(Uzbekistan) Cycling Along One Of Most Beautiful Silk Road Cities

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I crossed Uzbekistan border with French married couple I had met in Iran. It was quite easier that immigration officer didn’t check bags much. After the border, local people coming and asking to exchange money. $1 was 3,000 Som officially by the government. But as I heard, it must be way higher in real, which was called black market. The rate at the border was quite low around 4,500 Som. I decided to not change. I would check at the next city. The rate really depended on the country. Sometimes I could get higher rate at the border. But in Central Asia, the rate was very low at the border.

After the immigration, we cycled a bit more and then had lunch along river. There was goat coming to me so I trained it as like Jurassic World.

 

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There was one small city we were passing. I stopped and asked local people where I could exchange money. Suddenly people started surrounding me. One of them started to talk me in Korean. He said he lived in South Korea.

 

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After some chat, a taxi driver said $1=6,000 som. It was way higher than the border and I thought it was right market rate. So I exchanged some money with him.

 

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There was one thing I worried that I had to register the address every three days. I had this kind of experience in Sudan and Russia. In Sudan, I went to a police station near the border to register and that’s was all. I heard I must register the address in Russia that if the police check my address, I would be in trouble if I didn’t have. But I had never registered over two months and didn’t have the problem in Russia.

But this time it looked so serious that I must give address registration paper before leaving the country at the border.

French couple told me the first day would be very important. If we didn’t have the paper of address registration of the first day, other hotel would not give the address registration paper. I was not sure it was right information or just rumor. There was no way to check true or not. I didn’t want to test my luck so I looked for the hotel.

We asked local people but they couldn’t understand English. We found some hotel on the map of the phone and decided to try there.

 

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The hotel was quite nice in a big building. It seemed the hotel was built for companies because there were many cargo containers at the behind. The room was $40 for twin bed. But it was only $13 per person when we split the bill. One of good things to cycle with other people was I could save money after sharing the cost. It would be very hard if I had to pay $40 alone for this hotel room. All of us got address registration paper for each. It was name card size and receptionist wrote the name, passport number, and date and he put stamp on it.

At the next day, French couple left early and I was so tired that I decided to start late. (I had not met them again because I was moving very slow from Uzbekistan.) After the breakfast, I saw there were Korean workers talking at the rest area. I said “Hello” to them and we stated to talk to each other a bit. He said Korean company was working with Uzbek government at this area. Suddenly I was thinking maybe I could get some USD from them after transferring my Korean money to them. I just wanted to have more USD for emergency because it seemed I could not take money from ATM in this country easily.

Kindly they said if I transferred money on online to them, they would help me to get money. I followed their office and I was surprised that there were Korean people working in the office.

After getting some emergency money, I cycled to Bukhara. The road was under construction that the pavement was really bad.

I booked a hotel on booking.com. But when I arrived, there was the problem. When I booked the hotel, it was 60,000 Som ($10), but the hotel asked me to pay 120,000 Som ($20). I asked him why he didn’t write they would only accept black market rate. It was his fault that he didn’t write about it.

I left to look for other hotel. One guy coming to me and he offered me his hotel for 60,000 Som ($10). It was not bad and the location was just in front of old town that I decided to stay there.

 

Later I talked to other traveler about it and he told me I must pay the local price which was on the booking.com. He said if the owner refuses, I should call the police. It was my first time to have black market that I was so confused.

 

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At the next morning, the breakfast was amazing at the hotel. Later I realized that usually breakfast was always amazing with porridge, cookies, egg, fruit, and some desert in Uzbekistan. I arrived yesterday night so I didn’t know how beautiful old town was. Once I went out, I was so excited to explore the city.

 

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Bukhara was historic place that it was important city for Silk Road.

 

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Tiles were very beautiful that I was so amazed. I was wondering how they built this building.

 

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Minorai-Kalon tower was built in 1127 and the next building was mosque. It was similar to Iran but I could feel more history in Uzbekistan.

 

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I loved the pattern in architecture.

 

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Ark of Bukhara was built in 5 century AD. The rampart was very impressing.

 

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On the top of fortress, I could see whole Bukhara.

 

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There were many small buildings in the fortress and it had unique design.

