A homestay to avoid
Penjikent Travel Blog› entry 370 of 658 › view all entries
People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)
We slept until 10.00 on Friday morning, before having a reasonable breakfast served up to us in the small courtyard of the house that we were staying in. David went off to the Fan Mountains, but we couldn't join him as we had too many other issues to contend with, such as online visa invites and laundry! I spent much of the day sat at a computer ordering some books, sorting out some banking details and filling out the Iranian visa invitation forms. What fun.
It was a miserable day and as i walked home through the streets it began to rain, so i put my yellow raincoat on. It seemed like the locals had never seen one of these before, as they all wandered around getting wet, but staring and giggling at the foolish Westerner walking past. Inwardly i reserved a snigger for them, imagining them holed up for the next three days with a runny nose and cough!
At the home stay, we waited for some sign of lunch to materialise, as we were told the $10 we were paying was for full board. Nothing had arrived by four and when Julia asked when we might get some food, the lady walked off and never returned. The owner Niyozkul Nematov turned up a bit later to 'help out' around the place and took the washing line from under the covered courtyard and hung it outside, so as Julia could dry our clothes in the rain! When we asked for it back inside, he told us it was better outside and that the rain would stop eventually. 30 minutes later, we had to take matters into our own hands and move it back where it had come from!
By 18.00 we were both famished and asked again if there was going to be any chance of eating in the next day or so. Niyozkul asked us why we hadn't asked for food already, but we explained that we had. He said we had asked the wrong woman and showed us who we should have asked. Julia explained that she'd also tried to ask this woman, but she spoke no Russian or English!!! Niyozkul told us that it wasn't how the Tajiks did things, if you were hungry then you ask. Then he told us that this was Tajik hospitality, which i found hilarious. So going and asking for food is hospitality, i always thought hospitality was offering the food?
Dinner was served a little after 19.00 and Niyozkul came into the room to give us a speech on how great he was and how Central Asian hospitality was so fantastic and how us Europeans just wouldn't understand anything about this magical 'H' word. He said that the food we were given was a free gift, something they just chose to do. When Julia questioned this and said that $10 was supposed to be for a bed on the floor and three meals, he didn't really have an answer. I don't know whether his floor space is magical and commands a $10 per person fee, maybe it has curing properties or something.
Been in the Lonely Planet had clearly got to Niyozkul's head and i really hate these people, who end up thinking an LP recommendation makes them Gods gift. He happily talked about the day Bradley Mayhew (the LP author) had turned up and told him he would include him in the new book. So what happened to the Lonely Planet authors not telling the people who they were? At every turn he would point out what amazing generosity the Tajiks showed, but this didn't include the Pamiri's of course, who are shiite Muslims. He clearly had an issue with the Pamiri's, who i had found to be a bit nicer than the Sunni Muslims that we were currently dealing with, but all in all i don't have much love for either 'sect'.
The wife of Niyozkul woke us up on Saturday morning, gesturing that we should come for breakfast. It was a new day and i had fresh hopes that my love for Tajikistan could be reignited, but this dream died soon afterwards. Having barely eaten the day before, a portion of dry bread with tea wasn't really what i was looking for, but it was all that we were given.
My stomach was still rumbling when i went for my shower, but a good hot soak usually does the trick. Problem one was that there was no hot water and problem two was that there was no water pressure and thus i had to squat under a cold tap on the bathroom floor and do my best to get clean. Julia had even worse luck, as the water totally cut out when she was in the middle of washing her hair. The home stays in the remote regions of the Pamirs had provided far superior service, even though they had less available to them. I was pleased to be packing up my bags and heading off to the Fan Mountains, escaping Lonely Planets highly recommended accommodation.