In Uzbekistan, if you take a shared taxi, there’s a premium for the front seat. I had agreed to pay 15 USD for the luxury given it would be a 5+ hour long journey from Bukhara to Urgench and then to Khiva. Plus it was Eid, else I could have saved about 2-3 USD more. The driver was a garrulous old man who started off with a warm handshake and didn’t stop singing and dancing till the car stopped. I had pretty much memorized most famous Uzbek songs thanks to him as the town-scape turned to desert-scape while the car chugged on. Khiva is a town that refused to age and is used as a gateway by most travelers to visit the famous Khorezm oasis and beyond. The best part of my journey had just begun, I was ready and armed with my loyal sunscreen.
‘Nyet billet?!’ (no ticket?)…the taxi driver was flabbergasted when I told him I hadn’t booked the train ticket and was going to check at the station directly. We reached but he didn’t let go. Accompanied me right up to the ticket counter to enquire whether tickets were available, and they were. Heaving a sigh of relief, he shook hands and wished me good luck. I bought the 2nd class ticket for about 5 usd and waited for the Sharq train. Bukhara would be exciting.
Why Uzbekistan? Well because history and monuments and turquoise.
I finally was able to tick off a major one from my travel wishlist. The land is an amalgamation of soviet leftovers and the silk route history which lends it a wonderful personality.
Even before the train from Tashkent could start, a young gentleman approached me and asked if i would like better seats and didn’t mind some conversation. Well, who’d say no. So I got upgraded to the 1st class and was off to the adjacent coach under the ‘oh what just happened’ stares of all those around. The girl sitting next to me mouthed with jealousy, ‘me too’.
Ali was a Tashkent resident whose English sounded like that of Ken Watanabe from the last samurai. My hunger and his incessant talking lasted till Samarkand. The country welcomed with a free upgrade!