 

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One of surprising things in Uzbekistan was there was always people speaking Korean. One of men on the picture talked to me in Korean and told me he used to live in South Korea. Many of Central Asian and South East Asian came to South Korea to work in the factory. Usually they made five to ten times more money than their country. It would be quite hard job but they saved money for their family. It seemed many Uzbekistan working in Korea that I could meet easily people talking to me in Korean.

 

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Inside of castle, I could see girls buying jewelry. Their clothes were very colorful and unique. They liked to wear long dress. Many of them were Muslim, but they had different dress code than other Muslim country.

 

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It was not possible to take the money from ATM as foreigner but I wanted to try. So I went to the bank but there were many people waiting in front of the door and shouting to the worker. It was not possible to communicate in English, so I just turned around.

 

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On the way back, I stopped at the market. Bukhara was important city in Silk Road, so I could see still they were selling carpet and other things.

 

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It was full of women on the market and they were busy buying gold and silver.

 

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I went to some building to have lunch. But it was like I was walking in 15 century.

 

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Delicious lunch was only about $3~$4.

 

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I stayed in Bukhara for a week. The owner of hotel told me I could get dollar near the bank. At the bank, they had some small machine for paying. I press my pass word and could get dollar though that machine with the help from worker. Usually it was not possible to get money but this bank was exception because it was touristic area.

The picture was Uzbek beer. There was one thing I was disappointed at. People were cheating too often. While staying at the hotel, every day I went to same super market which was run by family. But prices were changed many times. For example, I paid 8,000 som ($1.3) for beer, but at the next day it was sold for 6,000 som ($1) by other family member. I asked why the price was changed. They told me maybe I was confused. But I was right that I bought exactly same beer. I bought sandwich near my hotel for 7,000 som ($1.15). But next day I paid for 5,000 som ($0.9).

All over the world, it was common to cheat tourist. But Uzbek did it too much. There was big difference from other countries. In other countries, when they cheated, they thought for one second about “how much I should tell”. Here they never hesitated to tell the price and I realized it was not right price later. When I asked why the price was not right, they always told me it was my mistake.

There were three countries so far which cheated all the time; Kenya, Tanzania, and Uzbekistan. Some traveler complained about Vietnamese cheating too much. Vietnamese very honest people compared to Uzbek actually.

I liked Uzbekistan’s culture and kindness and it was interesting to see some people speaking in Korean. But almost every day I was cheated that it was difficult to trust them.

 

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It was very hot desert area that square was empty at the noon.

 

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In the night, there were full of people.

 

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Before leaving Bukhara, I visited Chor Minor. At the inside of building, people selling carpet and some souvenir.

 

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Cycling in very hot day, I got the hotel later. There were three beds with air conditioner but it was only $10. What a unique thing was there was the table with tea pot. The staff took off his shoes when he showed me the room, so I took off my shoes too while staying there.

 

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There was bbq restaurant next to the hotel. It was very common meal in Uzbekistan.

 

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At the next morning, I had Samsa for breakfast. There were vegetables, sheep meat, and fat. It was oily because of fat so I used spicy sauce. Samsa with tea was very common meal since Turkmenistan, which I enjoyed. Usually it was good for breakfast.

 

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There was some similar water tank which I used to see in Iran.

 

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At the next road, there was a big cargo building with Korean Cargo airline. It seemed Korean and Uzbekistan had some economic relationship.

 

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I found a good hotel in a small city. It was the same price as yesterday, but this hotel was way better that I could take a good rest.

 

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I wanted to exchange money that I had checked small grocery stores. But they didn’t do it. I went to a street market and asked people where I could exchange money. Then one guy showed up with a bag with full of money. People surrounded me that I could not concentrate on counting. I believed it would be alright and if it had problem, I would be back.

 

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On the market, there were fruit, meat, pickles and some similar dish to Korean Kimchi.

 

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I bought bread and fruit. Again some guy came and spoke in Korean to me. It would be only country in the world that I could find people speaking Korean easily. I was guessing how native English speaker would feel to see people speaking their language while traveling the world. It felt like more welcoming.

 

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The money I held was only $100. It was too much paper to count while people giving me too much attention on the market. There were only four kind of bills, 200 som ($0.03), 500 som ($0.08), 1,000 som ($0.16), 5,000 som ($0.83) in Uzbekistan and he used all this four kind of bills to exchange my money.

