Wednesday, July 2, 2014
This day we crossed out of Kyrgyzstan and into Uzbekistan. The border crossing took a couple of hours, but everything was very correct and proper. Just a lot of paperwork to be completed. Click the links above to our Logistics page should you want to read more.
A few kilometers past the border there was a police check: everyone entering and leaving Fergana Valley (alternate spelling Farg’ona) gets registered. It took all of 30 seconds and was handled very correctly.
We had read that the police here have been strongly ‘urged’ not to ‘bother’ tourists; which effectively should mean that we should only be pulled over for legit checks (ie.: paperwork) or when we actually broke the traffic laws (as opposed to in Kyrgyzstan where it was blatant extortion). Which sounded good to us.
We drove another 100 kms or so to Farg’ano where we stopped for the night. We were quite exhausted due to having been up from 2am to past 4am the previous night watching Belgium beat USA in extra time.
First chore for the afternoon was to convert some US dollars into local money. We’d read and heard that the money thing would be a bit different here to what we were used to… Our hotel advised us to change money on the black market at the bazaar, but also told us to be careful. Ok. It was hinted that banks were not the place to go and, ATMs… what ATMs? We did check out a bank first but they clearly were not in the money changing business. None of them looked like they were. After consulting with another hotel, we it was confirmed that there were no ATMs in this fine city.
So, to the black market we went. We parked at the entrance of the bazaar and Stephen went to talk to some taxi drivers (as they always know where everything is and we didn’t really know how to go about this, being our first time and all). He found a driver prepared to take hime to a ‘money changer’ so in the taxi he went. He was taken to someone’s home where the deal was to be done. And it was very easy, and we got a good rate. Naturally we did know the ‘official’ rate beforehand, and, our hotel had hinted that the black market rates were better.
Now flush with cash we did a little shopping at the supermarket and then headed back to the bazaar for some strolling and gazing. An amazing, local (as in: not tourists other than us) bazaar, and so glad we made the effort to hike back and see all the spices, fresh food and other stuffs for sale.
It also meant we could now pay for our hotel, which only took cash, so of course they helped us in the right direction earlier :).
Farg’ona City felt a bit surreal to us: granted we didn’t see that much of it, but we did cross it by car and we did go to the markets, and what we saw all looked ‘planned’ and ‘new’. But quite a few of the new buildings were also empty with still a lot of new development going on.