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From Uzbekistan With Plov(e) - To Central Asia On TK (Y/J) and SU (Y)

From Uzbekistan With Plov(e) - To Central Asia On TK (Y/J) and SU (Y)

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Old Apr 9, 19, 12:01 pm
  #76  
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Originally Posted by iaflyer View Post
What a great trip report - makes me want to go visit Central Asia! Which is high praise for a trip report.
Thanks very much iaflyer - I'm glad you liked the read!

Originally Posted by BuildingMyBento View Post
@Romanianflyer, upon my exit at TAS last May, the immigration official asked for a couple of hotel registration slips. Let's not make generalizations for future travelers (that said, Uzbekistan has been loosening up its entry procedures, so that may soon change).
You are absolutely right BuildingMyBento, hence my addition that "you officially must keep these" after I said that nobody checked mine. I don't think any future traveler with a bit of a brain would go for my single experience over what clearly are the official rules - if would indeed be ill-advised!

Originally Posted by camsean View Post
I have a trip booked in October for many of the same places, so thanks for posting!
Welcome, camsean - about the same time when I visited Uzbekistan! I'm curious how you will find the place.

Originally Posted by TravelDream View Post
Very interesting report. Thanks for sharing. I just love reading reports such as these.

Uzbekistan is definitely on the list for me to visit.
Thanks TravelDream, it also was always high on my list of places I wanted to visit and it definitely did not disappoint!
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Old Apr 10, 19, 11:32 pm
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Originally Posted by Romanianflyer View Post
Welcome, camsean - about the same time when I visited Uzbekistan! I'm curious how you will find the place.
Iíll let you know!

Can I ask what site you used to book train tickets?
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Old Apr 11, 19, 11:04 am
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Originally Posted by camsean View Post


Iíll let you know!

Can I ask what site you used to book train tickets?
Of course, it was this website (official Uzbekistan Railways website)

https://eticket.uzrailway.uz/main.html?lang=en

Note that you can only buy tickets about six week in advance - so it's probably best to set some kind of agenda notification on the first day tickets will go on sale for your trip you plan to take.

I found the website and payment process to work great, just two tips:
- don't forget your log-in/password of the account you need to create as you might have to log-in later to check in online for some trains and/or print your tickets
- even though the website is in English some fields have not been translated, most notably the search boxes. While for Tashkent and Samarkand this is not a problem as the first letters are a 1 on 1 match between Latin script and Cyrillic, note that Bukhara = Buhara on the website what you need to type.
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Old Apr 11, 19, 3:10 pm
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Originally Posted by Romanianflyer View Post
Of course, it was this website (official Uzbekistan Railways website)

https://eticket.uzrailway.uz/main.html?lang=en

...
Very useful link for future reference, thanks!
By the way, just came across a Borat moment on one of their pages (line 4 in the main instruction text).
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Old Apr 11, 19, 4:43 pm
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Originally Posted by MaxVO View Post
Very useful link for future reference, thanks!
By the way, just came across a Borat moment on one of their pages (line 4 in the main instruction text).


A4 size even, that's a huge pile of crap!
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Old Apr 11, 19, 7:19 pm
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Originally Posted by Romanianflyer View Post
Of course, it was this website (official Uzbekistan Railways website)

https://eticket.uzrailway.uz/main.html?lang=en

Note that you can only buy tickets about six week in advance - so it's probably best to set some kind of agenda notification on the first day tickets will go on sale for your trip you plan to take.

I found the website and payment process to work great, just two tips:
- don't forget your log-in/password of the account you need to create as you might have to log-in later to check in online for some trains and/or print your tickets
- even though the website is in English some fields have not been translated, most notably the search boxes. While for Tashkent and Samarkand this is not a problem as the first letters are a 1 on 1 match between Latin script and Cyrillic, note that Bukhara = Buhara on the website what you need to type.

