Day 82: Vomit in the desert and meeting another Travbuddy in the wild

Bukhara Travel Blog

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Crossing the Kyzylkum Desert

Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Kevin (USA)

Public buses have all but disappeared in Uzbekistan. There are still some buses running between large cities, but these are infrequent, unreliable and very uncomfortable. Better value are the marshrutkas, but these are equally unreliable (unlike in Georgia and Armenia, for that matter). The best option if you want to get anywhere quick is to take a share taxi, but these don't come really cheap, unfortunately.

From the town of Urgench I took a shared cab to Bukhara, a six-hour ride through the blistering hot Kyzylkum desert. When I arrived at the taxi stand in Urgench there was already a couple with two kids waiting, so I figured that the car would be full and ready to go.

The road through the Kyzylkum desert
Well, I figured wrongly. Children are not considered passengers, so we had to wait for yet another passenger, one who would be crazy enough to share the back seat with two adults and two children (obviously I had taken the front seat).
About an hour later the car was finally full, and with 7 people (the family of four, the driver, the other passenger and myself) crammed into a Daewoo Nexia we finally set off.

The drive through the Kyzylkum desert was a long and uncomfortable one. Uncomfortable because it was a desert and deserts tend to be hot. Long because we were stuck behind some police escorted truck combination for about an hour. For whatever reason cars were not allowed to pass so we were stuck behind it together with at least a dozen other taxis. I noticed how all cars in Uzbekistan seem to be Daewoos.
Desert fighting back and claiming the road
Later I learned that Daewoo (a Korean car manufacturer) has actually opened a factory in Uzbekistan, making it pretty much the sole supplier of cars in the country.
Another reason why the journey was quite long was because one of the kids in the back suffered from motion sickness and kept throwing up. He would do so without any warning (or any receptacle for his vomit) so each time the entire back seat of the car had to be cleaned out before we could continue. Boy was I glad to be sitting in the front (though one time he aimed his vomit towards the front, throwing up all over the driver).

Before leaving Khiva this morning I had asked the people of Hotel Islambek to phone ahead for a hotel room.
Stuck behind a truck with 17 other taxis (note they are all Daewoo Nexias!)
I had been warned that hotel rooms might be short on supply in the high season, and since I would be arriving quite late in the day I wanted to be sure I had a room for tonight. I spoke to a women on the phone who quoted me a price of $25 for one night. When I asked for a discount I was put through to a man, who immediately quoted $15. Hmm, that's the easiest ten bucks I have saved in a while.
As I arrived in Bukhara and walked the few blocks from the central square to my hotel I was approached by a guy offering me a hotel room. I told him I had already made a reservation, but he was quite persistent. He quoted me a price of $10, which made it even more interesting, of course, and he offered me to show the place before I would decide. I decided I would honour my reservation, which was at a place recommended by the Islambek hotel in Khiva and which I expected to be at least as good as the Islambek had been.
Lone donkey wondering why this strange bald man bothers to take a photo

The guy's hotel, O'tKirbek turned out to be next door to the place I had made my reservation, Nasruddin Navruz, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to have a peek. It was a truly lovely place, with brand new, bright rooms, even better than the one I had had at Islambek.

I thanked the guy for showing me the room and once again explained I would honour my reservation. Big mistake. Once I arrived at the Nasruddin Navruz next door and explained what had happened, the owner became quite cross with me. I told her I was happy to stay at her place, but would like to pay the same price as next door then. As a reply she handed me back my passport, refusing to do my hotel registration (in Uzbekistan you have to be registered in an official hotel every night of your stay). Her husband was slightly more friendly and told me that for ten bucks I could stay, but only in a room at the ground floor.
The lively chaikhanas at Lyabi-Hauz square
They made me feel really bad, as if I was a bad person for rejecting the offer I had had next door and staying with them instead.
The room they gave me was nowhere near as nice as the one I had been offered next door, yet still I stayed there. Don't ask me why. Only after a very poor night's sleep (it was really noisy in the courtyard all night long) did I come to my senses and move out of the Nasruddin Navruz and stay at the O'tKirbek next door instead.

One good thing about the Nasruddin Navruz was that I met an American guy, Kevin. It turned out he was a member for Travbuddy as well (Redrelic). This is the first time I have met someone who is a member of Travbuddy by chance. I was quite thrilled to meet one in the wild, really.
The lively chaikhanas at Lyabi-Hauz square
What was even more surprising, we had actually been in contact a few weeks ago, trying to see if it would be possible to travel through Tajikistan together. Neither of us knew each other's schedule, so it was quite surreal to meet in Uzbekistan by chance.

We went out for dinner together at Bukhara's main square, the Lyabi-Hauz. This is a historic plaza built around a pool, surrounded by traditional Uzbek tea houses, or Chaikhanas. Well, apart from tea they also serve food and beers, so we had a great time sampling both. The food in Uzbekistan is a mixture of Russian, Asian and Middle Eastern. That means they have kebabs, just like they do in Iran or Turkey, but they do something really strange with them. Before roasting the meat on the fire they put, erm, whatchamacallit..
Paying the restaurant bill. It was only a couple of euros, but it took about 10 minutes to count out the money...
. herbs and spices on the meat. What a fantastic idea! Really genius. No idea why no one ever thought of that in Iran, where all food is rather bland.

Kevin speaks Russian, which came in quite useful when we tried to order our beers. Uzbekistan brews Sarbast beer, but the regular brew doesn't taste all that good, really. Central Asians have a different taste for beer, as I would later find out. But fortunately Sarbast also has an "international quality" brew, which almost tastes like real beer, especially when cold. So being in the company of someone who is able to order a specific brand of beer *and* ask for a cold one is definitely a bonus.

So good food, cold beer and nice company. It was a lovely evening. What I liked most was the fact that the place was packed with locals. Sure, Lyabi-Hauz is the main tourist attraction of Bukhara, but that doesn't deter the locals from eating and drinking here as well.
I hadn't seen any of Bukhara yet, but the city certainly made a good first impression.

edsander says:
> though one time he aimed his vomit towards the
> front, throwing up all over the driver

Sorry ... couldn't help bursting out in laughter. :-))
Posted on: Oct 11, 2010
Chokk says:
Travbuddy's are everywhere :)
Posted on: Aug 07, 2010
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Crossing the Kyzylkum Desert
Crossing the Kyzylkum Desert
The road through the Kyzylkum dese…
The road through the Kyzylkum des…
Desert fighting back and claiming …
Desert fighting back and claiming…
Stuck behind a truck with 17 other…
Stuck behind a truck with 17 othe…
Lone donkey wondering why this str…
Lone donkey wondering why this st…
The lively chaikhanas at Lyabi-Hau…
The lively chaikhanas at Lyabi-Ha…
The lively chaikhanas at Lyabi-Hau…
The lively chaikhanas at Lyabi-Ha…
Paying the restaurant bill. It was…
Paying the restaurant bill. It wa…
Bukhara Hotels & Accommodations review
An ok place place but unfriendly owners
I had made a reservation at this hotel following recommendations on both the Internet and the Lonely Planet. Initially they quoted $25 for a room, but… read entire review
photo by: Vlindeke