Waiting for the shuttle in Istanbul I thought I would check for any useful hints on arriving at Tashkent Airport. Worst airport in the World cried some, had to call the Embassy to have them come and retrieve my passport from immigration, they took all my money because I didn’t fill a form in correctly, bag thieves everywhere, they made me pay $500 to enter the country, the taxi driver pulled a gun and demanded all our money. By the time I was sitting at the departure gate I was really wondering if I was doing the right thing, but then I got some soothing texts from back home (thank you) and met a party of British teachers on their way back after the summer holidays and felt the anxiety level lessen. The boarding process was eye opening as large parties wanted to sit together so actual seat numbers were totally ignored, this caused complete mayhem of course. Is it always like that? You would have thought the airline would have made the process less anarchistic, but what do I know. Eventually the overworked flight crew settled every one down and we left, only an hour late though that meant instead of a 1.40am arrival it would be 2.40am.
Arrive we did and upon deplaning and waiting for the bus I couldn’t help noticing the heavy military presence bearing sub machine guns (Kalashnikovs?) then alighting from the bus we were herded into a glorified shed where it was everyone for themselves for immigration, no queueing, waiting in orderly lines, oh no. I got my stamp with a grunt and then it was baggage claim, sit and wait, sit and wait. Where’s my bag, Moscow? Budapest? Nairobi? This was the second time ever that I have had to check my quite small bag, never again I vowed. Eventually it came and with fear and trepidation I approached Customs with my duplicate forms and you know what, I passed, welcome to Uzbekistan , enjoy your stay. So proud. Exiting I was confronted by a massive crowd of greeters and hustlers. No, no thank you I don’t want to get in your taxi, my hotel is picking me up (well I hoped they were, I sent two emails), attempts were made to grab my bag, I was surrounded, and then, there he was, the man with the Mr Tim, Silk Road Hotel sign. The relief.
Sped through darkened Tashkent with the Super Moon above and then hotel, easy check in, offered a beer at the 24 hour bar, whadya mean, its four thirty in the morning! Slept the sleep of the Gods until 6.00am when someone started pounding on my door, Oh Rude Word. Cat napped until about nine and went for breakfast, then took a nap. Went for a short stagger down the street and came back, another nap.
That was about it for my first day in Tashkent. I changed some money, 50 UK pounds ($75.00) and received 190,000 Uzbek Som in 1,000 Som notes. What ever am I supposed to do with this stack of notes four inches thick? A charming young lady called Anastasiya advised me where to get an Uzbek SIM for my phone, but when I got there the shop closed at three o’clock, try tomorrow. I went to a grocery store dominated by the biggest display of loose biscuits (cookies) I have ever seen, don’t they go stale and soggy? I bought some chips (crisps) for eight cents. Sat by the pool for a while but it seemed dominated by rather large, sunglassed men with their families (or not) and judged it expedient to sit at the back on the grass, if you get my drift.
Drank tea (Erin).
Tomorrow the serious business will be taken care of, booking trains, hotels etc for my adventure around Uzbekistan and also visiting Embassies to get more visas.
I will let you know how it goes.