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Bukhara TV

Leaving Khiva by public transportation shouldn't have been too complicated, except that we arrived at the bus station at 8 a.m. and the day's first bus to Bukhara left at 2p.m. This meant we had to negotiate with the dreaded minivan drivers for an earlier departure. After taking a survey of other passengers we determined that the cost of the trip was 10,000 sums (about 8$) per person. When we approached the driver and were quoted 15,000 sums each, I am embarassed to admit, I unleashed a tirade of epic proportions. I blame it on a build up of overcharging in the weeks leading up, but as Yann walked across the bus station to check the afternoon bus fare, he could apparently still hear me swearing. The driver claimed that the extra fee was for our baggage, which just made me angrier. Our bags are small were small enough to fit under the seats, so the surcharge couldn't be for the space we were taking up. Our bags weigh less than 10kg each, so when two gigantic Uzbek women joined the passenger list, that ruled out the weight surcharge. The driver tried to bring the price down, but still not to the actual fare, so I refused to talk to him. Despite my slightly psychotic reaction I felt that other passengers sympathised with us (at least a little bit). After over an hour, still with not enough people to fill the minivan, the other passengers ganged up on the driver and made him take us for the 10,000 sum fare. The driver and I acted as if all was perfectly normal as Yann loaded our bags into the minivan. I was mighty greatful, I definetely thought I had cut off that transport option. Most of the Khiva-Bukhara drive is through the desert and the scenery is pretty much unchanging for the six hour trip. At one point we did pass some desert nomad's tents and concluded that we had witnessed some of the most harsh and unpleasant living conditions imagineable.

Thanks to European style tourism initiatives, dozens of homes in Old Bukhara have been restored and transformed into cozy, Western-amenity filled guesthouses. With lots of competition, the prices are low and we stumbled upon a great room down an alley just a few meters from the central landmark of the Old Town, Lyabi-Hauz, a small pool surrounded by trees, teahouses and medressahs. The major selling point wasn't the great location, old stone courtyard, clean bathrooms or cheap price, it was definetely the satellite television, complete with Al-Jazeera and dozens of Arab porn station commercials. We spent a few too many hours hauled up in our room channel surfing. Just down the street from our guesthouse was one of two remaining synagogues in Bukhara, serving the small Jewish community that settled in the city during the 12th or 13th century. We frequently crossed yamaka-clad Uzbeks, an small pocket of distinction among the majority muslim population. We spent two days visiting more of Uzbekistan's architectural heritabe, medressahs, blue domes and minarets. The Bukhara Old Town is certainly more lively than Khiva's but you still get the impression that the average Bukharan doesn't spend much time inside the old city walls, unless they are trying to sell something to tourists. Overcharging tourists is definetely commonplace in Uzbekistan, but the shit really hit the fan when a local grocer tried to charge us twice the price for a chunk of smoked gouda (I really really wanted that smoked gouda). I won't go into the painful name-calling story. Yann cruelly made me go back to the same store to buy bottled water, since it was the cheapest price in town (and marked with a price sticker) and I couldn't resist taking another cheese-price-jab at the grocer. Due to our inability (or laziness) in finding reasonably priced food within the Old City we self catered most of our meals (a generous breakfast was provided by our guesthouse). Dinner usually consisted of fresh nan bread, smoked gouda (from a deli in the market), fruits and marinated Korean salads (made by the Korean-Uzbeks whose families were relocated by Stalin around WWII). We had to cut the salads out when we realised that the overload of garlic was keeping us from sleeping, although, it did give us more time to enjoy the great novelty of Bukhara: the TV.

1 comment:

Falco said...

Hello Yann and Emilie!

I am Falco, a friend of Marie. She let me know of your blog three weeks ago and I've been going through it in bits almost every day since. Your voyage is incredible and it's with great pleasure that I read your descriptive entries. The packing and planning sections are great. I have travelled quite a bit myself but never for an extended period of time. The main place I have always thought of going for such a trip is Central Asia so I find your current writings and photographs particularly interesting. I hope that in spite of travel frustrations, the serenity of the quiet towns, desert plains and rough mountains apparent in your captures also leads to peaceful times of rest. Please mention if you go through any of Uzbekistan's extensive cotton plantations along the Amu Darya river - I am curious to know what these cultivations look like and how extensive the cotton-growing regions appear along the river. Here is some Neil Young for the next time you hit the road: http://individual.utoronto.ca/sketch/sman.mp3
Thank you again for sharing this experience!
Best of luck and warm regards from Toronto!!