Khiva, Uzbekistan: Museum or Stage Show?
Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
76Trip End Feb 06, 2014
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By 12:00 we had found a car going to Khiva and agreed a price... now all we needed were another two people before we could go. Waiting, waiting, waiting. A guy from Moldova eventually appeared so that was front seat and two side backseats taken, now all we needed was the poor sucker who was going to get put in the middle. Local man please step forward - bingo - by 2pm we finally had a full car. Sam riding shot gun and me in the back with two men legs akimbo squishing me firmly into place up against the window
Not 15 minutes into the journey we had to pull over for fuel. An interesting boy fact (courtesy of Sam) is to tell you that all cars in Uzbekistan run off propane gas (C3H8 or whatever that is), not petrol. Strange when surrounded by such oil rich nations. Would hate to see what happens in a car crash - BOOM! I made sure I stood well away whilst filling up which took forever. We must have been there for a good 30 minutes before resuming our impressions of sardines and getting back on the road.
With an elbow firmly positioned in my side, a creak in my neck from being pressed up against the window and ache in my shin from hitting the seat in front I can firmly and unequivocally say I HATE SHARED TAXIS! 2 hours would have been doable, 3 hrs bearable, 4 hrs tolerable (just), 5 hrs highly undesirable but over 6 hrs was worse than sitting through an evening of Big Brother. Absolute torture!
To top it off when we got to Urgench the driver told me, Sam and Moldova that we needed to change cars, despite the fact we had expressly paid him to take us "All the way to Khiva, not Urgench". "Don't worry, you won't have to pay him any more money" he said. So out we get and into another car only to be told by our new driver "You must pay me for the 4th seat if you want to go now, otherwise we wait until someone comes to fill it". After sitting there for 10-15 min Sam went and gave the man USZ 5,000 to be on our way. Yes it's only US$2 but that's beside the point.
Finally arriving in Khiva (gone 8:30pm) we were dropped at a different hotel (where Moldova was staying) and told the hotel we wanted to stay at was closed
Trudging along behind Sam and the man, who was practically running to get away from me, we walked the darken streets to the hotel. Having not eaten all day, bar an emergency Snickers, we threw the bags into the room and made tracks to the nearest eatery, a nice hotel come restaurant. Choosing the room with the least number of tour groups, we settled into a table next to one very odd mixed group and ordered food and beer. Despite being hungry enough to eat a horse the beef steak was hugely disappointing and so tough that I ended up calling it quits after half due to jaw ache.
Looking gloomily into my beer I didn't think the night could get any worse but then a local troupe of musicians and dancers came into the room to perform for the tour group. I've not got anything against local Uzbek music, having heard some of it on the radio I actually quite like it, but this was on a whole new level
Waking to a new day, we still didn't have hot water or heating, but the rest of our time in Khiva passed by on happier terms. With clear skies we found a beautiful sun trap just off the main thoroughfare to sit and have coffee whilst watching the world go by. As a plus they had wifi and served meat and pumpkin samsas/samosas so that was breakfast and then in the afternoon we would return to catch the last of the rays over beers and fried ravioli.
I'm not sure if it was a special time of year but the number of weddings we saw was immense. The whole wedding party went by the cafe in procession and at one stage only a few minutes passed before the next party came along. A little bit further up the street they would stop for a dance off. Most entertaining.
Walking through the ancient inner walled city (Ichon-Qala) of Khiva is a little like walking through a living museum
For a birds eye view we ventured up one of the minarets. With health and safety of no concern the walk up the tight circular staircase on all fours (and sometimes in the dark) made for an interesting climb. The view from the top was magnificent
With our time in Khiva coming to an end we enjoyed some traditional plov (buttered rice with shredded carrot topped with a few chunks of lamb) before commencing our overnight train journey to Samarkand. On arriving at the station we asked no less than five conductors which carriage we were in. Each time they pointed in the same direction - down there, down there. Thinking to myself I'm pretty sure 22 isn't in the direction of 16, 10, 8, 5 we continued walking, asking people as we went. Perhaps the ticket said 2 not 22. But when we got to 2 we were told "no no, you all the way back there". Cheers buddy. So back up the platform we walked to the final carriage numbered 21. At this stage both Sam and I were thinking we had been sold a dodge ticket and wouldn't be going anywhere but of course carriage 22 was located between 20 and 21 so there was no cause for concern or confusion.
The train seems nice enough. Once again we have the top bunks which suits us fine and instead of three beds to a bunk there are two with another two against the opposite side of the train = ]. With no doors I'm hoping for a cooler, less pungent nights sleep compared to the closed compartments we've shared on other trains. Fingers crossed.
Shared taxi: Bukhara to Khiva. Arrived at taxi rank 12:00, departed 14:00, arrived Khiva 20:30. UZS 70,000 ea (US$26) + UZS 5,000 (US$1.80) from Urgench.
B&B: Mirzoboshi US$20 pn private bathroom, no heating, breakfast and limited hot water.
Train: Urgench to Samarkand dep 20:15 arr 10:30. UZS 50,000 ea (US$18.50) economy.