Page 2 of hkwoody Travel Blog Posts


Middle East » Iran » West » Esfahan September 29th 2015

The Persian proverb "Esfahan is half of the world" (which if Google translate has worked is what the title of this blog says in Farsi) is hyperbole but it is a spectacular place with a huge square, many mosques, palaces, bridges, and a fantastic bazaar. Where it definitely isn't half the world is in restaurants – perhaps the biggest challenge we faced during our days there was finding something local to eat, one night we even resorted to pizza and a Subway style sandwich ffs !!! True to form the people were friendly, chatty and hospitable, inviting us for tea even when they weren't trying to sell us something or when we told them we weren't going to buy anything – despite Esfahani's being known for their selling skills and fondness for money. We did though ... read more
Imam Mosque
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
Sheihk Lotfollah Mosque

Middle East » Iran » South » Persepolis September 26th 2015

Not many words or photos but Persepolis is historically significant enough to get it's own entry. We were lucky, our guides had arranged for one of the previous archaeologists to give us a tour. Not only was he knowledgeable but he was also an interesting, lively, rebellious old boy who had no hesitation in sharing with us his stories of wine drinking and hunting and eating wild boar. I guess when you get into your 80's you can afford to be a bit less cautious. The ruins themselves show how advanced the technologies of the ancient Persians were with running water, sewage treatment and precise construction methods. It was an amazing feeling to walk through such a historic place.... read more
Persepolis
Persepolis
Persepolis

Middle East » Iran » South » Shiraz September 25th 2015

Shiraz feels more liberal when compared with Yazd or especially Mashad. The people have kept at least some of the spirit and attitude that in pre-revolution days made the city the entertainment capital of Persia. The women dress more colourfully and push at the limits of acceptability with scarves worn far back on their heads. Many people enjoy socialising and eating out. Shirazi wine is still illicitly produced and drunk. That said this is still Iran and everybody, at least in public, is respectful of their religion. Our first day started with a visit to the beautiful Nasir al Molk Mosque where the morning sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows creates a kaleidoscope of colour. As another demonstration of the schizophrenia sometimes found here it has an official Instagram account even though Facebook is banned ... read more
Nasir al Molk Mosque
Nasir al Molk Mosque
Nasir al Molk Mosque

Middle East » Iran » East » Yazd September 23rd 2015

Getting into Iran was straightforward but slow. We knew we were here as soon as we got off the bus that had brought us from the Turkmenistan immigration post. On one hand a bored, surly soldier interrupted his watching of a volleyball match on the tv to grunt at me to change my shorts for long trousers (shorts are banned here), and for Atsuko to put on her headscarf. On the other the immigration doctor was quite apologetic assuring us that once we got away from officialdom things would be much easier and attitudes different, happily he was right. Our bags were searched so no chance of smuggling in any illicit beer, it's going to be a dry couple of weeks, at least it should be good for our livers. As we have a guide – ... read more
Jame Mosque, Yazd
Jame Mosque, Yazd
Amir Chakhmagh Complex, Yazd

Asia » Turkmenistan » Mary September 21st 2015

Our last impression of Uzbekistan was, like our first, pretty good. The border guards gave us no hassle, were friendly, and reasonably quick. Perhaps we were just lucky. It was pretty much the same on the Turkmen side although they did the most thorough search of our bags so far. From getting out of the taxi in Uzbekistan to getting into the car in Turkmenistan took about an hour and a half – not too bad by local standards. First stop in Stan 4 was Kunye Urgench for some (more) mausoleums. The Turkmens take a different approach to the Uzbeks, rather than restoring historic buildings they just stop them falling down, although perhaps not as spectacular we thought it worked better. Then we were off on another long desert crossing, this time the Karakum, to our ... read more
Door to Hell
Door to Hell
Door to Hell

Asia » Uzbekistan » Karakalpakstan » Moynaq September 14th 2015

We'd envisaged Moynaq being a dying, decaying ghost town but the reality was quite different. The population was bigger and younger than we'd expected and whilst there were quite a few abandoned buildings and not that many shops, restaurants etc there was plenty of activity. There are programmes underway to increase the number of newly created lakes and wetlands around the town and to offset some of the environmental problems caused by dust and sand from the dried up seabed. It's unlikely to ever again be the thriving place it once was but things look to be on the up. It was a pleasant surprise. The film, exhibits, and photos we were shown in the small museum really brought home the enormous changes that have happened to the Aral Sea over the last 50 years. Our ... read more
Town Sign
Ship Graveyard
Ship Graveyard

Asia » Uzbekistan » Khiva September 12th 2015

The drive west to Khiva let us see the development taking place here in Uzbekistan, but also highlighted some of the challenges. Although it's not finished yet there are now a few hundred km of smooth concrete road through the desert which makes a massive difference to the journey (concrete is used because it doesn't melt in the heat). Our driver told us that for one section of ~100km the journey time has been reduced from a bit under 4 hours to about 1 hour, but then when we needed to fill up with gas - most cars, minibuses and vans run on methane or propane as Uzbekistan has it's own gas fields – the only station for kilometres was closed. We were lucky as he had some petrol but we saw others who'd run out. ... read more
Kalta Minor Minaret
View from Islom Hoja Minaret
Dusk

Asia » Uzbekistan » Bukhara September 10th 2015

The Sharq was less swift and sleek than the play on words with the name suggested, but was still a good choice, way better than another shared taxi or, even worse, a bus. Bukhara has an interesting mix of buildings – we found heavily restored (or perhaps newly built) places just a few metres away from tumbledown wrecks that looked ready to collapse, or in some cases were collapsing. By wandering around we found un-restored madrassas that were more accessible and interesting than many of the main tourist attractions. In one we came across a rehearsal for a modern ballet, in another a group of local old men were sitting around chatting, drinking tea and playing cards. Not wanting to sound too “Lonely Planet” it felt like we'd stumbled upon a bit of normal local life ... read more
Kalon Mosque
Kalon Mosque
Kalon Mosque

Asia » Uzbekistan » Samarkand September 7th 2015

The dreaded border crossing turned out to not be at all dreadful - it was fast and easy, the border guards were friendly, and the personal inspection didn't involve anything more than a quick frisk. It once again showed us that every experience is individual and unique. The road to Samarkand took us past field after field of cotton, one of Uzbekistan's main agricultural crops but also one of the main causes of the shrinking of the Aral Sea. It's mind blowing to know that most of the billions of cubic metres of water we day after day saw roaring down the Panj River between Tajikistan and Afghanistan don't make it as far as the Aral Sea. Finding solutions that balance the various needs is difficult and it's a sensitive subject here, supposedly one of the ... read more
Registan
Registan
Registan

Asia » Tajikistan » Khujand September 4th 2015

Onward to Dushanbe, and again it's going to be a shared taxi for the 13+ hour trip. Luckily there were two Swiss girls in the same homestay who were also going, one of them had been in Tajikistan for three months on an internship so her host family were able to arrange a driver to pick us up and by paying for an extra seat we were able to avoid some of the regular joys of travel here. Strangely by avoiding the normal negotiating, waiting, detours, and overcrowding it felt like we'd cheated a bit – we need to have some strong words with ourselves !!! Dushanbe is a bit of an odd place that seems to be trying to ignore the rest of the country and reality. It has wide tree lined boulevards, big new ... read more
Dushanbe
Dushanbe
Dushanbe




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