For Spring Break in 2009, Robyn, Zoë and I headed to Uzbekistan. I've been wanting to visit Uzbekistan for years, but have always been detered by long and expensive flights. From Delhi, however, it's an easy and direct 2.5 hour flight!

Uzbekistan proved to be a great vacation, as it was the opposite of India in many ways. The air is clean, the country is sparsely populated, it has big wide empty sidewalks that make walking a joy, everything (including hotels) is clean and it has easy and functional public transport.

The food wasn't so great. In each restaurant, I'd say, "What do you have?" They'd say, "What do you want?" I'd think "Tex Mex, Tuscan steak..." I'd say, "Plov," or some other simple dish that is a national staple. They'd say, "No, we don't have that." After repeating that process four times, they'd say something like, "All we have is nasty dumplings filled with egg yolk." We'd say, "We'll take five," and then we'd stuff Zoë with another one of the 30 muesli bars that we had brought with us.

We flew into the capital Tashkent, then flew the next day to the furthest city in Uzbekistan, which is Nukus. We drove from there to the Aral Sea. Then we worked our way back to Tashkent overland, stopping at the Silk Road cities of Khiva, Bhukara and Samarkland.

We hired a 4 wheel drive and a driver to drive us 500km to the existing shoreline of the Aral Sea, which is less than half the size it was 30 years ago. The Soviets diverted the rivers that maintained the sea for irrigation. Some people think it's the biggest ecological disaster on Earth. It used to be the 4th biggest lake in the world. The area used to get 30 rainless days a year, now it gets 150. The Sea used to support a large fishing industry, now the former fishing port (Moynaq) is 140 km from the Sea! Heavy use of fertilizers has also resulted in astronomical rates of birth deformities and infant mortality. Despite the ills for the local population,we were excited to spot the thin blue line of the Aral Sea after going so far to reach it. We camped near the shore. I doubt there was anyone within a 100km of us.
Climbing around the boats in Moynaq was spooky!
Medrassa in Bukhara. When Genghis Khan sacked the city he was reportedly so amazed by the minaret that he ordered it spared.
The Registan in Samarkand is touted as the most spectacular sight in Central Asia. We were certainly impressed! The medrassas and mosques reminded us of Iran, though they were often disappointing inside, since they were generally filled with souveneir stands, instead of worshippers.
Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent was a fun place to explore on our last day in Tashkent.


Zoë and I headed out early our first morning, to let Robyn sleep. We ended up getting lost on the steet cars, it took us six trips to find our way home!
Zoë contemplates the safety instructions for our flight on a Russian built TU-154 aircraft. This flight was scary! The plane was packed, loud, not pressurized well and had an open overhead rack to place your bags on!
On the shore of the Aral Sea. The evaporating sea has left a thick crust of salt behind.
After camping on the shore, we drove 140km more through the desert to reach the former fishing port of Moynaq, where we inspected the former fishing fleet.
$200 in Uzbeki cym (sum) is a lot of bills! The biggest bill is worth about 65 cents.
We loved chilling out at the Haus (central square and pool) in Bukhara.
page created on April 16, 2009