CROSSING INTO UZBEKISTAN
After an equally questionable breakfast my driver collected me from the hotel and we made the not so confident drive to the border. Getting out of a country is never an issue, its usually just a case of stamping your passport and make sure you haven’t over stayed.
WELCOME, YOU’RE THE FIRST TO HAVE A VISA ON ARRIVAL HERE
Turkmenistan has a policy of checking everyone’s bag for Turk carpets and antiques. This got my nervous as I had my drone but the rule didn’t seem to apply to tourists however, and rather than search my bag they only asked. I was waved straight though and towards the immigration officer.
WHERE IS THE UZBEKISTAN BORDER?
The officer was happy to stamped me out but he wanted to see my visa for Uzbekistan. You might wonder why the Turkmenistan immagration officer wants to see my Uzbekistan papers. Well, its important as if I don’t have the correct paper work I would have to come back to Turkmenistan but with their strict visa policy it would mean having to apply for a new visa, something that normally takes up to a few weeks!
Anyway I had the presidents decree at the ready and after airdropping it to him he wished me a safe journey and off I went.
THE FIRST EVER VISA ON ARRIVAL
Coming into Uzbekistan it was a completely different experience and almost as if I had travelled 1000miles and not the 500metres in a taxi. Everyone was so warm and welcoming, it made me realise that Uzbekistan could well be the highlight of this trip and something I would be seeing a lot more of.
The immigration officer came straight to me and said not to worry about the immigration form and that I should come straight to the front of the security queue. He was loving the Irish passport but I was slightly nervous about my drone when they wanted my bag opened. That was until they saw my famous packing cubes and let me on my way.
Then it was the immigration where I was apparently the first person to take advantage of this new visa policy today. I still couldn’t believe my luck, I could just as easily be going back to Ashgabat airport! I had changed all my plans since Ashgabat as I was told I must visit Bukhara but not having Wi-Fi in that sh*t show hotel made it difficult to know if they were confirmed. My driver however was keen to help and took me to the nearest hotel.
Uzbekistan has suffered of late and was frequented mostly by Americans. However since 9/11 all that changed and many locals believe it was down to their country having the syllables “istan”, similar to Afghanistan etc.
The plan was to spend a few hours in Khiva today and get the first leg of the night train to Bukhara this evening, staying a night there and also in Samarkand followed by Tashkent. This still leaves me having plenty of time for my flight to Bangkok before going to Bhutan.
I didn’t have much expectations of Khiva because I didn’t know what to expect but it was stunning and a place that remained relatively untouched. There were countless weddings and the guests were getting the bride to look towards my camera as opposed the her own photographers!!
- 90,000 people
- Established around 1500 years ago
The driver hung around for me before dropping me off at the train station. Now bear in mind this is a night train where I’m getting dropped of in the middle of the night in Bukhara. I was sharing a room with 3 other locals who seemed to get the fright of their life when I white guy walked in.
They couldn’t have been nicer though and the trip and experience completely humbled me! First I was offer to take a seat and sit down and chat, although only one of them could speak any amount of English and even his was very limited!
Some of them had brought food and took turns in sharing what they had, of course I had brought nothing but it was never an issue, they even went to keep my cup of green tea filled! It goes to show that although you might not be able to speak the same language as someone but you can always find a way to communicate. At home there’s no doubt everyone would be on their phones – me included.
WAKING UP TO A SAUSAGE
After they had a good old nosey at the stamps in my passport I took a walk around the train and couldn’t get far for locals wanting to have a chat, I was in shock as to how nice people here were! Got talking to a fella called Bec and after hearing about my steak ordeal in Turkmenistan he offered to meet me in Tashkent and make amends!
Back to the room and after noticing the locals were asleep it was time for some myself. 15 minutes after tucking myself in the locals decided to get up again and start eating. They continued to offer me food and drink – it was the offer of a stick of salami they shoved in my face that had me in fits of laughter!
- Whats you experience of border crossings?
- Have you ever been refused entry?
- Have you been to Khiva, what did you think?
Let me know in the comments below . . .