Along the Silk route in Uzbekistan

After a painless border crossing (against expectation only took 3 hours) we arrived in Uzbekistan! Over the next 2 weeks we travelled the famous cities along Silk Road. These cities were once bustling with merchants and travellers from all over the world. Nowadays you can still see beautiful old minarets, mosques, mausoleums forts and more. It gives you the feeling that you are walking around in a fairy tale. Our first stop was Tashkent (one of the oldest and largest cities in Central Asia, dating back from the 2nd century BC), then we went to Samarkand (a UNESCO world heritage city), Bukara (it hosts over 140 historic sites and buildings which date back mostly to the middle ages), Muynak (once was a fishing village before the Russians diverted rivers that used to drain into the Aral Sea, causing perhaps the world’s worst ecological disaster. The fishing village is now 100km from the ever retreating Aral Sea) and our final stop in Uzbekistan was Khiva (beautiful town with 100s of minarets).

Tashkent

We arrived in Tashkent in the early afternoon and after checking into the hotel (almost no bushcamps in Uzbekistan, but proper hotels. Nice change πŸ™‚ ), we took the metro to the Chagatay Bazaar in the old Town. We went to the bazaar to change money on the black market, as the money rate on the streets is much higher than from the official banks ($1USD = 2500 som at the bank and $1USD = 4500-4800 som on the street). So everyone in Uzbekistan exchanges their money on black market. The notes are not worth that much. The biggest note is 5000 and that is worth less than 1 euro, so you can’t store the money in your wallet, you need a bag instead πŸ˜‰

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phat stacks

The metro stops in Tashkent were just like smaller versions of the Moscow metro (read about it here), really beautiful, each station having distinctive art. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take any photos in and around the metro, so we can’t show you what they look like.

When we went back to the hotel we walked pass an ice-cream shop and we bought some incredibly good and cheap ice cream. David had grapefruit as one of his flavours, regretting his choice immediately. Shouldn’t exist as an ice cream flavour to tempt foolish people. In the evening we treated ourselves to even greater heights of luxury. It was time for date night again! We dressed up and looked up a fancy restaurant. We had a wonderful meal (zucchini carpaccio, steak, roasted potatoes, a bottle of yummy red Uzbek wine. Tamar had ice cream for desert and David had a shot of local vodka) with tip top service for only €30, in total πŸ™‚

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Date night!

We ended nice and tipsy and we had a great 2 km stroll back to the hotel (although with the state of the sidewalk and the road means you really need to keep your wits about you).

Tashkent TV tower
TV Tower

The next day turned into a long day of walking in the sun (10 km). The museum that we wanted to visit we couldn’t find, the TV Tower we wanted to enter up was very expensive and you couldn’t take your photo camera with you.

But we stopped at an amazing coffee bar,

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Greatest coffee bar in Tashkent
Hotel Uzbekistan
Hotel Uzbekistan

we had a yummy lunch near a bazaar we stumbled on (for Tamar’s girlfriends as this was an assignment from them: we also gave some food to a very mentally ill man that was walking backwards all the time. And we have been buying food for other poor people too in the last weeks) and we took some photo’s at the Amir Temur square where hotel Uzbekistan is located.

David had a little sunstroke at the end of the day though, so we took an early night.

Samarkand

In Samarkand we stayed in a quiet little hotel with an inner garden with grapes and very nice rooms. It was only a 5 minute stroll from the Registan, a stunning square faced with two madrasas and a mosque (built in different periods, but all complementary). The middle madrassah had a beautifully decorated hall:

Ceiling of Tilya-Kori Madrasah
Hall of Tilya-Kori Madrasah
Ceiling of Tilya-Kori Madrasah
Ceiling of Tilya-Kori Madrasah

In the evening there is light show at the Registan, with amazing 3D effects and colours. Although light show isn’t really the right term, propaganda would be much more accurate. We only saw the showing in Uzbek language, but from that we gathered that the centre of the universe is Uzbekistan and 1991 (the year of independence) was the result of the strong and clever Uzbek people. The atmosphere was very strongly patriotic, which did make us a little uncomfortable.

