The original The Global Trip blog is tweaked and reincarnated for the era of social media as this archived compilation of photos and stories, originally posted on the road via Instagram and Facebook. It chronicles Erik’s journey through Central Asia as he travels through three of the “‘Stans.” During a long weekend in Kazakhstan, he explores the cosmopolitan city of Almaty and its surrounding mountains. Afterwards, he heads to Kyrgyzstan, where he encounters the locals — on horseback and on foot — in the villages of Lake Issyk-Köl, and the city of Osh. In Uzbekistan, he travels the modern way to sites on the Old Silk Road.




TRAVEL DISPATCHES (in chronological order)

Heading to Central Asia

Posted: October 29, 2014

Here I go again on my own — this time to Borat’s home country.

 

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Up in Smoke

Posted: October 30, 2014

My flight landed in Almaty, Kazakhstan around 5 a.m. It was still dark outside when I entered the meeting area with all the taxi drivers and I couldn’t find a sign with my name on it. (I had asked the hotel I had a reservation at to send a driver since I’d be arriving at an odd hour.)

ME TEXTING HOTEL: Is the driver here?
HOTEL: yes
ME: I don’t see a sign but I am by the door next to the cell phones in a green hat
HOTEL: hi he has been waiting for you 40 min and he said he didn’t find you and left
ME: The plane was delayed and immigration took 25 min.
HOTEL: and Eric there is a hassle in our hotel. At night there is a fire has occured in the hotel. we are here if you want you may come here. to the hotel. we are outside of the hotel

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Morning Drive

Posted: October 31, 2014

I’m in a stranger’s car (one of my host’s friends) and we just got pulled over by the cops. I’ve only been in Kazakstan for four hours.

 

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Running Errands

Posted: October 31, 2014

Somehow I managed to get dragged to an auto parts and supply mall.

 

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Battle of Wits

Posted: October 31, 2014

Lunch in Almaty involves meat with fried egg and polenta.

 

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Horse Milk Time at the Green Bazaar

Posted: October 31, 2014

Mürat gets us a liter of fermented horse milk. “It’s healthy. It will make you stronger. Also, you might feel a little drunk.”

 

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Not Your Borat’s Kazakstan

Posted: October 31, 2014

Some Kazakh kids playing on some former artillery — at the Park of the 28 Guardsmen (of World War II).

 

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Watching Borat

Posted: October 31, 2014

This isn’t really one of my usual travel puns, but I’m watching Borat in Kazakhstan. (VIDEO)

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Heading South to the Mountains

Posted: October 31, 2014

The crowded #12 bus takes me (and this guy who caught me trying to take a sneaky photo) to the snowcapped Zailisky Alatau mountain range, just 20 minutes out of the city.

 

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Enter Shymbulak

Posted: October 31, 2014

The slopes of Shymbulak Ski Resort — one of the sites of the 2011 Asian Winter Games — won’t open for another month, but the gondola is still open to take people to the hiking trails and resort restaurants at the top.

 

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Day Hike

Posted: October 31, 2014

This road eventually turns into a hiking trail.

 

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Fancy Nomad Food

Posted: October 31, 2014

Kuyrdak, a traditional Kazakh stew from the nomadic era, is made from horse meat and liver with onions, peppers, and potatoes. It sure looks fancy when served on an fine white plate.

 

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To Kok-Tobe

Posted: October 31, 2014

Another public bus to another mountain. Also, when I crop my nose out like this, I sort of look like a Muppet, amirite?

 

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God Almaty!

Posted: October 31, 2014

God Almaty! It’s a hazy albeit spectacular sunset over the city of Almaty.

 

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Home-Cooked Meal

Posted: October 31, 2014

Home-cooked meal: My host Alisher had some extra Laghman for me — a national dish with thick noodles, meat, and veg in a thick beef broth. Erin and Cale, a young Aussie couple also staying at the apartment because they too were refugees of the other hotel’s fire, declined because they are vegetarian. #moreforme

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Switching Stans

Posted: October 31, 2014

My weekend jaunt in Almaty, Kazakhstan was short but sweet. Now I’m watching action movies on the minibus to my next Stan: Kyrgyzstan.

 

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Visas and Taxis

Posted: October 31, 2014

Stressful times at the Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan border: We disembarked the minivan to go through immigration as per usual. Everyone else in the transport was local, so it was just me being hassled. At the Kazakh exit, the officer kept asking where my visa was. He apparently didn’t get the memo that as of July 14, 2014 (mere months ago), Americans don’t require a visa for Kazakhstan. I argued I didn’t need it and he stamped me out.

