I arrived in Shymkent (the nearest city to the Uzbek border) at 0630 and near!my straight away found a shared taxi to take me to the crossing, it took just over two hours and cost me about £4 although when we arrived at the border the woman who drove us started asking for more money than we agreed on, thankfully I could play the “I don’t understand what you’re saying” card and walk away.
There was a short queue on the Kazakh side where I was quickly stamped out of Kazakhstan, officially filling up my passport, a feat that has taken me 4 and a half years and has taken me to 67 countries, I so show think the next one may be filled quicker (especially as one page is full already). On the Uzbekistan side there was a large queue which moved slowly but eventually I was allowed in with my visa being marked with an orange stamp. We then had to fill out customs declarations (more on that later) and then I was free to go. Uzbekistan is an hour behind Kazakhstan so as I entered it turned 0830 (0930 Kazakh time). As usual there was a plethora of taxi drivers waiting, one of them spoke English and after a bit of haggling we agreed on a price to take me to my hostel, it was more than the Kazakh side of the journey but 1/4 of the distance but that’s standard.
I was staying at the Art Hostel, Tashkent, which was the first place I had stayed which had a proper backpacker vibe. There wasn’t many people awake or about at 0900 but I saw a sign saying check in was at 1400 and you would be charged half a nights rate if you checked in early. Staying there was an Australian guy who I had met at the Uzbekistan Embassy (the second time I went) and he showed me where the complimentary breakfast buffet was so we chatted and had 3 servings of breakfast each (they were only small plates I promise). He was spending the morning at the Turkmen Embassy whilst I decided to explore Tashkent.
It’s quite a large city and with a population of 5 million it is the largest in Central Asia and it shows. They have a subway system which is ornately decorated and worth riding on just to look st the stations. I also explored and found the Presidential Palace, the Friday Mosque, Kulkedash Medressa and Chorus Bazaar. I went back to the hostel in the early afternoon to check in and have a shower (much needed). I went and found the Russian Orthodox Cathedral once I had sorted my stuff out.
The evening was spent with a German and an Austrian traveller. The three of us went in search of a potentially Guinness Work Record attempt to break the largest Plov (Uzbek national dish). Unfortunately by the time we got there it was over and the police weren’t letting anyone else into the arena where of was held. There was also a min concert going on but we made it there between sets and decided not to stay as neither of them really fancied it and I was rather hungry. We all walked back to the hostel and then I went and got some food by myself.
I had another shower, packed and went to bed just after 2200. My sleep wasn’t very long as my alarm woke me at midnight. Having spent my (limited) local currency on dinner I had planned to walk the 4km to the airport instead of getting a taxi, a luxury option not many cities have (certainly not London).
When I got there, just after 0100, I had too go through two security scanners before I even got into the departures building. Inside I checked in quickly with Aeroflot, I was flying to London via Moscow. I also had to fill in a departure customs declaration. When I got to the (third) security scanner I was asked for the customs declaration and also my arrival one. I was prepared for this as although when arriving I only thought you had to have one I had subsequently read you required to fill out two forms on arrival and keep one yourself, I had also read people had been taken away for questioning an ended up bribing the security officials to get through. Thankfully the guy I spoke to said to refill out the form just not to mention any money, I promptly did that and went back to him and was let through to passport control, through which I went to the departures lounge for a 2 and a half hour wait. I flew via Moscow and landed at London Heathrow at 1100 local time.