Thoughts on 10 Days in Tashkent

I was nearly giddy as my taxi pulled up in front of the Hotel Uzbekistan in Tashkent. After a month of homestays and shabby hotels in Tajikistan, I was staring at a real hotel again.

A hotel with a bright, shiny lobby and air conditioning.

A hotel with a concierge, 24 hour café and souvenir shop.

A hotel with electronic key cards, free wi-fi and real toilet paper.
 

Yes, I was in heaven.

 
Of course, everything is relative. As I ventured out of my hotel later that day to brave the heat and start exploring Tashkent, I couldn’t help but compare it to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. It was like night and day.

Tashkent felt like a capital city, with vast boulevards, landscaped parks and sparkling new buildings throughout the city center. And it had such basic amenities as supermarkets, stoplights, a subway system and Western clothing stores like Benetton and Mango.

Tashkent, Uzbekistan
 

No, I was definitely not in Tajikistan anymore.

 
While most Tajik women seemed to wear ankle-length dresses and covered their hair with scarves, women in Tashkent appeared much more Western – tank tops, short skirts, shorts and high heels were common.  Foreigners were much more prevalent as well. I didn’t receive nearly the number of comments or stares that I did I Tajikistan. Indeed, I’m not sure I got any – I felt like I blended in surprisingly well.
 

As I walked around Tashkent, the sun beating down on me and temperatures soaring far above 100, several other things caught my eye.

 
For a city of nearly 2 million people, it was ridiculously quiet. I chalked it up to the high temperatures and assumed everyone must come out at night when it cools down a bit, but the first evening I went out to dinner, returning after dark, it was still pretty dead. Where was everyone?

There was a noticeable police presence – more so than any place I have visited since Moscow. Officers seemed to stand at every corner, at the entrance to every subway station and in front of just about any important looking building. Somehow I made it through ten days in the city interacting with them only once to ask for directions. Others I met were not so lucky. A Belgian couple looked at me in shock when I told them I had been walking around without my passport while waiting for my Kazakhstan visa; they had been stopped and asked for theirs every single time they rode the subway.

Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Certain things were shockingly expensive. Take cereal, for example. I ate a gluten free brand of cornflakes frequently while I was in Russia and Ukraine. The stores in Tashkent carried the same brand but at four times the price! I also made the mistake of buying a bunch of apples at a supermarket without checking the price. Apples had been fairly cheap most everywhere I have been so far, so I was shocked when my four apples rang up at about $13.

Street signs and building numbers were hard to come by. One day, I walked up and down a street for over twenty minutes without seeing a single sign telling me what street I was on. To make matters worse, many street names seemed to have changed in recent years because when I finally did spot a sign, it often did not correspond to anything on my map (which I got from the Uzbekistan Embassy and assumed would be accurate). Even when I found the right street, building numbers were almost non-existent. How does anyone ever figure out where they are going?

The most random thing I noticed was that there seems to be an unwritten rule that everyone must drive a white car. Seriously.  I have never seen so many white cars in my life. Passing one parking lot, I would say 90% were white. I can only guess it as something to do with the summer heat and the likelihood that dark cars would be much more hot. Makes sense, right?

Tashkent, Uzbekistan
 

I admit I didn’t do much sightseeing in Tashkent.

 
I checked out the Chorsu Bazaar and some of the nearby mosques and madrassas. I walked through Alisher Navoi Park and visited the National History Museum. I spent one day hiking in the mountains outside of the city. I also went back and forth between my hotel and the Kazakhstan Embassy four times and spent a total of four hours standing in line outside of it, but I don’t think that really counts as sightseeing. Considering I was there for ten days, I really didn’t see or do that much.

I meant to do more – like have lunch at the Central Asian Plov Centre and visit the Museum of Applied Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts.  I meant to explore Tashkent’s Old Town area and check out the Seattle Peace Park. And I meant to go to the top of the TV Tower for a great view of the city.

 

But it just didn’t happen.

 

Tashkent, Uzbekistan

It was hot, I was tired, I had work to do, the list goes on. Ironically, if I only had three or four days in Tashkent, I probably would have seen a lot more. With ten days, I succumbed to the lure of procrastination until I found myself on my last day in town thinking, “oh wow, I need to try to see this.”

But I feel good about what I did see, I left with an overall good feeling about the city, and I was extremely productive in a non-tourist sense: I caught up on my work for Meet, Plan, Go!,  scheduled a dozen new blog posts, cleaned out a good chunk of my inbox, and made plans for onward travel into Kazakhstan.  And I enjoyed lounging in air conditioned bliss and watching BBC World News for hours at a time.
 

Overall, it was a good ten days.

 

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8 thoughts on “Thoughts on 10 Days in Tashkent”

  1. I completely get not seeing much of Tashkent – it was a chill out place for us as well. We found a cafe with good wifi, coffee and chicken sandwiches and made it our office for a week to catch up on photos, blog posts, talking with family, etc. It’s that kind of place. And that’s OK.

  2. I can imagine enjoying air conditioning and the luxuries of a “real” hotel after weeks of roughing it a bit. And sometimes you need to just take a break from sightseeing, even if it means you miss a few things.

  3. Sometimes you just need a break from sightseeing and that’s okay. You can still experience a place without running from sight to sight.

  4. This is probably a silly/vain question but I am packing for a five month journey across the Silk Road so largely packing conservative clothes… Maxi skirts, shawls etc. What sort of attire would you recommend for the likes of Tashkent if we fancied sampling a nice bar for a treat? Any help would be much appreciated!

    1. Where all are you stopping? Tashkent isn’t so conservative – I saw just as many women in tank tops, short skirts and heels as I did in traditional Uzbek dress. I didn’t go to any bars since I was traveling by myself, so hard to say what would be appropriate there. Sorry!

      1. Thanks Katie, I think I’m doing the whole over-thinking thing, ahead of packing it all in to go travelling! Just read your post on feeling unsettled and wondering what the future holds! Al the best in Chicago x

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