Registan by night
Registan by night
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Mad crazy light show

Onto happier topics, we saw a lot of weddings in Samarkand and wedding music, a very happy atmosphere.

Uzbek bride and groom
Uzbek bride and groom
Uzbek wedding noise makers
Uzbek wedding noise makers


During our full day in Samarkand we had a guided walk and learned more about the history (a lot of violence and death, all the interesting parts) and around 5 pm we left with a small group to a wine tasting. Next to cotton (Uzbekistan biggest income resource is cotton, at the expense of the aforementioned Aral Sea), Uzbekistan also makes their own wines. They have even won some prizes with their wines. So we were all very curious about the wines and the wine tasting only costed
€6,- pp.

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Centre of Samarkand
Delicious Uzbek wines
Delicious Uzbek wines
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Uzbek soccer match

The wine tasting lasted 55 minutes in which we drank 10 wines (1 white, 2 red, 4 dessert wines (16%) and 3 cognacs (all above 40%), so you understand that we walked out drunk. We decided to walk back together while the others went for dinner. On our way to the hotel, we heard people cheering. As others of our tour group went to a local soccer match, we knew what the cheers was about. We walked to the soccer stadium and with only 20 minutes to go, the guards let us in for free (otherwise we would have had to pay the staggering entry cost of 50 cents). We saw the last 2 goals and got a good feeling of what the local soccer matches are like (let us say that whilst no one is going to head hunted for the premier league, they do play with a lot of enthusiasm).

In Samarkand David started getting up before sunrise, to take advantage of the beautiful light:
Samarkand Necropolis 4 Samarkand Necropolis 5

When we almost reached the hotel we bought some nice bread (they sell this type of bread everywhere in Russia and former USSR countries) and shashlik (one of the national dishes. meat on a stick, always a crowd pleaser) and had a yummy cheap meal.

Bukara

After a day of driving we arrived in Bukara. We checked in at a fancy 4* hotel with a swimming pool and a big buffet for breakfast (luxury). After exploring the city a bit we had a nice drink and something to eat with our truck driver Colin on a balcony in the evening sun.

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Evening meal and drinks

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David got up at 5 am for the 3rd time in a row for morning photography while Tamar stayed in bed for 2 more hours (foolishly in David’s opinion).
Bukara Archway sunrise Po-i-Kalyan mosque minaret 2
The old city of Bukara is beautiful and gives you a feeling of walking in an ancient city. The local people live in the new part of town though, so you almost only see souvenir sellers and tourists in the old town. So we walked to the new town and had some lunch at the Bazaar and afterward we found a liquor store and bought 4 bottles of red wine for
€6,- in total :-. IN TOTAL! πŸ™‚

We ended the day at the swimming pool and visiting the Chor-Minur which is posted on the front page of the lonely planet of Central Asia.
The Mosque of Chor-Minor 1
After that we went out for dinner with Marianna and Colin after showing them the liquor store and drinking some of that booze in the restaurant.
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The road to the Aral Sea

Bush camping the badlands, we had two full driving days to bring us the former edge of the Aral Sea. It had been described in everything that we could find online as a totally toxic waste land. You can therefore imagine our surprise when we arrived to a scene of greenery and water.
But the main reason we were here was to see the ship graveyard, something of an out of the way tourist attraction. These ships used to be involved in the fishing industry, but now have been left as a monument to the folly of humans. They rust way on the sand, a sad testament to the pursuit of money, in place of a sustainable environmental future.

David decided that this sad place could do with some happiness, so he setup his slackline, and brought some laughter (in Holland, the most well known slackline spot is at the scene of a WWII battle. Slacklining can help bring light to dark places) into the mix, teaching David and Tony from our tour group how to slackline.
Aral Sea Rodeo Line

After dinner David also headed down for his highlight of Uzbekistan, photographing the stars through the bones of the rusting ships.