 

 

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Welcome to Bishkek

Posted: October 31, 2014

Sidewalk flower vendors at the intersection of Moskovskaya Street and Yusup Abdrahmanov Street.

 

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Kyrgyz Food

Posted: October 31, 2014

Local Kyrgyzstani cuisine includes Boso Laghman, which is not unlike beef lo-mein from your favorite Chinese take out place — at Bosmoka, serving local dishes and fast food 24/7.

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Through the Ala-Too

Posted: November 11, 2014

The sun rises over the mountains as my driver Azamat (coincidentally the name of Borat’s driver/producer) takes us out of Bishkek and into the countryside in a Honda Fit. “Almaty is more European. Bishkek is not so much. When you’re here, you go to the mountains,” he tells me.

 

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Meet Baha

Posted: November 11, 2014

The local CBT office (for Community Based Tourism) leads me to Baha, my horseback riding guide for the next new days. He speaks Kyrgyz and a little Russian but no English.

 

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High on Horses

Posted: November 11, 2014

As we ascend higher on horseback, Lake Issyk-Köl comes into view with the snowy peaks of the Ala-Too mountain range behind.

 

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Kyrgyz Hospitality

Posted: November 11, 2014

Home-cooked meal: a stew of mutton, potatoes, veg and barley.

 

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Along Lake Issyk-Köl

Posted: November 11, 2014

Lake Issyk-Köl is the world’s second largest alpine lake, after Lake #Titicaca in Bolivia and Peru. The northern shore is mostly beach clubs, bars, and resorts, but the southern shore is much quieter. Back in the 1960s-70s its surrounding area was known for opium and cannabis production. (And I thought it was this pure lake for nomadic people.)

If you’ll notice in the back of this photo, several peaks of the Ala-Too mountains jut above the clouds. #jaqshe

 

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The Issyk-Lake House

Posted: November 11, 2014

Accommodations for the night: another local homestay arranged by CBT, where your money goes directly to the community. This one isn’t in a village; it’s more like a standalone shelter in the middle of nowhere, near the lake. There is no electricity and the only way to get cell reception is to hike up the hill behind it and walk a few dozen meters with your phone in the air.

 

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Horsing Around

Posted: November 11, 2014

Enter the canyon.

 

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Home on the Range

Posted: November 11, 2014

The last leg of our three-day horse trekking journey is through a big valley where we first started. Baha leads me to his home in Jaichy, seen in the distance.

 

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One Night in Bishkek (And the World’s Your Manti)

Posted: November 11, 2014

Like Kazakhstan’s Almaty, Kyrgyzstan’s Bishkek is a city flanked by Tian Shan mountains, where hiking and ski resorts are a short drive away.

 

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To Fly or Not to Fly: Kyrgyzstan

Posted: November 12, 2014

To get to southern #Kyrgyzstan, you can either get a shared taxi and ride on treacherous mountain roads for 14 hours, or take a 35-min flight above the Ala-Too mountains for $20 USD. (I opted for the latter.) Twenty dollars gets you a reservation on the plane, $5 gets you a seat reservation, and three more dollars get you extra leg room. I “splurged” and paid $28, just for this view. (VIDEO)

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Intro to Osh

Posted: November 12, 2014

Folklore says that the city of Osh, once a hub for the Silk Road, was founded by King Solomon or Alexander the Great. Over the centuries, it’s been destroyed and rebuilt, and today it’s a vibrant city and college town that’s not as cosmopolitan as Bishkek. One thing that has remained constant over the years is Suleiman Too, the huge five peak crag that stands in the middle of the city. It’s hard to miss.

 

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Do You Suleiman Too?

Posted: November 12, 2014

Sacred Suleiman Too.

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Osh Bazaar

Posted: November 12, 2014

The bazaar in Osh is one of Central Asia’s largest, with stalls selling everything from clothes to sacks of potatoes to fresh meat.

 

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Adventures in Border Crossing: Into Uzbekistan

Posted: November 12, 2014

I had been told that the crossing from Kyrgyzstan into Uzbekistan would take a long time with crowded, so I decided to try and beat the rush. After a rice porridge breakfast at the Biy Ordo Guesthouse with a couple of dudes who’ve been bicycling through the Stan’s for six months, I took a taxi for the 15-minute ride to the border. It’s not nearly as crowded as I thought; it’s only just before 9am. Only me and an Uzbekistani woman walk to through the first gate.

