Going to Uzbekistan is quite a challenging process but it is totally worth it. I had to leave Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, and go back to the city (Osh) where I came from and cross the border from there. The Kyrgyz are really friendly people who often looked out for me because I was traveling alone. They would prompt me to move forward and help me with the language barrier if any of them knew English.
Crossing the border was another painstaking process with slow and stringent checks. We had to stand under the hot sun for over an hour to get to the custom. The border officers checked through everything in my backpack, including all the medication I brought along and the photos in my phone and iPad. Thankfully, he was really helpful and translated the declaration form from Uzbek to English for me. Despite all these, on my first day in Uzbekistan, I fell in love with the local people and their smiles. Their sincerity and genuine hospitality are remarkable. The locals look so beautiful. I wonder was it because of their dressing or Eurasian features that made them such beautiful people, but I concluded that the beauty lies in their smiles. Those welcoming and inviting smiles are hard to resist.
My first stop was the silk factory where I met a lawyer who works in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. He is an intelligent, open-minded and well-read gentlemen who speaks English. He came back to his hometown for the weekend and was kind enough to bring me around town. We visited his brother’s family who owns an ice-cream business and met some of his friends who studied and work in Russia. I was surprised to find out that the average wage in Uzbekistan is US$100 per month. Even though the cost of living is low, I think with that amount of money, life can still be difficult for the locals. Despite so, you’ll be surprised to meet some of the friendliest and happiest people here.
When I arrived in Uzbekistan, I had to change US dollars into Uzbek currency. For a hundred USD, you get a stack of local currency which makes one feel extremely rich. Traveling in Uzbekistan is really affordable. A 14km ride on a Marshrutka (a mini van which accommodates 7 passengers) costs only S$0.30, and a 34km ride costs S$1. One of the Marshrutka driver even gave me a free ride. I took a 100km ride on a bus for 2.5 hours and it costs only S$1.