Samarkand, Uzbekistan: Cockroach Express-Blackouts

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
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Trip End Feb 06, 2014


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Flag of Uzbekistan  , Tehran,
Friday, November 1, 2013

There's nothing better than waking at the crack of dawn to Uzbek music blaring from the bunk below. Bearing in mind these were rather elderly gents I was slightly surprised. After trying to block it out for some time I surrendered around 8am and rolled over wide eye day- and not so bushy tailed to see if Sam was awake. Yup sure enough he was laying there wide awake too. Turns out he had spent a number of hours during the night batting cockroaches either off me or my bunk. Here I was wondering what kept hitting me. I woke a few times myself to remove things creeping up my arms but didn't realise the magnitude of the problem until seeing a few of the little critters scurrying under some nearby luggage.

We headed straight from the train to the hotel and were sorely disappointed to be told the power had just turned off and there would be no hot water until it was back on. When that would be, who knows. So instead of washing away the cockroach poop with steaming hot water I settled for a wet wipe cleanse instead.

Semi refreshed we set off in search of food. Our B&B was located in a quiet old towny part where just outside stood the Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum. The bloke Timur, who rode around on the horse, is buried here with his two sons and two grandsons. Up the street is a statute of him which we checked out before continuing on our search for pizza at Venezia Restaurant. It was the first time since arriving in Uzbekistan that we noticed people looking at us. They've usually not even blinked in our direction but here you could feel their inquisitive stares. We walked up and down streets looking for this darn restaurant before calling it quits and diving into a cafe with pictures of pizza and burgers on the windows. After pointing to the pictures and being told no burgers, no pizza we settled for french fries and a coffee.

Next to the table by the window was a sticky piece of cardboard covered in dead flies. To pass the time whilst we waited for our food we watched with great excitement as a big wasp fluttered nearer and nearer. Having made a lucky escape he soon flew off as our partially raw fries arrived. The guy did offer us some very nice bread though which made for a semi pleasing chip butty. Typically, when we left the cafe and rounded a nearby corner, there stood our elusive pizza joint. Gutted. We made sure we went back in the evening to make up for it.

The highlight of Samarkand is the Registan, one of Central Asia's most beautiful sights. Covering three sides of a square the separate buildings were built in 1420, 1636 and 1660. Stunning mosaic arches play gateway to the inner sanctum where once a tranquil courtyard now plays host to vendors selling wares to tourists. It's still a beautiful place of arches, light and bright ceramics but the religious aspect now seems overrun by commercialism. Suits me fine but may prove a disappointment to others. Sam declared it was one of his favourite parts of the trip so far. He even went as far as to say it was equally as beautiful as the Taj Mahal. Even though I hate India I don't necessarily agree with that. Yes the Registan is stunning, both from afar and up close, but to me the Taj Mahal is still by far the most magnificent sight to behold.

From the Registan there's a pedestrianised promenade lined with shops selling locals crafts down to the Bibi-Khanym mosque where ginormous doors grant you entrance to a peaceful courtyard and equally ginormous arches. A little further on is a thriving market where you're greeted by glistening smiles of locals who bare golden teeth. Something Sam's been dying to take a photo of. We found a balcony overlooking one of the main sections so stood up there soaking in the surrounds before continuing on our walk and up to a hill of graves. Most bizarrely the headstones all have photos. I find cemeteries rather eerie at the best of times but having faces staring back at you makes it even more so. Can't say cemeteries usually make our must see list but this had the Shah-i-Zinda complex at the end of it which is an avenue of mausoleums where a cousin of Prophet Mohammed is buried. It's also contains some incredibly beautiful tile work which was the reason for our visit.

In between all this sightseeing we also changed hotels. Arriving at a hotel after an overnight train and being told there was no hot water was one thing but there still not being any at 11pm that evening and then the next morning was another. When Sam asked about the water pressure he was told to "take the shower head off and use it like a hose". And I'm paying you US$30 for this? So we checked out and into the Bahodir B&B. A nice inner courtyard, wifi, tea on arrival, BBC news on communal TV, located but a minute from the Registan, hot water and electricity all for US$20 per night. Perfecto. Until you saw the bathroom which could double as Dexter's kill room and a bed which.... well we probably would have been better off sleeping on the floor. It wasn't nice but we had power... until about 5pm when the whole area blacked out.

Not thinking much of it, that also meant most of the restaurants were shut. Very disappointing after finally discovering a great little local place which did super yummy food. Walking the streets in darkness we settled for the one place we could find with a generator which was full of a tour group but they soon left so it was just us, with some chewy pieces of meat and a yapping chicwauwa pawing at our legs. At least it made for a memorable last night in Uzbekistan.

Hard to believe tomorrow we leave and move into Tajikistan. Despite some of the issues we've had along the way we've been won over by Uzbekistan. It's a country of incredible architecture, fascinating cities and beautiful people. Had we been travelling on anything more than a backpacker budget I'm sure most of the problems we encountered along the way would have been non existent. Definitely a country worth visiting.

INFO:

B&B: Emir B&B US$30. Dbl room, private bathroom, no breakfast - also no hot water or electricity. Shame as it's otherwise a really nice set up.
B&B: Bahodir B&B US$20. Dbl room, private bathroom, no breakfast - also no electricity but warmer than Emir. Very dodgy bathroom which stank but nice communal courtyard, free tea and great location.
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