 

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The Birthday Host

Posted: November 12, 2014

Akmal, friend of @gldncrl, invited me to stay with him, his wife, and daughter, at their home in Tashkent. When I arrive, there are already some dishes on the table. There is spicy picked tripe that has a familiar taste to me. “Is this Uzbek?” I asked him.

“Korean. This is a big Korean neighborhood,” he tells me.

 

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Make It Rain

Posted: November 12, 2014

It’s a known fact in Uzbekistan that exchange rates on the black market are better than national bank rates. Everyone knows a guy, or knows a guy who knows a guy, so Akmal brings me to his. Five hundred US dollars gets me over a million and a half Uzbekistani som, and I become a millionaire in an instant.

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Tashkent: A Proper City

Posted: November 12, 2014

Seeing the many tree-lined streets and park fountains on a pleasant autumn Sunday, I start to form my initial thoughts on the sprawling capital city of Tashkent. Akmal drives me around town to give me an overview before I head out on foot.

“It’s huge,” I tell him, especially when comparing it to Almaty.

“Almaty is tiny,” he says. “This is a proper city.”

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Exploring Tashkent

Posted: November 12, 2014

To the uninformed, it would seem that the giant green dome of the Old Town is of a place of worship. However, inside is the huge meat market at Chorsu Bazaar with dozens of butcher stalls. I guess it still is a place of worship — if you’re a carnivore.

 

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Farewell Akmal

Posted: November 12, 2014

Akmal had been such a great and helpful host for my stay in Tashkent. (Thanks for the introduction, @gldncrl!) To thank him and his family, I took them out to dinner, to this new place down the block they hadn’t tried yet. It had outdoor seating, and two indoor areas, one of which evolved into a dance club where a bunch of dudes got down on the dance floor to Arab dance tunes mixed in with Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What.” (VIDEO)

 

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Fast Train to Samarkand

Posted: November 12, 2014

A police officer stares out the window as the Afrosiyub high-speed train travels from Tashkent to Samarkand.

 

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The Silk Road: On the Beaten Path

Posted: November 12, 2014

It’s funny that to the American audience, most people don’t see Uzbekistan as a cultural sightseeing vacation destination. However, to many other countries — many European because of proximity, I gather — it very much is “ON the beaten path;” with a plethora of restored historical sites, modern cities that surround them, and a decent travel infrastructure, people arrive in hordes by the busload — literally.

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Three Taj Mahals For The Price of One

Posted: November 12, 2014

The Registan is the centerpiece of historic sites in Samarkand, or in all of Uzbekistan, or as my guidebook argues, all of Central Asia. It’s a massive three-building complex, so big that I can’t fit it all into frame, even from the observation platform the government made for wide shots. Each of the three madrasahs has its own courtyard and peculiarities. Together, they served as the big commercial, intellectual, and cultural hub of Central Asia. The experience of being there is like going to three grand Taj Mahals next to each other for the price of one.

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Encounters on Tashkent Road

Posted: November 13, 2014

It’s really easy to get to all the main “101” sites in Samarkand’s Old Town. Tashkent Street is a tree-lined walking promenade that links them all. It’s sort of like following the Yellow Brick Road, only in grey.

 

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The Story of Bibi-Khanym

Posted: November 13, 2014

The Bibi-Khanym Mosque, was once the Islamic world’s biggest. It’s actually a complex of three mosques, but the original was one ordered by Amir Temur’s Chinese wife, Bibi-Khanym, as a surprise while he was away pillaging as conquerors do.

Legend has it that the architect of the mosque fell in love with her and wouldn’t finish the job unless they kissed. Obviously this did not go well with Temur when he got back, and he since decreed women to wear veils so this temptation could not happen again.

 

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An Uzbek’s Conception of the Philippines

Posted: November 13, 2014

Two Muslim women lean on the wall, most likely contemplating life like Charlie Brown and Linus do, at Hazrat-Hizr Mosque.

 

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Promenade of Mausoleums

Posted: November 13, 2014

Shah-i-Zinda is not just a cemetery, it’s a showcase of some of the most intricate mosaic and tilework of the Muslim world. Walking through this initial “canyon” of mausoleums brings you to a promenade of other resting places of prominent people. This picture was taken before a busload of Chinese tourists arrived.

 

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My Crown Jewel of Samarkand

Posted: November 13, 2014

I walk back down Tashkent Street the way I came, go through a park, and end up near my hotel, where I started. It’s much later in the day, and the bus crowds have subsided at the famed Gur-E-Amir Mausoleum. When I get there, it’s just a few people and a toddler walking the grounds. He soon realizes he’s lost and starts yelling for his mother, who is just out of frame.

