Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Train Ride: Tashkent to Urgench

I recently explored Uzbekistan for almost 2 weeks. It was quite an adventure exploring 4 cities, 3 of which are rather ancient. The railway was the main mode of transportation to move from one city to another.

The experience travel by train was quite an adventure. I got to meet the locals, the warmth of their hospitality and see the countryside. However, after a while it got quite monotones and uncomfortable.

If you want to explore these cities, my suggestion is to take the train one way and make sure you fly back to Tashkent for your flight home.

I had a great ride nevertheless.

We reserved the sleeper - meaning coach with beds. There are 4 bed, like 2 pairs of double deckers. Remind me of boarding school. And like in boarding school, I prefer to be on top.

The design of the coach is quite basic but very clever. I have a big luggage with me and still we have loads of room for storage. The train also provide fresh bedsheets and pillowcases (which we have to lay ourselves) and a set of teapot and cups - everybody drinks tea everywhere in Uzbekistan!

The train ride from Tashkent to Khiva takes 13 hours. It was a long (slow) journey. It could be quite chilly at night but I was well equipped with my winter ensemble. And during whihc also I finished reading Archer’s False Impression.

I got to meet locals who were very curious about us, tourist. They are always curios wanting to know about us, but language is a barrier as most of them only speak Uzbek and Russian. Even then they are very warm people and hospitable.

In one occasion we were literally forced to share breakfast (home cooked) with them in their cabin with their family.

It can’t get more hospitable than that, right. And the fried beef eaten with Non (bread) was simple, yet very delicious. Hot tea to rinse your throat after oily beef - perfect!


This is the kind of toilet I have to bear throughout the journey. Of course I would not do the No.1. As a man, with this kind of environment, No 1 is not really a problem.

There is this pedal you have to step on once you complete your business - is a flush. I was shocked at the beginning when I saw the railway track through the hole when I flushed it. Haha.

This is the sink, in the same cubical as the WC. You have to press the knob upward to release cold water. Really cold water. I can only brush my teeth and wash my face. Too cold!

These 2 gentlemen are my "roommates" . They are very friendly but we couldn't really communicate - language barrier.

When you are in a train for 13 hours, you will take a lot of pictures. The tail end of our train. So we were quite far to the front - which was not good as we found out later - when we got off the train we have to walk quite far to the main terminal and I have a lot of stuff to carry.

A solo camel in the dessert. I also saw a group of them wondering around or just grazing what ever is offered by the savannah.

Early morning view. Quite pleasant to wake up to this view on the horizon.

Railway crossing in a small town - to me in the middle of nowhere...

My "roommate" proudly pointed me to this river - the most important river in Uzbakistan - Amu Darya, one of the biggest in Central Asia. Important drinking water source, fishing, agriculture including ti irrigate the important cotton industry. I read somewhere this river has been over drained during Soviet time to develop cotton plantation.

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