 

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It was really difficult to carry many bills. The government wanted to control exchange rate, 3,000 som for $1. But real market was two times more expensive and it made a big problem. 5,000 som could be $1.6 in the government rate which nobody followed and it just turned to only $0.8. I counted all bills and it was exactly $100. I was surprised that he didn’t cheat me. Maybe the honest person I met in Uzbekistan was the one who exchanged my money ironically.

I had the rest for a few days and then cycled to Samarkand. I started cycling from 6 am and made 166 km (103.75 mi). It was so hot that I must need the rest every hour. In Turkmenistan, it was hot too, but every small restaurant had air conditioner. But Uzbekistan restaurant didn’t have it usually that there was no way to run away from the heat except staying in the hotel. I was thinking why air conditioner was not common here. Maybe because Turkmenistan government gave electricity, water, and petrol for free to people that they didn’t worry about using A.C.

 

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At the day I arrived in Samarkand, I had Uzbek meal, Lagman. It was their traditional noodle with vegetables and meat that I really enjoyed.

 

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There was a small restaurant at the hotel but I had it on my room with my lovely amazing A.C. The food was called Plov. The way to cook was at the first it was fried with meat and vegetables and later they put water and rice. Usually it took long time that people made it on the big pot. Sometimes I missed the lunch time because the village was far. Then I couldn’t eat Plov because it was already gone and they didn’t make it again after lunch time.

 

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Registan was symbol of Samarkand. The city was quite big that I had to take the taxi to look around. It was really hot day that there were not many tourists at the day time. I also decided to come back later before the sunset.

 

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I was looking for exchanging money again around the market and noticed that the rate was already up. It was 6,200 Som for $1. What a funny thing was that every stores whether big or small they must have the machine to count the bill.

On the picture guy was carrying bread. I really liked Uzbek bread.

 

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I was interested of astronomy that I visited Ulugh Beg Observatory which was built in 1420 by Ulugh. But now only trench left. It was huge building in the history. But at that time religion was more important than science that he was killed and the observatory was destroyed. It was discovered in 1908 and considered to have one of the finest observatories in the Islamic world.

 

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I visited Shah-i-Zinda after observatory. It was built between 9-14th centuries for mausoleum and ritual places. Tiles were really beautiful.

 

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I visited Registan again at the late afternoon. A few guides came and asked me to hire them. It was not expensive and I thought it would be interesting to hear history that I got one guide. She explained the history and answered to my thousands questions. We talked lot that we became friendly to each other. At the end, I asked her “Can I ask also politic things?” and she said “Sorry I cannot answer to it.” After finishing a guide tour, I walked around Registan. When the night coming, they put beautiful lights on the building.

 

The lights were kept changing that I made gif picture.

 

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It was built during Timur Empire in 14 and 15 centuries. There was very interesting Central Asian history. Timur empire was so big that it was the part of Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey, China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia in one empire. There were so many countries!!!

 

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After touring on the way back I had another ragman without soup. It was another delicious food. They gave bread together that I didn’t need to worry about being hungry soon.

 

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Before leaving Samarkand, I visited again to remember it for long time.

 

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Usually there was the machine to put the air on the gas station. So, I visited there to have more air on the tire. There were many old cars in Uzbekistan.

 

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I met two European cyclists later. The guy on the left was very interesting that he had small luggage. I saw those kind of bike packing on the picture before, but it was my first time to meet. After having lunch, Plov together, we went to different way.

 

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Just next road cycling, I saw local people having party. Their clothes were so vivid.

 

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Before sunset, I asked people where a hotel was. They showed me something which I could not see on the map. I was really surprised that the garden was so nice.

 

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But the room was so simple without air conditioner. I could not sleep well. The toilet was really far from the building. It was only $6 but they gave me address registration paper.

 

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Before getting out of the city, I had breakfast. It was like Samsa but different shape. I had seen rock oven since Armenia that people put the bread on the oven wall. In 14-15 centuries, it was in the same empire that they shared similar culture.

 

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There was heat wave and children were playing on the river.

 

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I really didn’t want to cycle after 12 pm. I found one hotel but it was $20 which was more expensive than my usual budget. But I wanted to stop that I decided to stay. After paying, I realized they didn’t have electricity. Reception guy told me there was another their hotel where he could drive me with my bicycle and at the next day he would pick me up.

