Steve Watson


      Information: Travels: Turkestan: Gansu & Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan & Uzbekistan 


      Uzbekistan: Khokand & Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara & Home 



The ridiculous shapes of these countries - which bear no relation to the demographic distribution - are thanks to the pointless machinations of Stalin.. 


Once I got across, I was the only foreigner and a sea of taxis. I couldn't wait for other foreigners or travellers to turn up, so I was forced to take a private taxi to Khokand/Kokand/Qo'qon


The hostel is about 5 km north of the map 


The taxi trip took me nearly 150km for about $US30. Pretty excessive really, and he even tried to renegotiate halfway there. But I had told them exactly where I wanted to go, so no. Of course, the next drama was that I had not been given the chance to get to a moneychanger, and the driver couldn't do anything with a $US100 note. The hotel didn't have sufficient funds for that either; they suggested going to the nearby markets and finding a moneychanger. After wandering about for a while looking unsuccessfully for a m/c, we went back to the hotel. I suggested the hotel could take my note, pay the driver his money from the funds they did have, and they could give me the rest of the changed money at their leisure. This plan was found acceptable and has been carried out. (Not without my forcing the concierge to check his working and finding that he was 20UZS short.)

The concierge, 'Johnny,' does seem to be good bloke, so I won't accuse him of deliberate attempted fraud. He organised a meal for me when I was without funds, and told me about the things to do. His English is acceptable. The hotel otherwise is very good. My room is well-appointed and comfortable. The carpets seem not to have been vacuumed, but everything else is spotless. There's a restaurant attached and I had a rather good laghnan there. This much advertised dish is really just the noodles and vegetable soup that mum made, again. I'm really not impressed by the food culture of Central Asia so far. Mind you, I haven't tried kumiss yet.

Went for a walk downtown. Not much to see.  The Khan's Palace in the Muqimi park had pretty tiling on the outside, and the park itself was quite attractive. There was an interesting fair going on near the intersection of Khamsa and Istiklal; and I walked around to the mosque and medrassa which had definitely seen better days. It was of course closed by the time I got there but the janitor let me in to see it with great displays of friendliness. Of course, when I went out he said I had to give him 2000UZS ($US0.66). I said I didn't. It isn't the amount that makes me balk, obviously, but the clear attempt to engage me in a monetary transaction without my being aware of it. If he'd asked for it at the beginning, I might have been ok with it. 


The Khan's Palace

In Muqimi Park. It's not old, but it is fancy. 


The real old mosque

Sight number 5 on the map 


A spectacle!

In the fairground/park across the road Khamsa from sight number 2 on the map  




Getting home was a bit of a pain, since the last #7 bus had run by the time I started to stand by the road waiting for it. Noted: the numbers aren't lit so you can't see them at night until the bus is right upon you. Also noted: no marshrutkas or Daewoo Danaes got to Dangara after pm, apparently. I got a taxi.

Stayed up late this night working out my next accommodation. Bit of a hassle really, because the wireless doesn't reach to my room consistently, so I had to do it in the conference room where johnny was watching videos on the PC.







Had a nice easy morning, and a very good breakfast at the hotel. It had coffe, some milk syrup thing, apple juice, a saucer of yoghurt and another of condensed milk to make it edible, a fried egg and a slide of luncheon sausage, and an entire wheel of bread cut up. Most satisfactory, and all included in the bill.

Getting onward wasn't so easy. First I had to find the pickup point, then of course there was the negotiating. I need to write LP a note that the location of the place needs to be better specified: it's about 5km from town, beside the big metal smokestack and just before you cross the railway line. That would have been enough to save me a lot of puzzlement and got walking.

The trip was interesting. We travelled through the mountains and the hills were topped with snow. The rocks are all that red pre-shattered suff which has all sharp corners and edges and looks about ready to fall. Not really very attractive, but it's a shame I couldn't get a picture of it. It was also raining and the cloud was so low that in several places we could not really see where we were going (at 80 km/hr and weaving around the potholes - the road is in a diabolical condition.) There were a couple of security stops, and at one place I had to take my passport to an office for registration while the others waited ahead. We queued in the rain outside the registration booth. Joy. Then, of course, we had to pile out of the car while he filled it with petrol: apparently, they don't like crowds of passengers in the petrol stations. This happened with the other taxi too, but it was less objectionable then because it wasn't raining.

It eventually took 5 hours to get to Tashkent


but that was followed by an hour of driving around in circles trying to find places - my hotel was especially elusive, but we eventually got here. It's rather a nice B&B place and I'd booked a single room for two nights. Unfortunately, they've made some sort of error, and they want to shift me into a dorm room for the next night. It's a bit of a nuisance, but I think I'm ok with that since it'll save me a bit of money.


