Edit Blog Post
Published: June 19th 2011
Another day another country, and we are still being amazed by the sights and sounds we are being subjected to. We were worried that maybe the 'Stans' might all be a bit same samey, but in true Thai style, they are actually same same but different. Each country subtly differs from the other but of course the majority were built using the same foundations, Soviet foundations. Uzbekistan bears all the hallmarks of an ex-Soviet state and like its surrounding brothers has bad roads, lots of dry dusty desert and more Ladas than you can shake a stick at. However, unlike its siblings it is definately more progressive and has, which shocked us all, a thriving tourist trail.
The ancient towns of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand were once thriving merchant hot spots on the Silk Road, and now have been beautifully renovated and are attracting the tourist dollars or in this case thousands of Uzbek soms*.
Khiva, the first on our route was the smallest of the three towns and lies completely within a stone wall. People lived and died within these walls and are even buried in small tombs on the walls. Within the walls is an almost fairytale
like setting, beautiful medrassas, minarets and mosques all tiled in a distinctive blue and green and trimmed with gold. Second was Bukhara a slightly bigger more spread out version of Khiva but once again was filled with minarets and mosques all intricately decorated in multi-coloured tiles. Samarkand was the biggest of all, a thriving town of half a million people and home to Rajistan Square a fantastic place which combined all the colours and structures we had seen in the previous two towns.
Before we left Australia most people developed a quizzical look on their faces when we said we were visiting the 'Stans,"Why would you want to go there?" was the question asked most. Why do you travel? Do you go to lie on a beach and relax? Or do you go to far off places which most people can't spell let alone visit? The 'Stans are rich in history and culture, thousands of years ago historical figures such as Genghis Khan roamed these lands in search of power and glory, Alexander the Great reached these places and made his mark, there is much to see and do here but it is a real pain in the behind
Our final destination in Uzbekistan was the capital Tashkent, described as the 'Paris of the Soviet', its wide boulevards and modern infrastructure made it the first real city we've visited since Baku, Azerbaijan. Of course the prices shot up, the Irish bars started to appear and we even found a supermarket! We can't promise to offer great words of wisdom on where to visit or show off lots of cool photos as we were total cultural heathens and instead spent our full day at the local Aquapark. After travelling through 40 degree plus deserts over the last two weeks a day at the water park complete with slides and ice cream was just what the body needed, and I think it actually got rid of some of the dust we had collected since Turkmenistan.
Our itinerary has now changed as in Uzbek we were told China has closed Tibet's borders. We are absolutely gutted as this was one of the main reasons we chose this route, but what can be done when politics gets in the way? Instead we will be spending up to a month in China before veering right and heading towards South East
Asia. In the meantime Susan's camera committed suicide and my camera has just about died so we are now hoping for some good luck. If you have any spare please send to: Zoe and Susan, Bushcamp, Somewhere in Kyrgystan.
Next stop is two days in Kazakhstan and then in Kyrgi for ten days. We will then be crossing the 140km No man's Land into China at the end of the month. Blogs may
be a bit difficult but we will try our best.
Till next time.
*Please note the high denomiation in Uzbek soms is 1000. Which equates to $0.50. So when our dinner bills for a large group came to 120,000 soms, we did indeed have to count out 120,000 individual notes. There is talk of a 5000 soms note, but no one has ever seen it. On a more lighter note, playing Texas Hold 'Em with 35,000 up for grabs is actually quite a rush!
Tot: 3.955s; Tpl: 0.012s; cc: 10; qc: 67; dbt: 0.0769s; 3; m:domysql w:travelblog (10.17.0.13); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb