Silk Road Day 5: Carnival time and Yvonne's travel adventure

Day 5: Friday January 1st, 2016

This morning we woke up with a later start than usual. Our guides were thankfully understanding of our late night new years partying, so our day began at ten in the morning.

As we drove off from the hotel, Bek informed us that he wasn’t sure what would be open due to the new years holiday. He checked ahead of time, but he kept receiving different information, so we planned on moving on with plans as scheduled, and we would alter it depending on what road blocks we hit.

First we went to the summer palace, which ended up being closed. However, the person working at the site said we could go in, albeit very quickly. I feel like this is one of many greased palm situations our group has done. The guy who let us in said that it was closed and he’d get in trouble if others knew that he’d let us in. We walked in and there were a handful of peacocks in the large indoor garden, and then we walked into a plaza with a fountain surrounded by pillared walkways. We only had time to snap a few pictures before being told to leave.

Back on the bus, Bek told us about the summer palace. The entryway was unique in that the colors used in the tiles were different from anything else built here in that era. The colors were a forest green and maroon, whereas all the mosques and palaces elsewhere were shades of turquoise, gold and blue.

We next arrived at the Bolo Hauz mosque, the only mosque I’ve seen so far on this trip that had an active WiFi router inside. Across the street was the Ark, a walled town with a large stone ramp leading up to the entrance. Bek informed us that at one point, the ramp of the entrance was utilized for defense against enemies. The inhabitants would open the gates and roll heavy stone balls down, crushing their enemies. It reminded me of the palaces I saw in Spain, which had holes above the entrances so that the inhabitants could pour boiling oil onto their enemies’ heads.

We then moved onto the memorial of Ismail Samomiy, which is comprised of bricks turned in every direction. It is the town’s oldest Muslim monument, built in 905. According to Bek, the sun hits these bricks in different ways and throughout the day it appears to be different colors.

 There was a carnival nearby, so of course we got free time to wander, although it was a short thirty minutes. We first went to the bumper cars, where, for a mere one USD per person we almost had the whole track to ourselves if it weren’t for some kid who paid to play twice in a row. After properly bruising our knees a thousand times over with the uncomfortable layout of the karts, we moved on to the Himalaya ride which cost only 2000 som, or less than a dollar. The cars were open and most of the straps were broken or too short, requiring Matt to tie the strap around his belt loop. Super secure.

On our way out of the carnival, we got a large potato chip on a stick, spiral cut so it was all one slice. So simple, yet so delicious. In fact, potato chips have been one of our favorite snacks here since we have had some unique flavors to choose from, like roasted chicken or beef.

Just in time to quench the hunger pangs came lunch. We walked in the old part of the city, which, much like other old cities around the world, consists of winding walkways and unmarked doors. We entered one such door and found ourselves in a small courtyard that connected to a home/restaurant. The owner made textiles, so the walls of the dining room were covered in colorful fabrics and lined with shelves of folded blankets and other fabric products.

After we ate our chicken and carrot stew, we continued our tour in the historical area where we saw more madrassahs and mosques, and then we had some free time before saying goodbye to Yvonne.
A large group of us went to a German café and hung out until Yvonne needed to go back to the hotel. We said our farewells as she would be leaving direct from the hotel.

After spending a bit more time at the café, we stopp by the hotel and overhear from Bek and Ben that Yvonne had issues with her connecting flight to Tashkent. Apparently the flight from Bukhara to Tashkent at that time doesn’t exist. We hear that she may have to take a nine hour cab ride to Tashkent in order to catch a flight from Tashkent to her final destination.

Matt, Patricia, Chris and I went to buy some drinks at the local convenience store that we went to the previous night. On our way into the hotel, we saw Yvonne was back, and Bek, Eilidh, Ben and the driver were all in the lobby figuring everything out over a laptop and several phones. Eventually they were able to find her an overnight train to Tashkent so she could make her connection the next day. We bid her farewell a second and final time.

We went to dinner in what appeared to be someone’s house, similar to our dining experience for new year’s eve. After a long day, we returned to our hotel and got some rest before tomorrow’s trip to Samarkand.