scorpions, etc. Not a nice place to be. Especially for these two guys - they were eventually executed after two years for some political point. The guy who worked there then showed us some old pictures of the place and asked what our names were. He looked at me funny and we realized he is the guy I talked to on the phone! It was his dad that was
trying to sell us books! Such a small world.
From there we walked back to the hotel and I had some time out of the sun to relax. I also chatted a bit with some new people as well as the Australian again. Eventually it was dinner time, and Richard and I went out for a meal. We ended up at a place across from the Ark and had some salad and meal that was unfortunately named Beef Jiz. It was basically a stir fry of beef and veggies, but with different flavors. Very tasty. We also split a two liter bottle of water. By the time we walked out of there, I felt super bloated. Walking was hard. We walked over to a place that I had seen earlier, but that he had missed out on. The sun was setting, and along the way I got some nice shots of a building in the evening light. Maybe tomorrow I can time it slightly earlier to have it look even nicer.
July 6 - This day has been a bit of a mish-mash today. Last night I slept with a blanket in the a/c, and that was much
better. I tried to sleep in, but Richard and the Japanese guy were up early to leave, so I gave up and had breakfast around 7:30. The internet wasn't working - typical for mornings here - so I went out to a ticket office to buy a train ticket. It's a bit of a walk in a direction I hadn't been before. When I got where I thought it would be, I stopped in a shop to ask directions. She told me to come in and then was on the phone, apparently trying to sort out my life for me. She didn't speak much English at all, but figured out I was going to Samarkand tomorrow in the morning. She made a bunch of calls, and her husband was also making a bunch of calls, and eventually he handed the phone to me. I talked to the person on the other end, but they didn't seem to speak much English either. Between English, we managed to say I wanted to go to Samarkand tomorrow morning. Then I gave the phone back to the guy. Next she showed me out the door and pointed to the building I needed to go
to. When I got there, it was the ticket office and the guy did not seem to be the one I talked to. So I have no idea what that twenty minutes was about, but it was funny. He said all the economy tickets were sold out, so I bought a business class ticket. It was only $8, but still annoying. Someone just told me that they don't let foreigners buy economy class, but Richard bought one yesterday. Who knows? Either way, I have to get up early and get a taxi to the train station at 7am.
After the ticket office, I walked back to the hotel to drop off my passport and ticket. Then I headed out to see a few things left on my list. I went to a photo gallery. It was small but had some good images. Next up was a mausoleum buried somewhere in the alleyways, but I could not find it. Then I tried to find a museum house in the same area, and eventually got there with some directions, but it was closed. Then back to the hotel. So hot outside. I hid in my room for a bit and turn
The minaret is huge - 45 m tall
It used to be the tallest building in Central Asia. Ghegis Khan spared it because he thought it was so impressive.
on the a/c and the tv, for the first time. I found a news channel in English, and kept it on while I checked email and ate the bread I had leftover from yesterday.
Then I headed back out again, this time to find the Jewish cemetery. I found it, but it was underwhelming. I came back and hung out for a bit, talking to a German guy who is also in the dorm, but in the other room. He went to the summer palace today, and I had been thinking of going. I decided to give it a try, so I headed out again and walked back to the same area as the ticket office to find bus 7, according to my book. It never came, so I asked the next bus and they said yes and off we went. I was the last stop but it turned out it was a sanitarium, not the place I was looking for. They figured it out and then drove me there. It was luckily quite close. At the summer palace I took some pictures and saw some of the insides of the buildings. Very very decorated. At the end, the
#7 bus was magically waiting in front of the palace, so when it was ready to go, I got in. Got back to the hotel and again, relaxed a bit.
Then went out AGAIN. What a mad crazy day. This morning the hotel guy asked if I wanted dinner here and I said yet. Dinner would be at 8pm, so I went out at 7pm to have a look at sunset light, to see a little more than yesterday. It really was pretty. I ran into Sophia and Finn, two kids on their gap year who are staying at my hotel. She's going to Cambridge next year and is super chill. Nice couple. We walked back to the hotel and had dinner and it was very good. I went from starving to sated very quickly. There were two different salads, soup, main course, ice cream and four mini fruits. A tiny peach, plum, apple and pear. So cute. I could only eat two fruits so I will bring the others with me tomorrow on the train.
I paid for dinner and asked him to stamp my registration. Every hotel is Uzbekistan has to register you for every night
you are in the country. The authorities may or may not look at them on the way out, but you better have them. The others all have an official stamp. He seemed not to think this is important, but I left it with him to stamp tonight just in case.
After dinner I showered, and started repacking a bit. Some of it has to wait until tomorrow, but I always feel bad making noise in the morning. My room is empty, but the adjoining room now has four people - the German guy, and three people from Germany who are driving their own car. So is the German. I had no idea so many people would do that here.
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