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Published: September 30th 2016
After Khiva, after Bukhara, here is Samarkand. The big question is...in which order is it better to visit these three amazing cities. For me Khiva will remain the favorite. Samarkand is a huge city...with some stunning sites...but the feeling of the place lose a lot to it.
I was not very sure I wanted to take another shared taxi. So I went the easy way from Bukhara and took a fast train. It's still 3 hours apprt from both cities, but the train is pretty comfortable.
I had the first issue of my few days of traveling in Central Asia. Had done a booking through booking.com. On arrival, they wanted me to pay the black market rate...which was a solid rip-off. Argued with the manager...that did not go nicely...and took my bag and left. 20 minutes later, I was settle in a lovely little family pension for less than 12usd per night!
It was time to hit again the sites. I kept the Registan as the last of my day adventures. Samarkand is more expensive than Bukhara, and way more expensive than Khiva. I was pretty impress by the shrines at Shah-i-Zinda.
Walk all the way out there and back, and yes, it was closer to 40 degrees than any cool 35!
later on, I took a taxi for the shrine of Gur-e Amir. The complex hold the tomb of on of the heroes of past Uzbekistan. The place is truly stunning. And yes, it was already time to head for the Registan. So you guess, not a lot to see in Samarkand. The city is pretty big, I could see it just by the taxi ride to the train station. But it's a mix of not that visible Old City, and some way less interesting old soviet buildings.
So do you come to Samarkand only for the Registan...well....it is a simple good reason to come here. There are three main buildings making this place. All placed around a massive central square. Each building has an interior courtyard. Guess what, none of those from the inside is close to amazing. You come for the outside grandiose of the ensemble here....from the inside, it lose a lot of the grandeur!
I was offered the climb to the top of one of the minaret. It's
just a 2usd bribe for the guard to let you in. I didn't ask, he did...but I had read about it in my very useful Lonely Planet Central Asia. You climb a very narrow stairs....it's nothing else than a tube, in boiling conditions obviously. The told me...once on the top, do stay on the stairs...do not climb on the roof!
Well, I did reach the top...going on that tiny 2 square meter roof...are you mad or what...I love my life. The view from the top is simply amazing. You have the feeling that you have Samarkand for yourself. Trust me, if you get the chance to do it...say yes...and don't climb on the roof!
I spend some time chatting with the locals on the main square. There is not many international tourists here too...but many locals, who are more than happy to speak English with you.I even had a chance to go on a serious talk about the differences between Shiites and Sunnites...a very open discussion, in a not so open country when it does come to free speach.
They keep the Registan main square open to just after nightfall. You
end up getting the place for yourself as they fence it at some point not letting more people in. So what I did was to spend time during the afternoon...had an early dinner next door...and came back just before 7pm, to be let in again...and spend a good 90 minutes more enjoying the show of the light changing...and the illumination kicking in.
That was a log day, my bed was waiting for me. Next morning, I was back in a taxi early morning, for my next train, this time to the Tashkent...a very different affair!
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