Thanks so much. Thatís really helpful. I hope I can return the favour one day!
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Old May 4, 19, 6:40 pm
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Romanianflyer - this was an absolutely magical report! I enjoyed vicariously living through your journeys in a part of the world that I have not yet visited, but am very eager to do so in the future. I also highly appreciated the historical and cultural background that you added to your stories as well as the useful tips on hotels and food

Thank you for bringing us along on this incredible journey!
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Old May 9, 19, 6:55 am
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Another great report, thanks Romanianflyer. It's an intriguing part of the world, and Uzbekistan offers the best tourist payoff:effort ratio of any country in the region. Now you've caught the Central Asia bug, I'd heartily recommend Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for their incredible alpine scenery, though they are much more of a challenge to get around.

Good to see that the currency and exchange situation in Uzbekistan has improved. When we visited, the highest denomination note was worth well under US$1, so you had to carry bricks of currency around if you were buying anything significant, as almost nowhere accepted credit cards either.

Gardyloo thanks for your interjections too - sounds like you had quite the Soviet-era adventure
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Old May 18, 19, 7:35 am
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Originally Posted by oliverckhaas View Post
Romanianflyer - this was an absolutely magical report! I enjoyed vicariously living through your journeys in a part of the world that I have not yet visited, but am very eager to do so in the future. I also highly appreciated the historical and cultural background that you added to your stories as well as the useful tips on hotels and food

Thank you for bringing us along on this incredible journey!
Thanks for the kind words, oliverckhaas!

Originally Posted by mad_atta View Post
Another great report, thanks Romanianflyer. It's an intriguing part of the world, and Uzbekistan offers the best tourist payoff:effort ratio of any country in the region. Now you've caught the Central Asia bug, I'd heartily recommend Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for their incredible alpine scenery, though they are much more of a challenge to get around.

Good to see that the currency and exchange situation in Uzbekistan has improved. When we visited, the highest denomination note was worth well under US$1, so you had to carry bricks of currency around if you were buying anything significant, as almost nowhere accepted credit cards either.

Gardyloo thanks for your interjections too - sounds like you had quite the Soviet-era adventure
Thanks as well again, mad_atta!

I have a trip coming up next month to Kyrgyzstan, combined with a wee bit of Minsk and Almaty on the way there (TK had great business class fares out of MSQ). Still need to plan the details though of what to see exactly around there (I have about 7-9 days for the Central Asian part) - if you have any advice it's always recommended!

(so far I was thinking to head from Almaty via the Charyn Canyon to the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border near Karakol, but I'm really unsure what to see more from there on (and if I can manage to put in something extra between the Karakol region and Bishkek given time/transport constraints).
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Old May 18, 19, 11:49 pm
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Originally Posted by Romanianflyer View Post
I have a trip coming up next month to Kyrgyzstan, combined with a wee bit of Minsk and Almaty on the way there (TK had great business class fares out of MSQ). Still need to plan the details though of what to see exactly around there (I have about 7-9 days for the Central Asian part) - if you have any advice it's always recommended!

(so far I was thinking to head from Almaty via the Charyn Canyon to the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border near Karakol, but I'm really unsure what to see more from there on (and if I can manage to put in something extra between the Karakol region and Bishkek given time/transport constraints).
Ooh, that sounds exciting! Where to go / what to see is heavily dependent on how you plan to get around, and also what you like to do (clearly you enjoy the cities but do you also like to escape into the countryside as well?). Also, where are you flying into and out of? Almaty or Bishkek? Make sure that you do your research regarding which border crossings are currently open to foreigners - I found Caravanistan was a good source: https://caravanistan.com/border-crossings/

Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are both quite different from Uzbekistan in that they're mostly lacking the amazing mosques and Silk Road / Timurid treasures - but then again you've probably had your fill of those anyway.

The area around Almaty in southern Kazakhstan is probably the most beautiful and interesting in the country, and not typical of this vast country which is mostly pretty featureless steppes. Almaty itself is a pleasant city, with a nice setting in the foothills of the mighty Tien Shan range. It was noticeably wealthier and more westernised than any other city we saw in Central Asia - that makes it both easier and more comfortable, and also somewhat more expensive and slightly less exotic/interesting. Charyn Canyon looks gorgeous - we had planned to go there but our itinerary got too tight and we had to prioritise other things, but from what I hear and read it's worth a look (and can be conveniently combined with Kolsai Lakes/Lake Kaindy sunken forest).

