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July 7th 2016
Published: July 11th 2016
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July 7 - I woke up at 4am due to some sound, but slept poorly after that. I got up at 6am and the morning was rushed. I was repacking, but it was louder than I'd hoped and I was going slow to compensate, though it may not have worked well. I left the room at 6:40 for breakfast, but of course it wasn't ready on time. I was supposed to leave at 7am and by 6:50 there was no food and the guy with my registration slip was asleep. The breakfast girl woke him up and then brought my breakfast in two stages at 7am. I had to eat so quickly, it was really unpleasant. Then I met a taxi driver outside and he dropped me off at the train station. Well, nearby. I guess they are building a new building, but I couldn't actually tell where to go. Someone eventually helped and then I was able to get on the train after the baggage control.

Business class did not look like business class - just 6 seats in a compartment with a tv that played loud and irritating music and the comedy videos in Uzbek. Even Mr. Bean made an appearance. We left slightly late and arrived later than I thought, but it was cool in the train and super hot and sunny outside, so that was ok. I got another taxi to the B&B, after a drawn out conversation about price. Taxi drivers the world over are just terrible people. At least in that scenario. I checked into the hotel and found that the owners are brothers who studied in Florida, in Ft. Myers. Pretty cool connection. I'm staying in a single room here and it is so nice to have my own space for a short while. I feel guilty about spending double the money to have this tiny piece of paradise, but it feels good. The main reason I've been staying in dorms is because I had to bring a lot of money in cash to these countries, because there is no way to access my money otherwise, for the most point. But that means if I spend too much now, I might not have what I need later. And the Pamir highway trip that will start next week is going to be pretty pricey.

I stayed in my room for a bit, to relax and because it was so hot out. Eventually I made it out and went for a walk. I bought a bread for lunch, like everyday, and started at the Registan, which is the premier site here and not far from where I'm staying. And oh my, wow. Just beautiful. Three separate buildings all together, and just lovely. And huge. I didn't buy a ticket today because they are good for the whole day, and I'd rather go tomorrow so I can stop by and see the sun on the buildings at different times. But I got some good pics just standing in the area.

Next up was a walk towards the more modern Russified part of town, but it was quite a walk, so I didn't get as far as I'd planned. I did go to Timur's mausoleum though, while I was in the area. He ruled here back in the 14th century. He's in the same genre as Alexander the Great and Ghengis Khan. Next I walked to a large mosque and walked around there. It has been redone but it is still crumbling in parts, as there are areas that still need restoration. I also stopped at a bazaar and bought a snack for later. Last up was part of the old town. I looked for a couple of buildings and didn't see them, but this whole part of town is hidden away behind new walls to keep the ugly daily life away from the tourists. Strange.

I was back in my room at 6pm and at 7pm I was meeting Geertje, the German girl I met in Bukhara one morning. We had exchanged details and planned to meet here to go to Dushanbe together. Do you remember the Uzbek woman I met on the plane to Tashkent? Well, she had suggested that when I came to Samarkand I should email her, as she knew a girl who could show me around and practice her English. So last night I sent her an email and today she sent me the girl's phone number. I called her from the hotel and she said she would come tonight to show up around a little. She was late so I went to meet Geertje and then we met Guly there. She's a lovely girl who is 22, and she was raised in an SOS orphanage. This is the organization that the women I met on the plane works for. She met us and showed us around (to all of the sites I'd already seen) and it was really nice to talk to someone local. The only bummer was that I was starving, and finally at 9:30 we looked for somewhere nearby for me and Geertje to eat (Guly would eat at home), but no luck. So we went to the supermarket and I ended up with two peaches and a banana. But there was nothing else if you weren't cooking. We all agreed to meet tomorrow evening at 6pm. Back in the room, one of the peaches wasn't good, so I ate the snack I bought earlier, before heading to bed.

July 8 - Another full day. Woke up around 7:30 and went to breakfast at 8:30. One girl was there but didn't talk to me, so it was boring. Afterwards I worked a little on the internet and then realized data is limited, so that is not good. I wanted to talk to Jeroen later, but had no idea how much data anything takes, and was worried to use too much. Got organized and out the door by 9:45 and headed to the Registan. It's the main monument here, from the 1600s, and is composed of three large buildings. It's enormous. A lot of restoration when into fixing these buildings up and they are beautiful. Maybe the area is too beautiful. Artificial walls have been constructed that basically hide the real life side of things away from the tourists eye. Really strange actually.

