I really had no expectations about Uzbekistan. I guess that’s a decent way to travel, as I was prepared for anything. The flight wasn’t too bad, nine hours from New York to Riga, three hour layover, and four more hours to Tashkent. After going through customs and picking up my bag, I exited and immediately saw my brother Kevin and friend Ali as they hopped over some chairs and greeted me.
On our first evening together, they introduced me to Baltica 7 (nice beer) and one of their favorite bars, Smee. I met their friends Larissa (Russian/Ukranian Uzbek) and Natasha (Korean Uzbek). We also saw a German walk face-first into one of the clear plexiglass doors: “Scheisse!” After that, we took a cab over to the Fashion Bar, owned by the president’s daughter. Also had an interesting dream that evening about HAPPYFUNSMILE: the band (mostly unrecognizable people) wasn’t learning its tunes properly and I was pissed off. Weird dream.
The next day, Tuesday, Kevin went to work. So Ali and I spent the morning sipping coffee in a local wifi spot. We walked around the city and met Kevin for lunch at a Korean restaurant. Next, we went to the Chorsu market via Central Asia’s only subway, complete with a Russian cosmonaut theme. The market was full of fashionable Uzbeks in one-piece jumpsuits and women with facial hair. Awesome. Lots of spices, bread, clothes, and random junk.
After walking past the fruit and vegetable stands, we passed the fish market (double-landlocked country) and ran straight into the meat area. Scary stuff.
I finally got a chance to see some of the sheep-ass fat (dumba). I really wanted to bring some home, but we weren’t too sure about customs.
After checking out the main square in Tashkent (druzhba narodov) an arts and crafts market (abdul qasim medressah), and an illegal Russian-style CD store, we took a nap and headed over to the Irish Pub for dinner (lamb chops for me) and then to Al Delfeen for beer and a nerguila (grape flavored). Met up with Kevin’s girlfriend Maria (Bellarussian working for an NGO in Uzbekistan).
The next day, we left for an early flight to Bukhara along the Silk Road. We took a cab to the center and walked through the old part of town, eating fresh bread for breakfast and getting lots of stares from the locals.
We walked through an old fort, saw some mosques, shopped and got harrassed by a gaggle of fourteen-year old girls, and finally settled down for afternoon tea in this amazing teahouse.
Arriving back in the center of town, we had lunch at an outdoor restaurant (shish kebabs, salads, and mineral water). Kevin negotiated a cab ride for us to Samarkand (a mere 4-hour cab ride) and despite the awful roads, crazy driving, and the terribly depressing landscape, we made intact. The hotel in Samarkand was amazing with a beautiful courtyard. The toilet paper, on the other hand, was very much like sandpaper. After a visit to Oasis, a restaurant with its own brewed beer, we called it a day.
We slept in on Thursday, had a filling breakfast at the hotel, and then made our way to the center of Samarkand. The hotel clerk informed us that the President was in town that day, so many of the streets were closed off. In fact, we couldn’t go into many of the tourist sites, including the Registan.
But we made our way through the city, checking out more bazaars and more mosques. We arrived at the observatory and after being mobbed by a group of cab drivers, Kevin negotiated a ride for us back to Tashkent. That evening we were supposed to hit the sauna, but Kevin’s guide was feeling sick. Change of plans, so we again hit Smee and Al Delfeen. Most importantly, we got back to his apartment early enough to do some laundry.
Unfortunately, the story picks up in the middle of the night, when Ali started to spew out both ends. He had a terrible night of puking and diarrhea, so he spent most of the next day in bed. Poor Ali. Kevin went to work and I chilled out. We met up for lunch and by the evening, Ali was feeling good enough to accompany us to Tbilisi for some Georgian food. We met up with some bizarre people (one woman was staring intently at Ali) and after making a hasty exit, we headed over to a house party.
Saturday, we slept in and I had a strange dream about KIOKU sharing the stage with Kodo and others. We had only two pieces to perform, but we hadn’t decided and I was extremely worried. Weird.
We went to an outdoor fair on the edge of town, where there were tons of car parts, junk, and other unidentifiable items. But I found a really great accordion for $30. Since it was my last full day, I had to pick up a bunch of souvenirs, so we headed back to the arts fair, a boutique (where we saw a bad car accident), and then stopped over at an Italian restaurant for a late lunch. Excellent soup and calzone! That evening, we played poker with some of Kevin’s friends (Yerbil, Tamila, and Anbar). Really great people and even though Kevin came out the big winner, I didn’t do too bad.After that, we went to a restaurant with Pasha (another friend), for Kevin’s big treat. Dog.
I really need a change of scenery after that. We headed back to the Irish Pub (since it was St. Patrick’s Day, after all) and met up with DJ Black, another one of Kevin’s friends. The club was giving away free Baltica 7, plus they had some fireworks and a caravan of cabs for all. The final destination for the evening was the Diplomat Club, full of Russian sex-workers and awful dancers, a perfect place to meet up with the whole gang of UN, UNV, and NGO’ers. We finally made it home around 2:30am, and my flight back to the States was at 8am. Needless to say, I was not happy in the morning, especially after getting hassled by the customs agents for the accordion. After more negotiation by Kevin, I finally made it on the airplane.
It was an amazing trip, and even though the accordion got messed up on the way back, I was happy with the whole week! It’s all a blur, but definitely a good blur.