Caravanistan seems to show the border crossing between Charyn Kanyon in Kazakhstan and Karakol in Kyrgyzstan to be open these days, which is convenient - it wasn't when we were in that part of the world, which is the main reason we didn't make it to Charyn Canyon. However you would definitely need to do your research around transport options. We had our own vehicle so never had to wrap our head around that. The routes from Almaty to Bishkek or Almaty to the resort towns on the northern shores of Issyk Kul are quite heavily travelled and should have a few options, but the other roads in the region are very lightly trafficked.

In my opinion, what really makes Kyrgyzstan worth visiting is the incredible alpine scenery and the yurt-based nomadic culture, so to see the best of that country you really have to get out of the cities. By far the best thing we did in Kyrgyzstan was to make it up to gorgeous Song Kul lake, 3,000+ metres up into the mountains and surrounded by beautiful alpine grasslands and the Kyrgz people grazing their stock on their summer pastures. I believe there are various places where you can stay in yurt camps etc - we had our own camping gear so did our own thing.

We also enjoyed the north shore of Issyk Kul, though these are basically resort towns, filled with (frequently drunken) Kazahks and Krygz holidaymakers, with all the tackiness and rowdiness that implies. We never made it to Karakol, though I hear that's nice and has some great day hikes. Another highlight of Kygyzstan for us were the cities of Osh and Jalalabad, with their lively markets and very different cultural feel, but they are at the other end of the country so probably not worth going vastly out of your way for. We never made it to Bishkek, and my impression is that we didn't miss a huge amount, though if you love Soviet architecture you'd be in for a treat (check out swingaling's excellent recent trip report for a good account of Bishkek).

I would try to find some kind of tour that would get you up to Song Kul and into the mountains - there will probably be options, based out of Bishkek or Almaty. Or of course you could hire your own vehicle if you were comfortable doing that - everywhere I've mentioned is accessible via 2WD, though depending on what you're used to some of the roads are a little challenging.

Last edited by mad_atta; May 18, 19 at 11:58 pm
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Old May 21, 19, 3:33 pm
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Originally Posted by mad_atta View Post
Ooh, that sounds exciting! Where to go / what to see is heavily dependent on how you plan to get around, and also what you like to do (clearly you enjoy the cities but do you also like to escape into the countryside as well?). Also, where are you flying into and out of? Almaty or Bishkek? Make sure that you do your research regarding which border crossings are currently open to foreigners - I found Caravanistan was a good source: https://caravanistan.com/border-crossings/

Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are both quite different from Uzbekistan in that they're mostly lacking the amazing mosques and Silk Road / Timurid treasures - but then again you've probably had your fill of those anyway.

The area around Almaty in southern Kazakhstan is probably the most beautiful and interesting in the country, and not typical of this vast country which is mostly pretty featureless steppes. Almaty itself is a pleasant city, with a nice setting in the foothills of the mighty Tien Shan range. It was noticeably wealthier and more westernised than any other city we saw in Central Asia - that makes it both easier and more comfortable, and also somewhat more expensive and slightly less exotic/interesting. Charyn Canyon looks gorgeous - we had planned to go there but our itinerary got too tight and we had to prioritise other things, but from what I hear and read it's worth a look (and can be conveniently combined with Kolsai Lakes/Lake Kaindy sunken forest).

Caravanistan seems to show the border crossing between Charyn Kanyon in Kazakhstan and Karakol in Kyrgyzstan to be open these days, which is convenient - it wasn't when we were in that part of the world, which is the main reason we didn't make it to Charyn Canyon. However you would definitely need to do your research around transport options. We had our own vehicle so never had to wrap our head around that. The routes from Almaty to Bishkek or Almaty to the resort towns on the northern shores of Issyk Kul are quite heavily travelled and should have a few options, but the other roads in the region are very lightly trafficked.