Aral Sea Ship Star Trail
150 photos combined into one, to show the path the stars took through the sky. My first star trail shot

Aral Sea Ship Stars

Intent on making the most of this most unusual place, he got back out of bed after only 4hrs sleep for dawn photos. David will let the photos speak for themselves. Would you get up for this sunrise?
Aral Sea Ship Sunrise 1 Aral Sea Ship Sunrise 3 Aral Sea Ship Sunrise 2

Khiva

One more bush camp lay between us and Khiva. So naturally we stayed in the most picturesque one of Uzbekistan, spending the night beside an old fort Ayoz Qala. We had time to explore it fully before sunset, there is no entry and no one to stop you climbing all over the place, which was awesome and also sad that such a structure is left to rot. David got out of bed again for sunrise, which was again completely worth it. Although Tamar says that about staying in bed πŸ˜‰
Bush Camp Ayaz Kala Ayaz KalaIMG_1744 IMG_1739

In Khiva we stayed for 3 nights. Khiva is also an UNESCO world heritage side. The old city is one big museum with old mausoleums, minarets etc and restaurants and hotels. But just outside the city wall, you will find a big bazaar and where the inhabitants of Khiva live themselves. We explored the town during the day and had most lunches at the same cheap restaurant at the bazaar.
Khiva Tosh Darvoza

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Most of the pictures we took in the morning with sunrise or in the evening around sunset. We relaxed at the hotel, were also a lot of card games were played. On the last days, we both had to go shopping for our cook group for camping the following days in Turkmenistan, which was fun. On Monday the 21st of September we left Khiva early in the morning for the border crossing for Turkmenistan. Excited for what would be waiting for us in that very strange land…

Ps. As we get so many compliments about our blog, we decided to enter a Dutch competition for the best travel blog (http://www.wereldwijzer.nl/showthread.php?t=191823&p=1105029#post1105029). Wish us luck πŸ™‚

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12 thoughts on “Along the Silk route in Uzbekistan

  1. Lieve Tamar en David,
    Weer super mooie plaatjes, really amazing! Ga er later nog meer/beter
    naar kijken en nogmaals doorlezen, wanneer wij meer tijd hebben! Caitlin gaat vandaag vertrekken naar Taiwan voor een baan, details horen jullie tzt wel, maar ook een mooi avontuur weer! John en Carmen komen al gauw weer thuis …hier is de herfst echt begonnen..Maar wat heerlijk om zo relaxed en met anderen de wereld te ontdekken, be & verwonderen en vooral te genieten! Ik verbaas me er telkens weer over hoeveel sterren er wel niet zijn! Blij voor jullie! goede reis verder en tot gauw..liefs Johnny, Coby en ook groetjes en liefs gewenst van Caitlin

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  2. Hi! Wat een prachtige foto’s weer! Miss toch ook maar op mijn bestemmingslijstje zetten! Looks like an amazing trip! Geniet er van πŸ™‚

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  3. David je foto’s zijn beautiful dus je bent niet voor niks zo vroeg uit je bed gegaan πŸ˜‰

    Ik had van uzbekistan echt een heel ander beeld in mijn hoofd. Leuk om jullie ervaring te lezen en te zien dmv de foto’s

    Goede reis verder en dikke kus

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  4. Lieve schatjes, jullie winnen natuurlijk de wedstrijd met jullie Blog! En Taam, complimenten hoe jij het voor elkaar krijgt om met zo weinig bagage, dus kleding, er toch zo charmant uit te zien.

    Dikke x Mamaatje

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  5. Gorgeous pics David, totally worth getting out of bed! However if I were Tamar, I’d curl in till 9am at least πŸ˜‰ You both look radiant. No clue how you do it with all the travelling. Then again, it may indeed be the freedom to roam that’s bringing on the glow. Btw I didn’t know where Samarkand was till now; thought it was a fictional place hehe. Btw can we vote for you for your blog? Didn’t see anything on the page. Alright sweeties, enjoy! Love, Chinch

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  6. Wat een prachtige foto’s! het lijkt net alsof we er een beetje bij zijn πŸ˜‰ En wat een bijzonder land zeg! Groetjes van ons allemaal xxx

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