Across Uzbekistan with MIR

Mar 17th, 2017, 06:12 PM
  #21  
 
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Thank you Thursdaysd. The colors look esquisite.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Mar 18th, 2017, 05:09 PM
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Thursdaysd, Your trip is fascinating, and I love seeing your photos on your blog. I recognized the Karakorum Highway and Karakul Lake from your 2001 trip; we were there in 2006 when we went to Xinjiang province. My daughter who now lives in France was living in Shanghai at the time. We visited her in Shanghai, and then she planned a trip for the 3 of us to Xinjiang. Kashgar and the Karakoram Highway were highlights for us. We hired a private driver for the drive up the Karakoram. I think we saw the Hoja tomb you mention in Kashgar, but not 100% sure. I wish I had kept a journal of that fascinating trip. I do vividly remember the Sunday market in Kashgar, fascinating! And taking photos of the children in the Old Town. I think I have read the Old Town was demolished. Very sad! Between the market and the Old Town, it felt like we had stepped back in time a 1000 years.

Eager to read more of your adventures! I don't know how you handled the heat. I hope MIR changes the dates of the trip to October or November. The heat for me would be intolerable.
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Mar 19th, 2017, 01:35 PM
  #23  
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Karen - the Hanification of Xinjiang and Tibet is a tragedy. I was fortunate in 2001 to make it all the way to Islamabad on the Karakoram, but I think we were the last tour group through, as we crossed the border the day of 9/11. We had to skip Peshawar and the Khyber pass, and leave the country a little sooner than intended!

My photos of Kashgar here:
https://kwilhelm.smugmug.com/Travel/Asia-2001/Kashgar/
Maybe you will recognize the Hoja tomb.

More photos of Xinjiang and the Karakoram in the same gallery.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 20th, 2017, 05:21 AM
  #24  
 
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Thursdaysd, thank you so much for the link to your photos! Yes, we did see the Hoja Tomb; I recognized the photo immediately. We also visited Turpan, stayed in a yurt at Heaven Lake, visited Urumqi, the desert, and went horseback riding in the mountains the same day we were in the desert. We had to rent winter coats to go horseback riding because it was freezing with snow on the ground.

Looking forward to more of your Uzbekistan report.
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Mar 20th, 2017, 07:06 AM
  #25  
 
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A quick hello from UK! Havent looked at Fodors for ages. Nice to read this Thursday. It brings back all kinds of memories from my trip to Uz last year. Although I went with Explore, a UK outfit, we followed the same itinerary with diffferent hotels. And much the same menus!
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Mar 20th, 2017, 12:48 PM
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Karen - you're welcome! I'm very glad I got to visit Xinjiang, not sure I want to go back.

Hi gertie - wish I were there. Hope you have good weather.

September 11, 2016: The Kumtepa Bazaar

Our one full day in the Fergana valley began with a visit to the Kumtepa Bazaar in Margilan. This market sprawled over a big area, part covered, part not, and was very clearly a market for the crowds of locals, not tourists. Anything they might need, from beds and wardrobes, through jackets and shoes, to car parts and motor oil, was for sale somewhere in the vast area. I never saw anything that could be considered a souvenir. I didn’t find any meat for sale, but I did find produce, including piles of golden onions heaped on the ground. And I found an eating section off to the side, where men sipped tea and kebabs were grilled in clouds of smoke.

Markets are really more about show than tell, and I posted several photos with this text on my blog. If interested:

https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...umtepa-bazaar/
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2017, 12:30 PM
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I love your photos of the market! Pictures say 100 words!
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Mar 31st, 2017, 12:55 PM
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just found this, thursdaysd, so I'm bmk to read later.
annhig is offline  
Mar 31st, 2017, 06:32 PM
  #29  
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Hi ann - nice to see you here.
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Mar 31st, 2017, 07:33 PM
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Love your market photos - so different from SE Asian markets.
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Apr 2nd, 2017, 04:12 PM
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September 11, 2016 (continued): Ceramics, Silk, and Plov

Legend has it that ceramics have been produced in Rishton, half way between Kokand and Fergana and almost on the Kyrgyzstan border, for 800 years, with the skills passed down from father to son. Whether or not that is true, it does seem to be true that the local red clay is so pure that the only additive needed is water. Most of the ceramics for sale across the rest of Uzbekistan are said to come from this area. The traditional colors are blue and green, with a glaze called ishkor. I have seen enough pottery throwing demonstrations over the years that they no longer hold much interest for me, but I am still very interested in the end product.

So, after the lively Kumtepa Bazaar we drove over to Rishton to visit the home, museum and pottery of Master Rustam Usanov. After the demonstrations, most of the group shopped and I visited the museum, before we ate lunch. [As with the Kumtepa bazaar, I posted more photos than text for this stop.]

After lunch we drove back to Margilan to visit a silk factory. The itinerary said we would visit the workshop of Master Turgunbay Mirzaakhmedov, and I assume that was where we went, but the place was closed, with just one caretaker on the premises. Since this visit had been high on my list of sights, I was particularly disappointed, the more so when I learned that it was closed because of a religious holiday, Eid al-Adha. Now it is true, that since Islamic holidays, like Christian Easter, are set according to the lunar calendar, they change every year, but they are still predictable. MIR would have known that we would visit during the holiday, and that some sights would be closed, but they did not change the dates of the tour. We would run into the same problem on our return to Tashkent the next day as the Museum of Applied Arts, also very high on my must-see list, would also be closed. Those of us staying a little longer in Tashkent at the end of the tour would see it, but three people would miss it, and we all missed a good tour of the silk factory.

The caretaker did explain the technique of extracting silk from the cocoons, but as with wheel-thrown pottery, I was already familiar with the process. His explanation of the technique that produced the warp ikat silk patterns for which the area was known was very hard to follow, and I had to research it later. The warp threads are resist dyed, but the weft threads are a solid color, producing a “blurry” pattern. Apparently, men are responsible for tying and dying the warp threads, but the actual weaving is done by women. Our visit to the silent looms was followed by an extended shopping op. I had thought I might buy a scarf, but nothing really caught my eye.

After a failed search for coffee in a neighboring park we returned to Fergana where an already long day finished with a dinner of plov at a private house. Unlike the other “house” restaurants on the tour, this one was in an actual private house, where we met the family and watched the preparation of the main dish. I suppose it is an exaggeration to say that the plov was a disappointment, as I hadn’t really expected to care for it. I don’t usually enjoy these staged visits, but the family were welcoming. I did feel that a rather precocious young boy was given too much encouragement to outshine his equally engaging sisters, and I suspect this was a sign of a patriarchal society.
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2017, 05:29 PM
  #32  
 
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Sorry about the missed workshop visit. Was your tour schedule so tight that your guide could not visit the day before or after?
tripplanner001 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2017, 06:17 PM
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We just had one full day in the Fergana Valley, and in any case, the holiday was still in effect the next day. The day before we visited Kokand on the way to Fergana, not sure whether the holiday had started than.
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Apr 3rd, 2017, 09:43 AM
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I just spent the last 30 mins reading this, Thursdaysd - your account is so vivid that I almost feel I'm there with you. Which is just as well because i am quite unlikely to do this trip, based not only on what you have written, i might add, but also because it's not really an area that interests me as much as many other places I have yet to visit.

So thank you for letting me see it through your eyes.
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Apr 3rd, 2017, 02:54 PM
  #35  
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Glad you're enjoying it, ann. But the best bits are yet to come.

Have you read any of Colin Thubron's or Peter Hopkirk's books? Very interesting background on the area.
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Apr 4th, 2017, 02:22 AM
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I read Colin Thubron years ago, but I'm not familiar with Peter Hopkirk. I'll look out for him in the library.
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Apr 6th, 2017, 01:12 PM
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thursdaysd, still enjoying your report and your photos. I love the market photos. You are an excellent writer, and I agree with annhig, a very vivid writer so I, too, feel like I am there with you.
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Apr 9th, 2017, 03:05 PM
  #38  
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Thanks Karen!

September 11-12, 2016: Fergana to Samarkand via Tashkent

Early Sunday morning we got back in the cars for the return drive to Tashkent. With the sun now behind us, I found the trip much more enjoyable, although while I admired the mountains the cotton fields were monotonous. Abdu told us that we would not eat lunch until after we checked back into the Shoddy Palace, but I was relieved and appreciative that after I said that I didn’t think I could last that long we stopped on the road for borscht and kebabs. The next day we would take the new fast train to Samarkand, and I was looking forward to the experience. I was less pleased by the instruction to pack an overnight bag so that our big bags could go by coach. My day pack was not really big enough to double as an overnight case, and I had just spent a month managing my own luggage on trains in the UK. But I did as I was told.

This was the afternoon we should have visited the Applied Arts Museum, but since it was shut for the holiday we rode the metro instead. The metro stations are one of Tashkent’s tourist attractions, and the decorations were indeed worth seeing, although without the grandeur of Moscow’s. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed. Instead I took quite a few photos of the martial statue of Timur on horseback, situated near the Hotel Uzbekistan. The hotel had been designed by Soviet architects and I found the lattice work facade intriguing. I wondered how the interplay of light and shadow looked from the inside.

But back to Timur, aka Tamerlane, the real reason we were in Amur Timur Maydoni, a rather empty plaza, from which Tashkent’s main streets radiated in all directions. While best known as a remarkably brutal conqueror and despoiler of cities in the mold of Chinggis Khan, he was also responsible for the revival and beautification of Samarkand. Born in 1336 he had become ruler of Transoxiana by 1370, and subsequently fought from Damascus to Moscow to Delhi, and was headed for China when he died in 1405. His particular signature was a pyramid of skulls, and as many as 17 million people may owe their deaths to him. While he must have been an astute general, his empire did not long outlast him.

The next morning my alarm went off at 5:45, and I was not best pleased after we arrived at the station and were all on board by 7:30, given that the train would not leave until 8:00. Uzbekistan’s new high speed trains used Spanish Talgo rolling stock, and we were in business class, the equivalent of Spanish Preferente, which I had experienced the year before. The seats were just as comfortable, but we traveled more slowly, and certainly less smoothly. The ride was too bumpy for me to write. We arrived at 10:05, and immediately headed for the Gur-Emir mausoleum and Timur’s sarcophagus, followed by a remarkable street of tombs and mausoleums. The mausoleums were stunning and deserve their own post (with lots of photos).
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Apr 12th, 2017, 12:16 AM
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Catching up with this intermittently! Our trip included all the places you have mentioned though we also didnt get to the silk factory. Went to the Applied Arts Museum independently. We did the train journey the other way round and yes, it seemed to take forever!

I spent some time roaming around Tashkent, a city of wide boulevards, huge statues, and heavily fortified subway stations. As you say, no pictures!

Yes, agree about Colin Thubron and Peter Hopkirk books. There are also several quite readable accounts written in the 19th century by people who went there then! And several of the ill-fated expeditions to Bukhara which ended in deep dungeons and executions. These were all part of the Great Game between the British Empire and the Russians for control of central Asia. Fascinating stuff.

Looking forward to seeing your pics of Samarkand and Bukhara. Totally mindblowing I thought. Some of the most stunning sights I have seen.
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Apr 14th, 2017, 03:25 PM
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Hi gertie - were you on the high speed train? It only took us two hours and five minutes. The detailed itinerary hadn't been updated, and it looked like a full day by road.

I would add Khiva as a must-see place.
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