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Current Location : Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, China (Google map)
Last entry date : 05 June 2008

Women selling their produce at the Spice market, Samarkand

16/May/08 to 21/May/08

When the customs gate opened at the Turkmenistan exit border in Uzbekistan, I was already geared up and waiting – 1st in line to get out. The Turkish trucker Mr. Ridwan, wished me good luck as he said the morning will be long at the customs. He was right. At the TM side I was like a ball bouncing from one counter to another and then back again. At the Uzbek customs, the health section opened and checked all medication I carried. Just when I thought I could leave, a young customs officer insisted that all bags are unpack for inspection. He does not realize the trouble and time it takes to pack my bags and cases. Luckily half way through his superior intervened giving the green light (well, he had earlier saw my red ball pen and I said he could have it, so that must have helped). When I finally happily exit these 2 customs 3 hours later, a handful of private money changers were just as happy to see me. A bit of local money in the pocket and I’m off in a hurry as it gets very hot in this near desert area. I hoped to reach the famous city on the Silkroad, Samarkand, before sunset.

In Uzbekistan, as in Iran, the people were quite surprised to see a biker in town. So when I stopped at the border town restaurant for lunch, crowds of young people gathered. A group invited me to join their table and they talked and laughed loudly, some brandishing their gold teeth display. The Uzbeks appear to be much more jovial than their neighbours. A little while later a policeman came making it understood that I should be on my way as there were just too many young kids eyeing the bike.

On the road, there were police checkpoints at entry and exit of bigger cities. They stopped me a few times, but it was more for their own curiousity about the bike than the request to show my passport. To my amazement the ride from Burkhara into Samarkand leads through a valley where there were even rice fields and other crops grown. Not far away, one could still see the desert sands creeping up the mountains. By the time I arrived into Samarkand it was already 19.30hrs and I simply checked into the 1st available hotel – a cheap Russian style run-down hotel, looks good on the outside but very dark on the inside, shared dirty common bathroom and toilet. Its better to pay a bit more but I was too tired that day. The receptionist was so afraid for my bike that she ordered it be parked inside their locked pumproom within their locked compound. I had trouble getting the bike into the pumproom. The guard said not to worry but indicated he needed some tips.

That evening by luck I met Denis, a young local Samarkand rock musician, while hunting down an internet café. Denis wanted to improve his English and said he’ll show me around town and find another hotel – how could I refuse. With Denis help I moved into the more decent family run hotel Zarina which is also featured in a couple of travelers guidebooks. Many seasoned travelers converge here once, I believe once they have done the rest of the world – like having met Thomas & his touring group from UK, and Martyn & Vee doing a road movie about their adventure by driving their old beat up 20 year old Mercedes from Lituania through Europe, Turkey, Iran and Central Asia.

I felt like a tourist with Denis as guide in Samarkand, a crossroad for Silkroad travelers in ancient times, and now one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Up until now, I’ve only traveled the Silkroad, but its here at the Spice market that I sensed something about the commerce on the Silkroad and imagined how it must have been thousands of years ago. A fantastic market. The mini taxivan ride back from the market with 10 persons cramped inside at one point was an experience itself. Poor Denis, he was seated next to the door, so had to be the doorman, do the get down and then get in steps at every stop.

After a 3 days stay I made my way through hot desert roads to Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan. With info from Martyn & Vee, I picked up the address of family run Gulnara guesthouse which is just the thing for travelers like me – friendly and homey atmosphere and meeting other travelers as well. The host even change US$ if required, so no need to go to the bank. Such guesthouses are usually conveniently located nearby to internet cafés. The tough Lituanians Martyn & Vee arrived to the Gulnara guesthouse that afternoon and we celebrated the end of their successful & safe trip with a good meal, and they down plenty of beer. Happy is word written all over their faces. I also managed to get my Krygyzstan visa here, in case I decide to turn right into the Krygyzstan capital city of Bishkek, out of curiousity.

7 Responses to « On the Silkroad into Samarkand, Uzbekistan  »

  1. Hello all,

    After 2 weeks through Central Asia and now in China, I manage to upload some travel news and photos. Quite happy to have succeeded as finding reasonable internet connections here is a task in itself. I expect to upload 4 more stories before riding up the Himalayas into Pakistan next week.

    Thanks your visit and follow me !!
    Sheen

  2. Beautiful photos …. nicely written stories, will be checking for your next one. Take Care

  3. it’s worth waiting! The photos and comments are great as usual. We are so glad to see everything is fine. Take care. Love. Lydia

  4. Very Happy to see all the photos! they are beautiful !
    continue ton reve! On est avec toi! 🙂
    take care 🙂

  5. Siew Hoon & Victoria5 June 2008 à 8:11 pm

    Hi- Sheen,
    Nice knowing you’re doing well. Thanks for the interesting news, & beautiful, colourful photos. Friendly people too. Take care.

  6. I am so proud of you!! People seem so kind. I am glad you are enjoying your trip. I can’t wait for the next updates!! Prend soin de toi Dada.

  7. you are into the most exciting part of your journey and i can see all of us leaning forward to expect more from you. Let me know the taste of camel’s milk.

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