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Published: July 10th 2008
@ the Chorsu bazaar
I am now in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan and starting to feel like I'm functioning normally again after a week of madness. I have been suffering from a severe lack of sleep - partly my fault as I decided to have a big night (or two) in Bangkok over the weekend, but also because I was stressed about whether I was really going to be able to get my Uzbek visa processed in one day in Bangkok as regular processing time is 1 week. Thankfully all was sorted although only after having to sit in the Visa Office of the Consulate which resembled an interrogation or holding cell, locked in, for over an hour!
I was lucky to have met an Austrian guy on my flight who has been to Uzbekistan before, which saved me given that I wasn't armed with a Lonely Planet (LP), didn't know where I was going or how I was going to get there once I arrived! Chris told me he had previously stayed at a nice guesthouse for a decent price and with big breakfasts so I was sold! We made our way into town after battling a taxi driver who wanted to
mountains of bread
sold everywhere on the street and usually eaten at every meal.
charge us almost $10 to get into the city. We took the option of catching a bus for about 30c! Chris was right about the guesthouse. The breakfast provided is so filling that I haven't even been eating lunch, which says something! The family is Russian and they are lovely, all the mother seems to do is cook and eat so I'm a big fan!
This city is not instantly charming, but I think once you start peeling the layers there is definitely a lot that Tashkent has to offer. It is more widespread than I thought, and surprisingly green. There is such an eclectic mix of cultures and traditions. For example, you can walk down the street and see women wearing skimpy outfits and then men dressed in traditional coats and hats. There are the Russians, and then the Uzbeks and then the minorities from the other stan countries. Sometimes it is hard to tell them from each other, and what is harder is trying to decipher which language they are speaking.
The national language is now Uzbek (used to be Russian in the Soviet days), but there have been more people I've come across that speak
a yummy noodle dish with meat and vegetables.
Russian. Normally you have a hard time trying to learn the language of the country you're in, but here it's a matter of trying to learn words in two languages, both of which are very foreign to me. I am generally ok with remembering words and phrases in different languages, but having to figure out which language to speak in first is an obstacle in itself!
Having only been here a couple of days, I haven't explored many of the "sights" or learned a lot about the history as yet, but have definitely experienced some of the food, which has not disappointed so far. The bread here is delicious, it's like turkish bread but in the form of massive bagels! As you walk the streets, you can often smell the smoke wafting through the air from grilled shashlik or kebabs, and this region produces the largest amount of melons I've ever seen!
I attempted to try the Plov
here, which funnily enough translates as aphrodisiac in Uzbek. The LP noted that there is a Central Asian Plov Centre where there are all different types of Plov on offer, and also mentioned that Thursday was the day
to go, and to get there by midday to get the widest choice. Great timing given that today is Thursday, so I decided to venture out and try and find this place, and I envisaged a big building with a couple of floors housing Plov restaurants or eateries. After 1.5 hours I was still struggling to locate this Plov centre, even though I managed to find a few English speaking people to help me. It seems that nobody in this city knows where anything is, but they say that street names have been changed recently. I was thinking to myself though, how can these people not know about this Plov Centre - surely they eat there on occassion? After I was able to find 4 people that pointed me in the same direction, I arrived at a sidewalk restaurant on a random corner dishing up plov from only one big wok...I asked if this was the Plov Centre, and the answer was yes of course, can't you see?! I was not convinced at all but apparently this was it, definitely not what I had conjured up in my mind! In the end, I didn't have time to even taste the
at the so called "central asian plov centre"
Plov here as it took me so much longer than expected to go there that I had to get back to my guesthouse to check out and get to the hotel that my tour group is meeting at later today. Hopefully my second attempt at tasting the Plov will not end in disappointment!
A few bizarre things that I've learned or experienced since I've arrived:
• Buying still water is harder and more expensive than buying sparkling water! They seem to prefer sparkling water here, and some places don't even sell still water. If they do, it is sometimes more expensive than sparkling water!
• Every car in Tashkent is a potential Taxi. There are official registered taxis, which I haven't seen that many of, but if you need to get somewhere you can literally step out on the street and any old random car will pull over and offer themselves as a taxi. So you will never have any trouble getting around here!
• The currency here is the som
and the exchange rate is US$1 = 1300 som. So having changed $100, I am now walking around
with the thickest wad of cash I ever have! The lowest denomination note is 100 som, but some things are priced in denominations of 50. So when you pay for something that for eg is 250 som, and you give them 300, they can't give you change. Instead they give you individually wrapped lollies! Very funny..
• The metro stations here are all decorated with beautiful mosaics, large pillars and massive chandeliers. It's so strange getting on a train in any of the stations, because it feels like you're in a mosque or something. Unfortunately you're not allowed to take any photos because the metro is set up as a bomb shelter, similar to that of the Underground in London (I think).
My tour starts tonight and I'll be meeting some fellow travellers, of which I've hardly seen in the time that I've been here. I'm finding it hard to believe that I haven't come across 1 Aussie person as yet, normally it's so hard to get away from fellow Aussie travellers! But I must say, it is refreshing to walk through a foreign city that is full of local people only and when you are recognised as
these boys asked me to take a pic of them at Khast Imom. digital cameras are a novelty for them, and they were so excited to see their faces on the back of the screen.
a foreigner, people tend to want to help you or treat you nicely or get you to take photos of them which is a nice change!
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