Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hello, Tashkent!

Let me just being by apologizing for what are sure to be many typos (Cyrilic key board)

I arrived in Uzbekistan last night.  The flight from Seoul was about 7 hrs and was uneventful. We arrived in Tashkent and began the immigration process. I was a bit apprehensive, since everything i had read said that it was a difficult process and could take 3 hours. On the contrary, it was far less of a hassel than entering Canada or the US; there was just a lot of paper work to fill out.
Outside the airport i was hit with a wave of summer evening heat and a mountain of taxi drivers all clamoring for my money. I lit a smoke and told them to wait until i was finished. They stood there staring at me. I told them to back off or they I wouldn't be able to enjoy my cigarillo. They behaved. Then, in Russian, i managed to haggle the price of a taxi from $15 to $5 US. I know it shouldn't cost more then $3, but i am ok with $5.

En route to my hotel, the cabbie asked me (in english now) if i wanted to change some money.
I should explain: Everything i had read told me that the best place to change moey is with illegal, black market money changers. The banks will give you about $1700 Som for every US dollar and will charge hefty fees, but on the black market the rate is much better.
I agreed to the exchange and we made a detour to a poorly lit side street where we met a man in a waiting car. I gave them $100 US and got $210,000 Som, which was presented to me in four bricks of bills.

That done, i was driven to my hotel, the mighty Hotel Uzbekistan. Now, this hotel is a prime example of the hideousness of some mid-century Soviet architecture. It has no charm, but i picked it, because i am only here for 2 nights and it is in the best possible location. Also, it is a known hotel, and i knew i would have to give them my passport for a day to complete the manadatory Visa registration, so i thought it would be best to do that at a hotel with a good reputation. My room is unimpressive, but clean and has a great view.  The hotel sits on the ring of Timur Square (which is really a circle) and is the centre of the city.

After getting settled, it was about 10pm and i decided to go for a walk and a cigar. The air was magnificent. It was beautfully warm and not at all humid and smelled of strange plants and spices. The moon was nearly full and small bats circled everywhere. Timur Square was beautifully lit and filled with people. Actually, there were people everywhere: families and couples and gaggles of teens walking around, sitting on benches, playing games and drinking tea. I even saw a few people on horseback. In another square people had gathered and there were merchants selling art and jewelry. It was such a beautiful night and the moon made all of the enormous soviet buildings look beautiful (even the ugly Hotel Uzbekistan). It was such a grand stroll. This is going to be an awesome trip.

I slept well and awoke to breakfast. This hotel doesn't screw around with breakfast: fruits, vegetables, breads, oastmeal, eggs, meats, curried chickpeas, daal, rice, blintzes...I went back for thirds. Now, quite stuffed, i must figure out how to stash my mountains of Uzbek currency on my body and then head out for the day.  I have some business to tend to (buying train tickets and whatnot) and then i will go for a walk.

My hotel has a computer room, so i will surely blog later today.



luba said...

You are an amazing young woman. How did you get to be who you are?

Anonymous said...

agreed! must have been what you learned from your momma. amazing and brave! ~norma c.