Tashkent, Uzbekistan: The Amber Nectar

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

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Flag of Uzbekistan  , Tehran,
Friday, October 25, 2013

Hello civilisation and all its luxuries - western toilets, toilet paper, endless food options, modern cars, drivers abiding by road rules, cross walks where cars actually stop, bars, alcohol, an abundance of coffee, high street shops, unblocked internet, Facebook, supermarkets, bacon and Premier League football. Just a few things we missed when in Iran.

What doesn't seem up with the times however is their money which is ridiculous. The largest note is UZS 1,000 and equivalent to US$0.37. I bought a jacket today from Mango for UZS 269,000 - with them not accepting VISA or Mastercard the wad of cash I had to hand over was at least 10cm high. That was after leaving the store to try and find a man on the street willing to exchange some US$. Changing a couple of hundred also means Sam needs to walk around with a backpack just to carry it all. We laughed at the thought of going on a Zug night out as you'd need someone to walk around with a bloody wheelbarrow.

So we arrived in Tashkent at 08:30 after our stupidly early morning flight from Tehran at 04:30. Never again. Getting through Customs was a breeze, as was finding a cab once out. As there was nowhere to change money at the airport the cabbie willingly accepted US$10 for the fare. Rip off yes but not much we could do with no local currency. He tried to convince us to change some dollars with him for "a very good rate of 2,100". We declined, he kept pestering, we declined. Once at the B&B we found out a good rate was 2,700.

Absolutely knackered from lack of sleep we gratefully checked in, showered and went straight to bed. After a few more hours sleep than expected we rose and set off outside. Near to where we are staying is the Chorsu Bazaar which was a hive of activity. Massive fruit and veg market, colour cane baskets, sleek fur hats, clothes, freshly baked bread and pastry parcels of loveliness filled with mince meat and onion or pumpkin and onion. Absolutely delicious. So we strolled through there for a bit, changed some money and then walked around a mosque and down to the Circus, which I can only assume is their version of the O2. From there we followed the massive tree lined boulevard down to a bar on the canal in order to enjoy our first beer in over 2 1/2 weeks. Ahh as Fosters would say, juice of the gods. The bar was nice too - Traktir Sam Prishyol. I imagine the massive outside area would be heaving in summer.

With everything so spread, and having already walked a number of km's, we opted for a taxi. Not seeing too many official taxi's Sam remembered reading that any car can pose for one. Sure enough a car pulled up with a little old man in it asking where we wanted to go. After trying to explain the name of the street he responds "Irish pub?" "Ahh go on then". So off to the Irish pub we went for food and beer for the rest of the evening. Getting home we were assisted by a nice group of locals who ensured the driver didn't rip us off and knew where he was going. After driving past the B&B he refused to just let us out "No no I must drop you right to the door" and so he did.

At some stage during the night I woke with a splitting headache and spent the next couple of hours being rather ill. A vast number of pints obviously isn't the best idea after being teetotal for the previous few weeks. Perhaps there was something dodgy in my salad or I had a case of Sophie's Norovirus fore I'm sure it wasn't the beer!

With rain pouring we spent the morning catching up on sleep and recovering before venturing out in the afternoon. Back to the bazaar to exchange dollars then into a cab to the beautiful Senate building, water fountains and Crying Mother Monument built as a memorial to the 400,000 Uzbek soldiers who died in WWII. I especially liked the good-luck pelicans at Mustaqillik Maydoni (Independent Square). From there we walked through gardens where autumnal leaves fell with the rain to the Statue of Timur (who chopped the horses johnson off is one of Tashkent's great mysteries) via Mango to buy a much needed warm jacket as the temperature has dropped dramatically. Apparently it has already snowed at a place we're going to further south so I'm sure it will be a good investment. Especially if we end up snowboarding in Kazakhstan for a few days.

Swung by the train station to pick up tickets for tomorrow mornings 7 hr trip to Bukhara. A very confusing system with a number of ladies putting up closed signs in their windows just when it was our turn to approach. Thankfully we were helped by a lovely man who spoke very good English. When he had first asked me something I just stood there gupping like a goldfish until he said "What, you don't speak?" "Errr no, yes, but not that, English" after which we were good to go and soon after had the tickets in our hot little hands. Friendly locals are definitely worth their weight in gold.

With it approaching 5pm and still not fed and watered it was time for another taxi. The first price started at UZS 50,000 (US$18.50) which was blatantly taking the piss. We managed to get him down to UZS 10,000 (US$3.70) which was still overpriced but with rain pouring down we didn't care. Got dropped off at a massive German bar called the Brauhaus. Nice food, good beer and Man U kicked off not 10 minutes after we finished eating so now sat in the warmth of downstairs, smack bang in front of a TV watching Man U beat Stoke 3 - 2. A happy Bridger is he.


B&B: Gulnara Guesthouse. Run by lovely people, clean, good location, wifi in shaded courtyard. US$46 pn, twin room with bathroom incl. breakfast.
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