As I am writing this post, I am trapped in a train for 40 minutes not knowing why the train is still not going… We booked business class and didn’t expect it would be a small cabin of 6 people. Looking at other 4 Uzbeks, they are waiting patiently, either sleeping, playing mobile phone or staring at the TV on the wall. The TV is playing a singer’s concert. Nobody is curious about what’s going on… not to mention there is no air con, no open window and the temperature is at least 27 degrees… luckily I have my laptop to distract myself…
Being the crossroad of Silk Road, Uzbekistan has a complicated history. I briefly read a book of the country and learned that it has been ruled by many different people, like Persian, Greek, Mongolian, Arabic…, etc, and of course Russian. That is why the locals can look very different, so is the dialects. Oh finally the train started moving before I can still breathe!
Nice people, clean and safe place
Locals speak Uzbek, Russian and their dialects. It’s sometimes a bit difficult to communicate, but you can still find your way because they are mostly very nice. Before I come here, I am quite nervous due to lack of information, so I don’t know what to expect. Now I know:) Most Uzbeks are cute, especially the kids. They like to say hello to you on the street, even drivers will do so from the car! (though they think we are Korean or Japanese and have no idea where is Taiwan) Some will ask for a photo with you which happen to us many times already. The shop owners will say, “Hello! Please come take a look! Please!” If you say no, they won’t really bother you. For travelers like us, we are usually more afraid of the drivers in terms of safety, and yes the drivers always like to give double prices or more, but they will take you to the right place safely.
The tourism is still not very developed yet, so most of the historical sites don’t even have a sign of explanation. Except big cities, in general people are not wealthy, but the street are quite clean, and you can always expect clean accommodation even in cheap hostels. By the way, it is strictly prohibited to stay in local’s house like couchsurfing, but I did find a contact via couchsurfing, and this new friend is kind enough to have a drink with us and talk about his lovely country.
Nobody exchange money in the bank
We saw in the guide book not to exchange money in the bank. Therefore we exchange with the first hostel we stayed. The official rate is USD 1: 3000, but we got 1: 6200 with locals. We gave the hostel USD 300, and he came back with a black plastic bag with numerous notes! Why plastic bag? Because they have huge inflation, one dinner can cost 8000-20,000 som, and their biggest note is 5,000, but most people have 1,000 and 500 note. So you have to bring a lot of notes to pay a meal. There was one guy who wants us to exchange money with him, he kept telling us I have many 5000 notes. Interesting advertisement! Imagine the money we have to bring each day… the black market exist because the government only allow locals to exchange around USD 2000 every 3 months, that’s why they will go to black market if they need more money for business or other reasons.
Muslim – we are believer not follower
We have been to a few Muslim countries, and Uzbekistan is so far the most open country among them. Female can wear whatever they like, and young girls always wear short skirts and not obligated to cover their hair. They can pray whenever they like to without following the rules. They drink alcohol and smoke. They claim that they believe the religion but they don’t need to follow the rules always. This is a cool concept and is the best point I like about here.
Taxi is everywhere
The taxi here is not only the official “yellow” cars, there are also a lot of locals who have car will just pick up people and earn some money. Usually you can do a hitchhiker gesture on the street, and yellow taxi or other cars will stop and ask where you are going. Surprisingly, the driver can stop anytime and pick up other people if they like, so you will find yourself in a taxi with stranger all the time. By the way, they driver really fast…
Central Asia was a mystery to me, and I have never thought I would really visit one of the countries. It is interesting to see how different the country is and experience their life. I enjoy the atmosphere and the fact that there are not too many tourists, so we can travel in a comfortable way. I am also happy to find out that this country is safe, cheap and easy to travel, and of course the most importantly, people are mostly friendly and nice. Oh I haven’t even mention about the food! The food is different but have some common taste comparing to us, so we ate a lot ;p