Turkmenabat (TKM)- Bukhara (UZB)
August 17, 2014
Yesterday we got turned around by the Turkmenabat-Farap bridge officer and ended up crashing at a shitty hotel called Turkmenabat Hotel. Nothing worked in the room. We paid $30 USD per person. They didn’t even give you any toilet paper.
We wanted to be the first one to cross the border, we woke up and aimed to be at the border at 8am. We met a dude who motorbiked from Singapore to Ireland via Moscow. We exchanged some USD to Uzbek Manat. I got a huge brick of cash. Genuine C.R.E.A.M. experience, Dollar Dollar Bill Yo~!
We crossed the bridge with a $20 USD “foreigners service fee”. It came with official Turkmanbashi Bank stamped receipt. Other travellers also claimed that they had to pay for it so maybe it’s not a bribe? Something sounded very fishy here…
Turkmenistan Uzbekistan Border Crossing
The border crossing this time took around 3.5 hours. We spent 1.5 hrs on the Turkmen Side, another 2 hrs on the Uzbek Side.
We had to empty our car and lugged most of our stuff inside both checkpoint offices for examinations.
The Uzbek border side took much longer they wanted to search everything we had for illegal drugs and pornography. Overall, all of the border crossings we had were smooth, despite the highly inefficient and lengthy bureaucratic paperworks.
All the border guards were nice as long as you showed them some respect like saying hello and thank you in their local languages. In this case, As-salomu alaykum and Rahmat in Uzbek.
Uzbek Kabob Shashlik and Local Market
After crossing the border we stopped at a thriving small town called Alat and ate at a local bustling bazaar market.
We had 9 Kabob shashlik (Uzbek minced lamb kebab) with chai and it was absolutely delicious! My dream came true! Meat, Meat and Meat! They put raw onions on top and white vinegar on the plate, perfect balance for the gaminess of the lamb! Altogether the meal was 40,000 UZS (Uzbekistan Soms), roughly $16.50 USD.
I really like local market like this, it offers a glance of local culture and the daily life.
Uzbeks are super fun, sincere and friendly! They are definitely not shy for the camera. I LOVE Uzbekistan!
While on the way to Bukhara we drove through a huge pothole and two of our wheels rims got bent. Both tires started leaking air.
We changed the more severe ones with our spared tire. We sailed on in tortoise speed of 20 mph.
We finally arrived in Bukhara. Bukhara is a city-museum, with about 140 architectural monuments. Located on the Silk Road, the city has long been a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion.
We followed the guidebook recommendation and tried Hotel Amelia but there were no vacancy. The super nice operator recommended us to another guesthouse called Nazira & Azizbek Hotel. So we parked our car Takhi Butter, grabbed our backpacks and walked into the old town.
Located in a alley in the middle of Old Town, Nazira & Azizbek Hotel was built in a Guldasta (flower bucket) style: a large entrance with a rectangular courtyard surrounded by two stories of rooms.
We got the triple bedroom on the ground level with our own combined shower and toilet ($65 USD for all three of us breakfast included). Great value and definitely a fantastic place to stay!
Once we unloaded they instantly offered us a complementary plate of delicious watermelon and grapes with chai. Just little gestures like this made us felt very welcomed and we instantly relaxed. Plus the AC actually worked and its cold in the room ;-) Graham and Young were super relieved!
Fixing Tires in Bukhara
We needed to fix the bent car wheels the Hotel Amelia guy recommend us to a tire shop in town. We were afraid we did not have enough cash so we located an ATM in the old city. The sun was very strong all the locals stayed in the shade. Only a few tourists were out.
The operating language in the ATM were all in Russian fortunately some nice Uzbek lady helped us out. To our surprise this ATM only dispend US dollars!
Then Graham and I took our Takhi Butter to the local tire shop. Ran by a team of energetic and friendly young Uzbek men, we got all our four wheels hammered back in shape and tires resealed, for only 20,000 Uzbek Soms ($6.25 USD).
They were super cool we gave them some FUNraiser T-Shirts and a I LOVE SF t-shirt as tokens of gratitude.
Bukhara Came Alive at Night
Then we went back and explored the old city. At night Young and I went for a nice dinner at rooftop restaurant called Chayxana Chinar. We ordered a huge feast for the two of us- super delicious Lamb Pilov, 2 Lamb Shish Kebabs, Manti Dumplings, Soup and 2 salads. Along with several beer the bill came to 75,000 soms (around $31 USD). We gave the waitress a generous tip she was very nice and helpful.
After the gigantic dinner we ran into Ulaan On Your Feet team again in the Old Town square! So great to see them again after the Human Pyramid at Door to Hell! They were going to stay here for 2 nights and invited us out for dinner. We were so stuffed already and Graham represented us ;-)