 

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Brooklynites in Samarkand

Posted: November 13, 2014

“This will be the first time I don’t take pictures of my food,” said the older American man across from me at the dinner table, back at the Antica B&B where I was staying. He had just come from spending a few days in a remote, less-frequented village in the mountains, and it was a culture shock for him to be seated at a proper dinner in civilization, with other people. It was a bigger shock that in our conversation, we found out that he was not only American, and not only from New York, but also from Brooklyn. “By relocation,” he said.

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Thanks to My Uzbek Connection

Posted: November 13, 2014

Thousands of miles away in northern India, my friend @Gldncrl — who had introduced me to Akmal in Tashkent — is on her way to Bhutan, when she realizes something about the Hotel Antica, where I’d mentioned I was staying at in Samarkand. She sends me a group Facebook message with “Diora,” just as I’m waking up.

“Hi Erik, Diora’s family runs hotel Antica. She also knows Davlat, who you met in NYC. I wrote her another message trying to find out if she is in Samarkand. If she is you should meet!”

This excites me: “We met yesterday!”

“Omg!”

 

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Registon of Savings

Posted: November 13, 2014

Old and New: Across the street from the historic Registon, is the big Registon supermarket. It’s a registon… of savings!

(FYI: Registon, Registan. It can be spelled both ways since the “o” has an “a” sound in these parts.)

 

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The Puppy of Ancient Afrosiyob

Posted: November 14, 2014

When I arrive at the Afrosiyob museum, I’m greeted by a little puppy. (VIDEO)

 

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Renaissance Man

Posted: November 14, 2014

This is Mirzo Ulugbek (a statue of him anyway), grandson of the great Amir Temur, who ruled from 1394–1449. Although a ruler in the 488-year-long Temurid dynasty, he was more known as a Renaissance Man, valuing the importance of music, art, math, and particularly astronomy in his society. He looks rather regal in this statue, especially when not surrounded by wedding parties.

 

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Lost Backpacker

Posted: November 14, 2014

“Do you speak English?” a confused backpacker approached me with. I could tell he was backpacking with his big pack on his back and daypack strapped over his chest. (I believe I used to call this a “two-sided camel” on my old blog, before it got reincarnated as a social media feed on Instagram and Facebook.)

“Yeah,” I answered. I saw that he was some sort of Asian, and — I’m guilty of it too — assumed he was Japanese. Turned out he was Malaysian, the ethnicity I’ve been getting mistaken for in Uzbekistan after Japanese.

 

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My Big Fat Uzbek Wedding

Posted: November 14, 2014

Wedding time. 

 

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Night Train to Bukhara

Posted: November 14, 2014

The night train from Samarkand to Bukhara. It appears to be an old Soviet train, and I have flashbacks of my journey on the Trans-Siberian from my original Global Trip ten years ago. There’s a corridor with a hot water station at the end, and sleeping compartments. (Thankfully there is no one pulling a gun on me like that time in Siberia.)

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Welcome to Bukhara

Posted: November 14, 2014

Bukhara, another main stop on the Silk Road tourism trail in Uzbekistan, was once an oasis capital where many a caravan passed through. Today it’s full of many historic buildings from those ancient and medieval times, from madrasahs to mosques to minarets. A lot smaller than Samarkand, the vibe is a lot more laid back, with many of the historic areas in and around residential neighborhoods. It’s also full of people getting around on bicycles.

 

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Tourists of the Lost Ark

Posted: November 14, 2014

The Ark of Bukhara was once Bukhara’s grand citadel, from the 400’s to the 1920s. That’s quite a long run, and it might have gone longer if the Soviets didn’t bomb it.

 

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Wandering Bukhara

Posted: November 14, 2014

The Bolo-Hauz Mosque from 1718 is still a functioning place of worship today.

 

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Just Browsing in Bukhara

Posted: November 14, 2014

The main bazaars on the historic path are housed in old arcades as they were in the Silk Road days, which kept traders in the shade from the hot sun. Nowadays, vendors sell cliché souvenirs to tourists, from scarves to ceramics. — at Taki Telepak Furushan Bazaar

 

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Minarets, Mosques, and More

Posted: November 14, 2014

Char Minar, which translates to “four minarets,” is not near a mosque. In 1807, it was the gateway to a madrasah, but now houses a souvenir shop in what is otherwise a residential neighborhood.

