Deserts and dictators. Yurts and nomads. Silk Road cities, staggering yet underrated mountain ranges, Soviet detritus, and one of the world’s greatest road trips.
This is Central Asia. The ‘Stans. Never well understood, but absolutely worth an attempt to understand.
A glimpse of Pik Lenin (23,000+ feet) along the Pamir Highway near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.
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We realize that we may confuse our readers occasionally. One day we’re writing about Tajikistan and the next day about Myanmar, all while traveling through Thailand.
Why so much bouncing around? Continue Reading »
Although it is technically possible for EU and US citizens to obtain a tourist visa to Uzbekistan without a Letter of Invitation (LOI), we recommend spending the extra $30 for the letter. It enables the process to move faster and removes some of the pain. We used Stantours for our LOIs to Uzbekistan. No tour booking was needed and we received the scanned letter by email within a couple of weeks. Continue Reading »
I just want to go home. I’m tired of all this visa stuff.
– A distressed traveler at the Kazakh embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
So what does sex have to do with Central Asian visas? Simple, really. Thinking about, planning around, and procuring visas for Central Asian countries begins to dominate one’s time and mindspace — almost to the point of obsession. We’ll leave it to you to do the rest of the comparison. Continue Reading »
A couple of notes, dear reader. We are headed to Myanmar and things may be quiet, or they may not. We just don’t know. If you don’t hear from us on the home page, take a look at “The Very Latest” on the left-hand sidebar. Twitter seems to have worked in most countries, even those with heavy internet controls and painfully slow connections.
We are also still catching up on Central Asia. It left an impression on us that has rendered us far behind in our writing. While we figure out Myanmar, we offer you the following: the best people, food and landscape/cityscape shots from a journey that still leaves us surprisingly nostalgic for the intensity, challenge, and people of Central Asia. Continue Reading »
When we arrive in a new location, we usually seek out the local market. This is how we orient ourselves. Markets provide an easy way to meet real people in a friendly context. They also offer an insight into local food and culture. Central Asian markets proved no different. We found ourselves frequently sampling local fruits (OK, having fruit heaped upon us by the lapful) and talking with vendors about their products. We decided that the markets, the vendors and the produce in Central Asia deserved a video. Continue Reading »
I don’t know why my country, he likes to cheat everyone.
– Aziza, an Uzbek woman, rhetorically pondering why many of her Uzbek countrymen enjoy ripping off tourists so much.
Shaft us once, shame on you. Shaft us twice, shame on us. Try and shaft us repeatedly and charge our friends $1.00 for a few teaspoons of sugar, and we write a blog post about you. [Yes, one of our travel mates was repeatedly charged for sugar – and outrageous sums, no less.] Continue Reading »
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 »
Have you ever watched the news and witnessed escaping refugees at a border crossing, crushed against iron bars like animals in a cage? You know the scene. Now superimpose two backpack-laden white faces onto that newsreel, throw in a few cries of “Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan” amongst the shrieks of old women and children being squashed in a sea of madness, and you would just begin to understand what we went through at the Uzbek-Kazakh border yesterday. Continue Reading »
Taking advantage of free wireless internet in Tashkent, we’ve decided to conclude our time here by uploading photos from Uzbekistan’s Silk Road.
Tashkent has been the most connected city in Central Asia thus far. Rather ironic considering Uzbekistan’s penchant for blocking internet sites and restricting printed material. Just one of the many contradictions here. Continue Reading »