Our road to our next destination--Tashkent--started out on the highway connecting Almaty with Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgistan. We bypassed Kyrgyz territory just before the border and switched to the route that goes trough the city of Taraz. The original plan was to go through Kyrgyzstan, but we didnﾕt have much time left on our Kazakh visas, so it was either or Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan. Visiting both was out of the question, as we still had to go through Kyrgyzstan to get back to Russia. We ruled out Turkmenistan at that point, too.
We did have a couple of little incidents on our way to Uzbekistan. An officer at a police checkpoint wanted to "fine" us for improper papers, but Chris was adamant about not paying up. Also, a car full of young people wanted us to stop and party with them. We didnﾕt have the time or will to indulge them, though. By this point, we had had enough of the public drunkenness that permeates the former Soviet Union all summer.
Getting to the Uzbekistan border was a bit more confusing than we expected. The road signs directing us to Tashkent disappeared a few turns before the actual border. We donﾕt think we missed one, but eventually we had to stop and ask a police officer for directions. We were directed to what seems to be a minor border crossing. Kazak customs collected our papers and stamped us out of the country with no problems. The Uzbek side was not much of a hassle, just a bit of waiting and a big crowd. One problem was that the officers at the next gate less than a hundred meters away said we needed different forms so we ended up going back and forth. For instance, the guard at the customs exit wanted to see our declarations (but was willing to let us go without them).
The city of Tashkent was right on the border. We checked ourselves into a dingy Hadra Hotel near the Chorsu central bazaar in Tashkent. It was only about $10 a night and we could park our bikes in the lobby. But that involved riding up a staircase and trough a narrow doorway.
The only good thing about our hotel was that it was close to the Chorsu Bazaar. All sorts of foods, spices, and clothing are available there. You are reminded that this is a real silk road bazaar. And that meant the food venders there were able to provide us with
all sorts of delicious Central Asian dishes. Tasty and cheap, 'shashlik' kebabs were the main staple of our diet. 'Nan' bread and 'chai' tea were always included with the meal. The area around the market had a real Islamic feel to it with its mosques and madrassahs. We had at last shed most of the communist soviet feel that permeates the region.
A ride on the only subway in Central Asia took us to the new city center, but there was not much to see. Tashkent is the largest city in Central Asia. It is also pretty unevevntful. At least we could find a decent Russian beer in the city center. Uzbek food is pretty good, but the beer left a lot to be desired.
|<CentralAsia TOP> <Previous> <Next>|