Uzbekistan is one of only two* double land-locked countries in the world. Hands up who knew this? I didn’t until our guide told us. Shame on me. It is surrounded by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan. It became independent from Russia in 1991. We arrived here in May 2014, entering on the overland truck from Turkmenistan, which is one of the strangest countries I think I’ve been to. I’ve written a bit about it here and here, a longer post will follow, soon. We visited the main towns and sights in the two weeks we were here, crossing west to east. These are Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent, finishing our time in the lush (yet conflict-prone) Fergana Valley. Crossing west to east meant we did them in this order, and I’m glad we did. Each town/city offered something new and increased in size and complexity and the Fergana Valley gave us a good indication of the changing landscape we were soon to encounter when we entered Kyrgyzstan. Continue reading
I was asked the other day what I could recommend as a gift for someone going travelling. It took me a while to think about it as there are so many different ways people travel.
I’ve come up with the following items that I think would be useful, for men and women, whether they are backpacking, cruising, sipping champers on a balcony overlooking the Amalfi coast, or riding festering buses in SE Asia.
1. Silk sleeping bag liner (even if they’re not going anywhere near a sleeping bag)
I’m not talking bulky cotton or polyester sateen here. urgh…static! No. I’m talking real silk. I’ve had mine for over ten years (sorry, can’t remember the brand) and it always travels with me. It is so, so useful. Continue reading
I’ve mentioned before that without doubt anything I brought that had sat in the ‘dither pile’ when packing, was never used. But sadly, it doesn’t end there. I also brought things I was so convinced I’d use, yet still made no, or limited, use of them. Here, I’ll tell you about four items that I either didn’t use, or that didn’t work out and explain why.
Oh dear. The number of hours I spent dithering over buying this makes me shudder. Overlanding through Central Asia into Tibet and on to S.E. Asia meant we would be travelling in a variety of temperatures.
I brought quite a lot of Icebreaker clothing with me and on the whole they worked really well. Icebreaker gear is quite pricey so I knew I wouldn’t want to risk sending it out to be washed on a rock in a river. The Scrubba Wash Bag seemed the perfect solution.
I had visions of me, during our overland trip, camping deep in the wilderness of Kyrgyzstan with a fantastic backdrop and no one around for miles, happily washing clothes with my Scrubba. So, sitting on the sofa in the comfort of my home, The Scrubba struck me as the perfect solution, I purchased it. Only it wasn’t. At least, not for me. Continue reading
The Uzbeks like their tea sweet. Very sweet. You see hunks of crystallised sugar for sale wherever you go. You see it in huge, tumbling piles in bazaars, or in deep filled boxes in shops.
It seems that by middle age most adults have a set of golden gnashers. It’s not uncommon to see them on younger people too. I think partly it’s the sugar, but it’s also a status symbol. When speaking, I found it hard not to be mesmerised by their golden mouth. When you’re used to seeing white teeth, the gold makes the mouth seem very dark.
Many of the women in Uzbekistan, particularly in Samarkand, wear wonderful, colourful dresses. Sequins and diamanté are stitched into the pattern, it shimmers in the sunlight, dazzling your eyes. I felt very dowdy and underdressed in my quick-dry t-shirt and walking sandals. Not at all feminine.
Some women sport a fetching monobrow. I asked our guide, Bek, about it. It’s Tajik fashion and apparently it’s drawn on, though on some it looked very authentic.
I even saw one on a two year old girl. I’m assuming it was drawn on…but you never know!
The overland trip would take six months. It starts in Turkey and finishes in Singapore. One third of our time would be spent camping.
However, it’s hard to camp much after Kyrgyzstan, so little camping would be done after this country, just a few nights in Tibet. So really, we camp 50% of the time until we enter China.
I’ve put luxury in quotes for a reason. If I was back home these items wouldn’t be on my luxury list, but when you’re travelling what counts as luxury takes on a whole new meaning. Examples are: a flushing toilet (if you can sit on it, even better), a shower that actually gets you wet and doesn’t hurt you, bedding that doesn’t have the imprint of the previous occupant, or their hair! I know, I’m fussy.
I’ve read lots of blogs of people who travel (it seems) with nothing but a Lush solid shampoo bar. I’m afraid I’m just not like that. At home, I had a bathroom cabinet chock-full of moisturisers, oils, masks, cleansers, serums etc. I’ve struggled to leave that life behind, so I keep a little bit of it with me in the form of these products. There are other products I thought about adding, such as face masks, (despite my experience in Bali) but they’re not a luxury, they’re an essential! Below are three things I guess I could go without but choose not too, despite being on the road.
Our style of travel seems to be panning out as budget-luxe. Sadly, ‘luxe’ with a lowercase L, not upper! We seem to mix it up quite a bit and our expenses (mainly food) vary wildly from one day to the next.
One day we spent 60p on two, yes TWO, delicious bowls of what I can only describe as a spaghetti Bolognese style soup (tasted much nicer than it sounds, honestly) yet other days we’d spend nearly £10 on coffee and cakes and then dinner on top.
Activities: By our standards we did a fair few activities in Indonesia – a cooking class, spa treatment, and a day out with our own driver in Bali. In Java we did sunrise over Mt. Bromo, and visited Prambanan and Borupudur. These came in at just over £200 between us. Continue reading