Into Uzbekistan

Trip Start May 04, 2012
Trip End Jun 30, 2012

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Where I stayed
Elite Hotel, Andijon
What I did
Old Bazaar, Mosque

Flag of Uzbekistan  ,
Sunday, May 27, 2012

We have internet again! So i will retroactively update you on our last few days transit into Uzbekistan.

 It was fine - i know you were all worried about my ability to smuggle my Marco Polo horn across the border into Uzbekistan. Fortunately, a combination of looking both American and hopeless (synonymous to many i am sure) got us moved to the front of some very long lines, and our forms filled out for us. They did a cursory search of my luggage, but were more concerned with 'psychotropic medication' than any marco polo horn. They also looked through my camera, my computer and all my books - clearly i look like a purveyor of pornography. 

After crossing the border on foot, we were met by our new Uzbek guide - Sergei - who is going to take us through the Fergana Valley. He is BANANAS - a die hard communist, former soviet soldier with only the most basic grasp of the english language. He prefers to talk only about war, while driving, and this involved making large 'BANG!' and 'RATATATAT' noises and waving his arms around - at 80mph down the wrong side of a dual carriageway, because none cares about that stuff here. If you offer him a drink, a mint, a piece of candy - he shakes his head and says 'no i cannot because i have plastic teeth'. 

Uzbekistan is different to Kygyzstan - it is much more Islamic, and feels a lot more Middle Eastern to me - perhaps because it is so damn hot. The streets are wide and dusty and there are lot more beggars that we saw in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Our first stop was Andijon - site of a massacre in 2005 by the Uzbek government that resulted in widespread condemnation and the ejection of lots of journalists and NGOs. Although Karimov (the president's) help with supplying the US army in Afghanistan via the Northern Supply Route has somewhat unfrozen relations, Andijon is still a dirty word to many. As a city it does not have much to recommend it - it has this interesting massacre history, and is a good stop off close to the border as that crossing can take hours, but not much else.

We spent the afternoon tooling around the bazaar after checking into our Soviet monstrosity of a hotel. The first room they tried to put me in was in the basement- no windows 'for safety'. I vetoed that and got a first flow room with windows and the persistent smell of cigarettes and paint thinner. However, after Tajikistan i shall not complain - it has AC, hot water and sheets - i am fine - and exhausted by the sheets and border stress. My camera died this afternoon after the border guard spent all together too long messing with it, so not many pics from Andijon i'm afraid. The only pics are taken from the Chaikana (tea house) where we had dinner with the locals - who incidentally are amazing. So kind and generous, they tried not to let us pay for our meal, and what we did bring did not include all the extras they brought after - we literally could barely walk home!

More updates on Fergana and Kokand to come today!

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