As I was leaving the area, people in a small Japanese tour group greeted me, “Konichiwa.”

 

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Three Amigos

Posted: November 14, 2014

I was just finishing up my plov and yangilik (an Uzbek dill-ladened salad with potatoes, cucumbers, coriander, and green peas) along with a beer on the rooftop terrace of the Minzifa restaurant, overlooking the roof of the Taki-Sarrafon bazaar.

“It’s okay, you can turn down bread,” I said to the solo traveler I’d noticed that had just been seated at the table across the way. He had just turned down the bread the waiter offered, just as I had.

“Every meal comes with bread and it’s a bit too much,” he said.

And with that said, the ice was broken.

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When It Rains, Set Your Balls on Fire

Posted: November 14, 2014

While it rains, I head to the ancient indoors of Bozori Kord, a 16th-century Bukharan hammam. Light peers through the skylight to illuminate the stone and brick work that looks centuries old (because it is) and that’s part of the charm. History aside, Bokori Kord is still a proper hammam for men in the mornings and co-ed (in separate rooms) during the rest of the day.

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Ladies Who Lunch and Laugh

Posted: November 14, 2014

Laghman for lunch at Chinar.

 

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Lost Out of Bukhara

Posted: November 14, 2014

Moritz, who I met the evening before, told me that it’s worth checking out the Emir’s Summer Palace, an eclectic collection of buildings about 5 miles out of town. He told me it would be a good change of scenery since after so many mosques and madrasahs, they start looking the same. I could have taken a marshrutka (mini bus) there, but I rented a bike instead, figuring it wouldn’t be too far. However, things are easier said than done.

 

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Back in Bukhara for Beers

Posted: November 14, 2014

Back in Bukhara, a fisherman tries his luck at the pool of Lyabi-Hauz, across from the Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka.

 

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Taxiing Through The Desert

Posted: November 14, 2014

Akbar, the manager of the Hovli Poyon B&B in Bukhara, had been asked by Akmal in Tashkent to arrange a taxi for me to my next city on the Silk Road trail: Khiva. But there was some sort of misunderstanding; he hired me a PRIVATE taxi for $100 for the 6+ hour drive — the fastest, most common and “convenient” way to get there — but I thought I’d just be getting help locating a shared taxi for a fraction of that cost.

(The train between Bukhara and Khiva is no longer in service, and flying there requires a pricey ticket back to Tashkent, a three hour layover, and another flight to Khiva, i.e. the same amount of travel time, at four times the price.)

 

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Khiva: From Dusk ‘Til Dawn

Posted: November 14, 2014

A bird flies amongst the minarets as dusk approaches in old Khiva.

 

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Minarets on a Movie Set

Posted: November 14, 2014

Khiva, once known as a brutal slave trading post on the ancient Silk Road, is now a showcase city on today’s Silk Road tourism trail. Its monuments are very well-preserved, so much that it feels like being on a movie set for a period piece. This man wearing a traditional fur hat in front of the Kalta Minor Minaret could be an extra if it was.

 

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More Mosques, Madrasahs, and Mausoleums

Posted: November 14, 2014

Kids on bikes, outside the Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum.

 

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The Wedding Dancer

Posted: November 14, 2014

The temperatures cooled off in the Kyzylkum Desert, it’s wedding season in Khiva as it was in the other cities I’d visited. Throughout the day, more than a dozen wedding parties paraded around the old city, each stopping outside the museum of music where a music shop owner/DJ played a couple of tracks for the party to dance to — primarily men while the bride just watched. (VIDEO)

 

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I Wear Many Hats

Posted: November 14, 2014

There are several vendors in old Khiva selling hats made of Uzbek fox fur, sheep leather, and/or wool. (Cotton is also a big industry in Uzbekistan.) I have my eyes on one in particular, so I inquire for a price, after trying on many hats. The teenager running the stand quotes me $50.

 

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Last Sunset in Central Asia

Posted: November 14, 2014

Outside the west gate, a little kid gets stuck in a big vase.

 

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Final Moments with a Familiar Face

Posted: November 14, 2014

For my last few moments in Khiva, I headed to Bir Gumbaz, this centrally-located outdoor/indoor cafe where every indie traveler seemed to end up at since all other options were already closed for the season. It was there that I’d had dinner with a German/Russian couple I’d met in Samarkand the night previous, but my final evening was in solitude — until a familiar face showed up.

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'STAN BY ME (in chronological order):



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