Wednesday, September 21, 2011

uzbekistan wrap up:

Uzbekistan was probably the country we were most looking forward to visiting after Syria (which we didn't get to visit unfortunately). It didn't disappoint at all. It was just stunning! There were moments when we had gone back in time, walking around such cities as Khiva and Bukhara, there was an air of timelessness with it's silk road history. The architecture, textile traditions and warm hospitality, blew us away and made for gorgeous combination. Uzbekistan is a must visit and we really can't recommend it enough!



travelling:
Uzbekistan is surprisingly easy to travel around. We used shared taxis pretty much the whole time to get from town to town. This would involve meeting at the local bazaar, finding a driver heading our direction, bargaining on a good price (which was usually set for foreigners anyway), then waiting for it to fill up with other Uzbeks (which didn't take too long) and off we went. It certainly wasn't the most comfortable way of travelling when it was 40+ degrees, full and with no air con. But it was probably the quickest form of transport after flying. We caught a plane back to Tashkent from Urgench which is near Khiva on Uzbekistan Airways, and I must say we were really impressed with them! Brand new planes, affordable and great service. They're currently in the process of updating their fleet and expanding with an aim to become a major airline. Uzbekistan is also serviced by trains, so that is another option if you want it.

eating:
Uzbekistan isn't really famous for it's cuisine. We were a little worried before we arrived, but it actually isn't that bad. National dishes include plov (think fried rice, cooked in mutton fat, with carrot and some mutton) and shashlyk (mutton on skewers). We weren't overly excited about our food prospects, but like I said it wasn't bad at all. It was like having a BBQ every night, and there were vegetable kebabs available too. One dish we fell in love with was the Uzbek eggplant salad, which varied in form in different places, but tasted AMAZING nonetheless.

shashlyk


sleeping:
There are some pretty little B+B's in Uzbekistan, some of which are in old courtyard houses, which are a real treat. They're all very affordable (approx. $50 for two) and with many options available. You also get a pretty mean breakfast which is always good.

our room in Bukhara


shopping:
Oh the shopping! This was something I was really looking forward to. In particular suzani shopping. Being a textile designer, I do collect pieces when we travel, so this item (and a carpet) were must buys and on top of my list. The textile shopping in Uzbekistan is the best I have experienced so far - price and variety wise. We not only bought suzanis (umm 11 all up, most being gifts though!), but old soviet antiques, tea and other antique textile pieces. Bukhara is probably the best place for shopping, with pieces from all over the country and the best prices. Bargaining is required, and on average we found we only got most items about 20-30% cheaper, with no more budging. At all.



general:
Uzbekistan is renowned for its hospitality and we were quite blown away by it. One of our highlights was having a meal with our new Uzbek friend, Olim and his girlfriend, after meeting him in a shared taxi. They were both so generous and it was a great time as we discussed and shared the similarities and differences of our cultures and countries. The women are also really gorgeous. Women in Uzbekistan do not have nearly the same kind of rights we do in the west (another plug for A Carpet Ride to Khiva by Christopher Aslan Alexander, which sheds MUCH more light on this). So when doing our shopping I tried my best to buy off the women, who also made the products. The transaction was met with the biggest smiles, hands on hearts, hugs and kisses. And was a very different experience compared to purchasing from a man. It made for a very rewarding experience as I wasn't just simply buying some stunning pieces, but helping support some pretty amazing women too.
Vias wise, Uzbekistan isn't the easiest country to enter. But it isn't as hard as people say either. Just make sure you do your research and you'll be fine. Before you apply for a visa (for Australians at least) it is advised you obtain a letter of invitation. We used Stantours, who I highly recommend. Once you have the LOI, applying for a visa is much easier! There were all sorts of horror stories we read about obtaining a visa, but it was very straight forward and we received  it on the spot at the Uzbek consulate in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. You can also obtain a visa on arrival when you fly into Tashkent, however you will still need your LOI and it apparently takes a very, very long time to obtain at the airport. Having said all that, it was worth every bit of time spent researching and making sure we had all our paperwork in order. Uzbekistan is simply marvellous and we will be back.



2 comments:

  1. It´s great to learn more about Uzbekistan, it looks like an amazing place to visit and those textiles are WOW, I hope to go there some day. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Yes sure Uzbekistan is great place to visit specially if you like romantic tour plan your tour to stay in Yurt and one of the largest oasis of central Asia for that Uzbekistan airways is best dealer which plans your tour cheaply and comfortably.

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