Khujand Travel Blog› entry 16 of 19 › view all entries
***Retyped due to power surge***
***Partially retyped because of chronically stuck backspace key***
I just saw the tallest Lenin (22 meters) in Central Asia surrounded by Persian-speaking people tending their flcoks of sheep. Let me tell you how I got here.
On the way to find a taxi next to the Chorsu bazaar in Tashkent, I was stopped for a chat by two cops in their green uniforms. It was less of an interrogation and more like a typical conversation I described in my first post. The only difference is that they had the shiftiest eyes I have ever seen. Do you have to practice to get your pupils to move back and forth so quickly? I was taken to the Qoylok bazaar and immediately found a shared taxi to the Uzbek border town of Oybek. In Uzbekistan everyone shops at the bazaars (not in newfangled stores) which also serve as transportation hubs. My 90 minutes ride to Oybek was boring because no one spoke Russian very well. Much to my surprise I was dropped off just a few hundred feet from the border.
I waited a few minutes in line at the border until I was able to fill out a customs declaration form, which asked me describe any peculiarities of the items I was bringing out of the country. As I soon as I finished I was ushered to the front of the line ahead of Uzbek and Tajik citizens alike. The guard barely looked at the x-ray of my bags and then led me by the arm to get my visa stamped. I was treated better by the Uzbek police than their own citizens. I walked for a kilometer in the hot sun to the Tajik border. The guard searched by bags more thoroughly here, but mostly to look at my American gadgets (especially the kindle). Several taxi drivers welcomed me to Tajikistan by demanding $40 for the 65km ride to Khujand. I managed to bargain down to $20 while they complained as every driver does, about the price of gas. I must have gotten a good price because the drive refused to talk to me for the first half of the ride and then refused to go through the toll, and instead took a 3-mile detour on a dirt road.
The driver left me at Hotel Ekhson. I refused the first few rooms because the bathrooms were gross. I have a 4-room suite, but only the one bedroom is furnished. The ladies at the desk were nice about it. And for the third time this trip, I was told I look like the character “Shurik” from a famous 1960s slapstick comedy film. I have 3 empty and useless rooms. I sped off to the ticket office near the bazaar to successfully buy a ticket for a morning flight to Dushanbe. The Panshanbe market was just across the street next a typical Soviet World War II memorial. I bought some grapes and t-shirt with Tajikistan written on it. I am not sure if I will be able to find many Tajik-specific souvenirs elsewhere. I ate a entire of chicken’s worth of shashlik and found the energy to walk past the old city citadel, across the Syr-Darya River and to the tallest Lenin in Central Asia. This one was a very serious and well-crafted Lenin. People let their sheep graze in the parkland around him.