Hostel is on Sagban street, right at the top left of this map. 







Had a nice long comfortable sleep and didn't get up until 9. Breakfast was pretty good and was even brought to my room for me to eat at my table. I queried about the possibility of money exchange and he went off to change $US300 INTO 885,000UZS. It came back in piles of 1000 som notes. How absolutely ridiculous: I feel like one of those bagmen from the Chicago mobster days. In fact I don't really know what to do with it all. I eventually decide to take 385,000 with me in various pockets, and to stuff 500,000. Into a pocket of my green bag, which I will now have to leave in the room, and which will be moved into the dorm after 12 and left unsecured. This is a suboptimal solution.

Got onto the metro and down to the Uzbekair offices near the train station. There I bought a ticket with very little difficulty taking me from here at 5:15pm to Samarkand at 6:10 and at a low, low cost of just US$22. I call that very reasonable.

There was a slight problem with a chap who just had to push in in front of me at the ticket counter. I pushed him back but he continued and the lady at the counter was obviously more prepared to serve him. I stood it for a while and then started abusing him loudly and standing about 6 inches from him - which had basically no effect at all. I don't think I can put up with this sort of thing very much longer without flattening one of these rude sons of bitches.

I then began to walk back to the hostel across town (about 4km) taking it easy and stopping often for snacks and drinks. I visited a few parks and tried to get to the Fine Art Museum , but it was closed. I did get to the Museum of the History of the Uzbek People, and it was quite interesting. There could have been more English labelling, but there was enough that I could see the significance of the displayed items. These weren't very visually exciting, so there are no photos, but they were interesting in giving the history of the place, and in showing just how important the figure of Amer Temur (Tamerlane) is in their consciousness. (It actually took me a little while to work out who this guy was. It wasn't until I saw the map of his empire that I clicked.)

A health clinic

There are lots of these neo-classical style buildings. The whole place is very St Petersburg-ish 



See what I mean? 



These seem to be the national bird of Uzbekistan, or perhaps just of Tashkent, the place is full of their images. These are in the park beside the parliament building, so it probably shouldn't be alarming that people take photos of them. 


Amir Temur

They admire him. The Mongolians admire Genghis and the French think Napoleon was neat. 


Paintings in the mall

A vast range of things for sale here (just north of the park on the pedestrian mall) but very few customers. They don't like to be photographed either. 


I have to remark that this is most over-policed place I've ever been to, and I've been to some places. It seemed like every time I got my camera out there was some officious bugger in a green uniform demanding an explanation and to see my passport - which they can't read anyway. But honestly, why is it suspicious that someone should want to take a photo of a water feature in a park where people are walking around quite happily? On that occasion, I had no sooner finished with one guy than someone else started yelling at me. I pointed at the previous guy who waved his acknowledgement, and I heard the two of them discussing me on their radios. Good grief.

Home at about 7:30 and joined two other guests for a conversation. One French girl who was here with her family, and was responsible for booting me out of my room, and one guy, Eddy, from Macao . He was quite good value. But even better value was the manager's father who came out and gave us a concert on his two-string traditional instrument, which he called a dutar (but I'm not sure he wasn't having us on and making a joke about it being a 2-string guitar.) I managed to get some video of this performance. Some of the songs were about the aforementioned Tamerlane and his dynasty and wars about the Amu Darya . Between songs he told us, without any English, about the unified Turkish nation that had been temporarily split into these silly Uzbek, Kyrgyz, etc tribes. And about the gifts that have gone out from here to the world: algebra, al-Khwarizmi, al-Bukhari, etc. he claimed the Arabic numerals and I said 'Hindi?' And he said with mock outrage, 'No hindi, turki!' It was all rather fun actually, and more informative than one would expect given the lack of a common language.

Uybek returned late-ish and we sorted out our money; then he brought me dinner and I dined in the courtyard as it grew cooler and chatted with Eddy. All in all, a reasonably pleasant day. I hope the night will go as well.







I had a better sleep than I had expected last night: the two others (German girls) didn't come in until well after midnight and barely woke me up, they were very quiet and considerate. After that I slept till 5:45 and dropped off again immediately until 8:10. I awoke refreshed. I was also pleased to discover that breakfast is also included for the dormitory guests.

I went off to see the Chorsu bazaar, but it was a disappointment, just like every bazaar I'd been to since I first visited the Khan al-Khalili in Cairo . Lots of clothes, shoes, and junk being sold - except in the food hall, which looks pretty good quality, but I'm not interested in food shopping.

The Meat Market has landed

Part of the bazaar area 


The Meat Market



I never did find out what this was, but they all use it as a landmark