Anyway, I took pictures of the building in the morning light and then went over to Geertje's hostel to see if she was around. She was just checking out and then we went for a walk together. I wanted to visit Ancient Samarkand, where some even older finds were discovered. On the way we stopped into a cemetery and walked around. This led directly into the paid site of old mausoleums from Timur's time, but we basically got in through the back door this way. They were very highly decorated and beautiful buildings. We went back out the same way and carried on towards the destination. At some point Geertje lost interest and headed back, and I continued on. It was hot and a long walk, but I eventually got to the old observatory. It wasn't much to see, but cool anyway. Then I headed back for ten minutes and went to the Afrosiab museum. It was built around a 7th century fresco. The ticket lady was asleep so I walked in and around the first floor. Someone else was asleep as well. Then a lady came and asked me if I had a ticket. First she let me look at the fresco and take pictures. She said it cost 5000 som to take pictures, which it did, but I said no thanks. She said 3000. No. She said 2000. Then she just said to take them. Then I used their bathroom and paid for a ticket. I looked around upstairs next and she kept trying to sell me handmade goods. No. Kind of sucky to walk in a museum and be hassled, but ok.

From there I stopped in the info office and bought a few postcards and stamps. Before I filled them out, the Japanese girl who was working in the info office asked me, as a native English speaker, to see if the survey she was working on sounded ok. I helped her out and she gave me a bottle of water. That was nice. She said she would take the postcards to the post office, but that sometimes they are late or never arrive. We shall see.

On the way back I stopped again at the Registan and took some more pictures, with different light. I bought a bottle of water and finally made it back around 4pm. I then called Guly and canceled for tonight. I am tired and will be hungry and did not want to be out late again. And it takes her 30 minutes to get here, so it seemed like too much time for a short time together. I also wrote in my journal outside next to a cat that I pet for ten minutes in the hotel courtyard. So sweet.

I made plans to meet Geertje for dinner at 6:45pm at the viewing platform of the Registan. I went a little early to go back for some evening light pictures, but the light was different due to some diffuse clouds. Still nice though. I also noticed there were a lot of wedding photo shoots happening. I could see four brides at one point, and got a picture of each one. It was madness.

We ate at a place nearby - maybe it was already closed last night when we looked. We had salad, grilled tomatoes, shish kebabs of beef, bread, and a couple dumplings and tea. It came to a whopping $4 combined. Pricey. From there we went back to look at the Registan in the dark, and we sat there and chatted a while. Then there were these boys who wanted to talk to us to practice their English. I would normally not trust this scenario, but they really just did want to talk. They were between 18-25 years old and they were pretty sweet. We ended up talking to them for over an hour, and then walking to get ice cream. Instead we passed by a wedding party that was happening and watched that for a while. The music was loud and there was dancing. It was an open building, so we could see everything. And there were a bunch of poor people at the gate, not going in but waiting outside. I saw a waiter putting all of the extra meat into a plastic bag and give it to one of the women outside. A few kids and one woman begged me for money. Uncomfortable.

From there we walked back and I said good night. I had been planning to have an early night, but did not get back until 10:30pm Everything social here is at night, when the weather is cooler. Whole families are out until the early morning hours. Back in my room, I washed my clothes in the sink before getting a shower. I realize "washing" is too strong a term for what I am doing. It is more rinsing out the sweat than the dirt. But I should smell better tomorrow.

My feet are so dry that in two weeks they have developed cracks. The cracks are now becoming canyons into my soul. I need to think about buying some sort of lotion and hope for the best. I should have brought stuff with me, but I convinced myself it was a short enough trip not to need anything. So so wrong. My hair is also dry, like straw. It is taking a beating from the sun. On the ends, anyway. The top is greasy. Can't win. I seriously need to wash it and hope for the best. But then it will be wavy and frizzy. The worst.

July 9 - (see Shakhrisabz for the first half of the day)

Got back to the hotel and had a message from Geertje. She thought we could go to the border by train , but the guy in my hotel said there is only a train in the middle of the night, every other night. And that leaves tonight. I'm already paying for this room, so I don't think it makes sense to try for that.

I had a shower to wash my hair. I have a shampoo bar and a solid conditioner. It was not good. I tried them once before and didn't like them, but I was hoping it would go better. Maybe it's the conditioner, but my hair felt coated with something gross after using it. When it dried, it did not get better. I feel like it is dirtier now than when I started. Such a disappointment.

After the shower, I decided to try to find Geertje's hotel so we could talk, but I had the wrong one, so it was a waste of time. I came back after buying some more water, and then decided to go to dinner with the Swiss couple and Japanese guy who were also staying in the hotel. We went to a local place, and I had soup and a kebab and salad. We also had some watermelon.

Back at the hotel, there was another message from Geertje saying she had arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 6:30am. This taxi would drive us to the share taxi place outside of the city, to the place where taxis drive to the border, and he would help arrange a price. That was a relief, as it was already after 9pm and I was getting worried. I paid the hotel, some of it in dollars and some in som. I needed some som for the taxis the next day, but wasn't too sure how much, but didn't want to end up with too much leftover, in case I couldn't change it back easily. Money changing is always a hard thing to deal with. Got packed up and tried to relax with my book before bed.

Additional photos below
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13th July 2016
Registan at night

Impressive beauty in your pics Jenni. Also looks like beautiful open spaces and clean for such an ancient place.
13th July 2016
Me and the Registan

Your smile says it all.

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