 

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In the hotel, there were foreigner workers. It seemed the hotel was built for some company around. A.C worked well that I had a good rest.

 

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At the next day, local people I met

 

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After small break on the road, time to hit the desert road.

 

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I was passing some village and saw people selling something at the next road.

 

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I was curious that I stopped and bought it. It was hard salty sour smelly cheese. Because of weird taste, it was like bad old cheese.

 

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One of fun things to cycle on the desert area was to see small whirlwind.

 

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My chain was broken on the uphill. I had tool to fix that I removed bent part and connected it again.

 

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It was really hot day that I carried lots of water. I met two European cyclists again and we cycled at the end of day together. We got the same hotel and I tried to fix my chain again because it didn’t work well. While I was trying to fix, one of them came and fixed for me.

My stomach was starting upset that I went to a toilet before dinner. We went to a restaurant for dinner and I was getting worse. I went to a toilet again and I could not eat well. As soon as back to the hotel, I had to run to a toilet. The toilet was on the first floor and my room was on the second floor that it was a bit uncomfortable to use it.

At the day time, I bought a few snacks which was sold on the big box without plastic cover. Maybe it made me sick.

 

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At the next day, I got better. European cyclists wanted to have tour around Afghanistan friendship bridge, so I started early alone. There were some eagles that I felt amazing wildness.

 

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Picture for 51,000 km (31,875 mi)
The day was really getting hot like the hell and I was cycling with this heat, 40~45 Celsius (104~113 Fahrenheit).

 

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The way to the border was so beautiful that I felt like I was flying.

 

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Many people had told me watermelon was so tasty in Uzbekistan. Later I tested whether it was true or not. Yes, they were right, taste was good.

 

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Although Uzbek foods were good, it was a bit tiring eating same food every day. Therefore, I was so happy to find a new food around the border. In a restaurant, I saw people eating some food which I had never seen. So I asked a worker to get same thing. It was really good taste.

 

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People were interesting at me and asking where I came from and so on.

 

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I arrived at the border at the afternoon. I needed some money that I went to the street market to exchange some money. Local people were interested at me. It was one of benefit to cycle the world that I became superstar to local people.

 

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These were address registration paper. I was worried about having the problem that all the time I slept at the hotel. Some travelers told me they were invited to local people’s house and slept at people’s house or did wild camping. Actually it was not necessary to sleep at the hotel every day because registration needed only every three days. But it was really hot day and hotel was only $10 with air conditioner. Also I didn’t need worry about in trouble. Some traveler told me that police found they slept at local people’s house and they had to go to police office and apologized and begged. It was illegal to sleep at people’s house or do wild camping. If there was no luck, it would be in trouble.

When I went to the immigration, officer didn’t check my registration papers but he just put them on the corner. However, it may depend on the case. Some traveler said officer checked all the papers.

Before going to Uzbekistan, I was worried about black market and registering address every three days. But after coming to Uzbekistan, I had realized it was not a big deal.

The next country would be Tajikistan which had Pamir highway locating on high mountains. Pamir Highway was dream place for many cyclists because of amazing adventure and scenery. Finally, I would enter into and I was so exciting without thinking much how it would be tough. Adventure made my heart pounding badly.

 

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(In 2017 Sep, Uzbek government raises official rate to 8,000 Som for $1 and it is strictly forbidden to have black market. Also they made new bills, 10,000 ($1.25) and 50,000 som ($6.25). I am happy to see that the world is moving forward. )

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The location of Uzbekistan in the world map.

 

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My Cycling Route and Details in Uzbekistan
(The border was blocked near Samarkand that I decided to cycle around to visit Samarkand.)
Staying in 9 Cities for 23 days
Cycle Distance – 827.74 km (514.33 mi)
(City Name – Qorako’l Karakul, Bukhara, Gijduvan, Navoiy, Samarkand, Guzar, Korashina, Boysun, Denov)
Expenditure = $ 472.27 in the country + $165 for visa + $110 for ordering bicycle parts = $747.27
$1=6,000 som at the beginning. $1-6,250 som after three weeks (Black market)
(Official rate by the government – 3000 som in 2016)

[2016/07/05~27 (D+1794)]

 

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