After Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan paled in comparison. Our experience started off with border officials playing hot and cold. First, they told us that the border would be open for us to cross over. After passports were stamped, they decided that we couldn’t cross the border till the following morning. Since some members of the team had single entry visas, our only option was to spend the night in no man’s land. The Kyrgyz border officials were sympathetic and tried their best to help us out. We asked whether something like this has happened before. “All the time”, they scoffed.
Luckily there was a family that lived in between the two borders in their ancestral home. They offered to let us spend the night in their home and suddenly, what could’ve been an uncomfortable experience became an evening of laughter, good food and even better conversation.
After having our cars and baggage sniffed, scanned and searched, they finally let us in. The less than warm welcome left us with a bitter taste in our mouths. It may seem trivial, but the numerous times we had been stopped by the police and military coupled with diesel not being available (unless one purchases it from the black market) made for an unpleasant experience. After China, our tolerance for checkpoints had drastically reduced. We took a decision to cut short our stay in Uzbekistan and cross into Kazakhstan straight from Tashkent the next day.
Entering Uzbekistan, it felt as though we had traveled back in time. A majority of the cars were relics of the Soviet Era and many of the small towns had that old world charm. While the GDP per capita is high, Uzbek people are paradoxically poor. It is sad to see that hard earned money is concentrated in the hands of a greedy few.
Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, is a beautiful city. Regrettably, we didn’t have much time left before we had to make a 100 km journey towards the border. We did, however, manage to take a few pictures at the famous Independence Square and visit the Chorsu Bazaar in old town Tashkent- a total feast for the eyes. Delicate china, flowing robes, shimmering head pieces and tinkling trinkets were up for grabs. Being a girl that appreciates all things pretty, I was naturally enamoured.