In my opinion, what really makes Kyrgyzstan worth visiting is the incredible alpine scenery and the yurt-based nomadic culture, so to see the best of that country you really have to get out of the cities. By far the best thing we did in Kyrgyzstan was to make it up to gorgeous Song Kul lake, 3,000+ metres up into the mountains and surrounded by beautiful alpine grasslands and the Kyrgz people grazing their stock on their summer pastures. I believe there are various places where you can stay in yurt camps etc - we had our own camping gear so did our own thing.

We also enjoyed the north shore of Issyk Kul, though these are basically resort towns, filled with (frequently drunken) Kazahks and Krygz holidaymakers, with all the tackiness and rowdiness that implies. We never made it to Karakol, though I hear that's nice and has some great day hikes. Another highlight of Kygyzstan for us were the cities of Osh and Jalalabad, with their lively markets and very different cultural feel, but they are at the other end of the country so probably not worth going vastly out of your way for. We never made it to Bishkek, and my impression is that we didn't miss a huge amount, though if you love Soviet architecture you'd be in for a treat (check out swingaling's excellent recent trip report for a good account of Bishkek).

I would try to find some kind of tour that would get you up to Song Kul and into the mountains - there will probably be options, based out of Bishkek or Almaty. Or of course you could hire your own vehicle if you were comfortable doing that - everywhere I've mentioned is accessible via 2WD, though depending on what you're used to some of the roads are a little challenging.
Thanks for the very detailed answer and your many tips, mad_atta.

You are right that the biggest draw of Kyrgyzstan is indeed the countryside/nature, and my focus will be on that (although I will gladly stay 1-2 days each in Almaty/Bishkek as my flights arrive/depart from there!). I indeed saw swingaling's excellent report - although I still have to read the final bits of it.

Unfortunately I won't have a private vehicle (given the open jaw it will just not be feasible) - I'm afraid I will have to leave southern Kyrgyzstan (Osh etc.) for another trip due to time constraints, most likely combining it with either the Fergana valley and/or Tajikistan. There are often excellent one-ways into Osh with Aeroflot (although flying out of it is more expensive) so I can easily visit that part in the future. I do hope indeed to include Song Kul into my trip, although it is still dependent on transport/final itinerary. I hope to have things more clear soon once I have contacted local tour outfits as unlike Karakol and day/overnight hikes from there, that doesn't seem like something I can organise on my own with transport/logistics.

Whatever the final itinerary will be, I'm sure i will come back in the future to see more of the country/region!
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Old May 26, 19, 8:16 am
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Originally Posted by Romanianflyer View Post
I have a trip coming up next month to Kyrgyzstan, combined with a wee bit of Minsk and Almaty on the way there (TK had great business class fares out of MSQ)...
I just had a chance to spend a week in Minsk, and found it to be an incredibly enjoyable experience. Together with the Belarus new visa-free regime for most countries, this puts the destination on my recommended list.
Can't say as much about TK business class out of MSQ -- it's rather mediocre by TK standards.
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Old May 26, 19, 9:08 am
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Originally Posted by MaxVO View Post
I just had a chance to spend a week in Minsk, and found it to be an incredibly enjoyable experience. Together with the Belarus new visa-free regime for most countries, this puts the destination on my recommended list.
Can't say as much about TK business class out of MSQ -- it's rather mediocre by TK standards.
I've been twice before - 10 and 5 years ago. Curious how much has changed now! (The difference between those two visits was massive!). I always found Minsk a quirky destination well worth a trip.

Bummer to hear about the TK service out of MSQ - although the main reason for me is just to earn the last few miles needed to reach the status match conditions of M&S to solidify my *A gold.
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Old May 26, 19, 11:45 am
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Originally Posted by Romanianflyer View Post
I've been twice before - 10 and 5 years ago. Curious how much has changed now! (The difference between those two visits was massive!). I always found Minsk a quirky destination well worth a trip.
MZOR (МЗОР) district seems to be new -- formerly industrial area turned into a hipster/arts quarter.
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Old May 28, 19, 10:28 am
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Originally Posted by MaxVO View Post
MZOR (МЗОР) district seems to be new -- formerly industrial area turned into a hipster/arts quarter.
Looks fun indeed, will definitely check it out! Thanks for the tip!
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