Why don’t I follow my own advice? Planning never pays. For some odd reason I had decided to book a flight from Samarkand to Tashkent as part of my flight package back home. Of course, I could have just skipped it, but as my cash is dwindling, I would have had to dish out additional travel money and I would rather buy another miniature. But what was I thinking? There are trains and this would have been the way to experience another local way of transport! In fact, if anyone is reading this blog who might come to Uzbekistan some day here is my advice: Take as many trains as possible and avoid those bumpy roads. There should be one between Bukhara and Samarkand. And there certainly is one between Samarkand and Tashkent.

Instead I flew. Funny enough, my itinerary said that my flight would leave at 10:05 AM and arrive in Tashkent 55 minutes later. The fact of the matter was that the flight already left at 9:35 AM and got to Tashkent in a mere 25 minutes! I am glad I did not miss it altogether. The plane was about ¼ full and flew as low as I have ever flown in any commercial flight. I could see the landscape the entire duration of the flight. In fact, we flew so low that villages, even houses could be made out from the air. That meant, at least I did not miss out on the landscape.

I was impressed by the totality of cultivation between Samarkand and Tashkent. There was not a strip of land that was not tended to, that had not been plowed, or worked at. Some fields already had green crops; others only showed the plowing lines. I wondered about the water supply. For many areas it must be ground water. Only a few rivers slid through the landscape like brown snakes. Villages were neatly clustered. There was none of the urban sprawl we are so used to in the States.

I went back to the same hotel I had started out with, the Sam Buh. It is on the pricy side (that is for Uzbekistan standards), but I knew what I would get, I knew there would be room, and I knew it was close to the airport. But most importantly, I knew that it had a reliable internet connection! I recalled my first taxi ride with the Frenchies and how I got conned into paying $20 for the trip. This time, I negotiated a much fairer $5.

It is amazing how fast these last 15 days have passed. I would have liked to spend another 15 days here to see three more regions and if I would plan this trip over, I would make sure to have 25-30 days total to do this country more justice:

First, the South-East corner and the border city of Termez: That is the one Fatima and Furkat talked me out of because the military may prevent me from getting to the Buddhist sites just like they prevented me from seeing the Petroglyphs without proper documentation. It also would have added 1000km to my trip at considerable cost in time and money. It would have been exhausting.

Second, a corner I really would have liked to explore is the North-East, an area called Ferghana Valley. It is known as the hot-bed of fundamental Islam and had its share of violent incidents and clashes between government and Islamists. But it is also known for its silk production and for its unique ethnic makeup. Everyone in Uzbekistan is obviously Uzbek in terms of nationality. But in ethnic terms, most Uzbeks everywhere else are a mix of Tadjiks, Turkic people, North Koreans (there are historical reasons for that), Russians, and Uzbeks. In Ferghana, there are predominantly Uzbek Uzbeks.

Third, from Nukus I would have liked to take a day or two excursion to explore the shrinking Aral Sea and to see for myself the economic disaster created by the drainage of the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya

But aside from those three areas all of which are off the beaten path, I definitely saw the most important silk-road sites, for which Uzbekistan is rightly famous. And I had the bonus of Nukus and Nurata. For six hours I processed images and wrote today. About 8 more hours of that, and I will be caught up with the blog … a beautiful little corner restaurant run by Russians, provided the setting where I spent those hours working, drinking tea and eating yet another delicious soup. This time, I even spoiled myself with a glass of wine. But it was not good.

All my laundry is washed and I am getting ready for the next stretch of the trip. But tomorrow, there will be one more day in Tashkent.

Good night.

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  1. You should send your writings to the Lonely Planet – or write your own travel book for you manage all kinds of situations so well – from the taxi cab challenges to finding a place to rest your head. What a gift for writing about your adventures – a book is really in order.