We unintentionally followed the Silk Road in reverse order – from somewhere near its western end in Tbilisi, Georgia to its eastern terminus in Xi’an, China. Although our first taste of UNESCO Silk Road sites occurred in Turkmenistan (Merv), Uzbekistan is where the Silk Road unexpectedly reaches a sophisticated tourist marketing level.
Don’t worry, we won’t bore you with a bullet list of must-see Silk Road sites. There are plenty of those in guide books and all over the internet. You can (and should) check out our short photo set of Silk Road sites in Uzbekistan.
This scavenger hunt is intended to help you get under the surface of Uzbekistan’s polished Silk Road tourist veneer which you’ll find in Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand. We’ve also thrown in Nukus and Tashkent as a bonus. The list below includes some serious suggestions, as well as a few head-scratchers. Continue Reading »
One last thing about Turkmenistan before we move on…camels.
No animal seems to capture the essence of grace while embracing its own awkwardness like the Dromedary camel. Though you’ll catch the occasional loner wandering the open scrub or tracing the roadside, camels are actually domesticated. They move in herds and are raised for their meat and milk. If you have the chance, try chal – a fizzy, fermented version of camel milk.
We never could get our fill of camel-spotting, camel-chasing and camel-filming. Our group regressed into a Romper Room of riotous pre-schoolers each time we spotted one of these unmistakable beasts in the distance. Continue Reading »
Ladies, are you looking for a man? Having trouble finding that special someone?
Men, are you stymied by women’s steely Jedi Knight abilities to thwart your every move?
The Rosetta Stone of dating is revealed for all!
We discovered it outside a shiny, clubby looking place aptly named Friend-making clubhouse at half past eight, a Jiefang Lu outpost of a chain in Xi’an, China focused on…we’ll let you use your imagination on this one. Continue Reading »
While planning our itinerary through Central Asia last May, we dismissed Turkmenistan mainly due to Audrey’s impressions of the place. She envisioned a dark, totalitarian state where people mysteriously die in jail. The outlandish whimsical declarations of its leader, Turkmenbashi, would be humorous if they didn’t encase the six million people living there in a difficult reality. Having worked with Turkmenistan and some of its neighbors in the job she’d recently departed, Audrey was certain this wasn’t her vivid imagination running wild.
Dan kept Turkmenistan in sight and brought it up often enough to keep it on the radar of travel possibilities.
Considering that Turkmenbashi had just died in December 2006 and that we might not have this unique opportunity again in the near future, we decided to give it a go. We left it to fate and the Turkmen government’s willingness to grant us adequate visas.
As fate would have it, the Turkmen authorities said yes. So did we. Continue Reading »
If a baby died, its bones would be kept in a ceramic jar in the house.
– Our guide Oleg providing another fascinating background tidbit on the ruins at Gonur Depe, Turkmenistan.
Fifteen minutes later, one of us literally kicked up the fragmented top of an ancient ceramic urn encrusted with earth and filled with small bones. The bit about the bones may sound morbid, but when you realize that what you just overturned with your hiking boots probably dates back 1000s of years, it becomes a really cool find. Continue Reading »
Your trip across the Caspian may provide some of the scariest and most fulfilling moments of your entire journey.
– A veteran journalist we met in Tbilisi, Georgia who had seen it all in the former Soviet Union.
Although we are posting this from Pingyao, China, we dial back a few clicks to the beginning of our journey in Central Asia in an attempt to adequately address the images in our mind and the notes in our journals.
Oddly shaped like a damaged index finger or a distressed plume of smoke, the Caspian Sea pumps out oil and caviar in the midst of the surrounding desert and extreme landscape. Continue Reading »
Welcome to the last installment of our photos from Central Asia. Yes, the umbilical cord with the former Soviet Union has finally been cut. We have exchanged Cyrillic letters for Mandarin characters and statues of Lenin for Mao. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we leave you with images from Tajikistan. Continue Reading »
“So, how’s China?” some of our readers have asked. We thought a fitting way to begin to answer this question would be through the lens of the ubiquitous greeting, “Welcome to China!” So far, we have received two distinct types of welcomes into the country — one that comes from the heart and the other that comes from the pocketbook. Continue Reading »
Having just uncorked our first bottle of Chinese wine, we began to reminisce about the small, lovely and affordable French wine collection we’d built in Prague (then quickly quaffed), thanks to the Salon de Vignerons Independants (French Independent Vintners Festival) that we attended in February 2005 and February 2006 in Strasbourg, France.
In addition to tasting over 300 different wines at those two events, we returned home with a small cache of 100 bottles. The taste and quality of the bottles we purchased belied the fact that most of them cost well under 10 Euros. We could continue our little daydream here, but we’ll leave you to read this article that we wrote about the Salon earlier this year.
Now, back to our current reality… Continue Reading »
As the end of our Tajik visas rapidly approached (overstaying one’s visa in Tajikistan comes highly unrecommended), circumstances forced us to take a puddle-jumping lunch box with wings from Khorog, the main town in Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains, to the country’s capital Dushanbe.
The following is a two minute video from the flight. The first 30 seconds are from the taxi and takeoff of the previous day’s flight. The next 90 seconds are mid-air. Keep in mind that the camera was not on zoom. Continue Reading »