Where are you going? Why?

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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby steven » Sun May 29, 2016 5:36 am

Thanks for the introduction Katherine, always interesting to hear your stories. I think if you can handle Vietnam, you can handle Central Asia. I at least find SE Asia much more challenging to travel with the heat, the noise and the touting.
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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby Sahar » Wed Jun 01, 2016 2:10 am

Hi,

What a wonderful website! Thank you for sharing such helpful information and for making this forum available.

My partner and I are traveling by rail from Uzbekistan to Burma by train over the course of 80 days beginning this July. I was born in Afghanistan and grew up on the stories of my father extolling the beautiful historical cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, so I am especially excited to begin our trip there. Also, I am hoping that my Dari will finally be useful in another country outside of Afghanistan (though, I know it would be of most use in Tajikistan, and unfortunately, we will not be going there this time). The plan is to see Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, then back to Tashkent and on to Shimkent, Almaty, Urumqi and make our way to Mongolia. From Mongolia, down through China and SE Asia and fly out of Burma in mid-October. Entirely ambitious, and, I hope, entirely feasible.

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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby steven » Wed Jun 01, 2016 4:46 am

A wonderful journey Sahar! Sadly, outside of Bukhara and Samarkand it will be of little use, although there are also some pockets of Tajik people in out-of-the-way places like Sentyab, Chust and Kosonsoy.

About your trip: Is there an Urumqi-Ulan Bator connection by rail? Seems more logical to take the Almaty-Novosibirsk-Ulan Bator train

http://caravanistan.com/places/sentyab-sentob/
http://caravanistan.com/uzbekistan/kosonsoy/
http://caravanistan.com/uzbekistan/chust/
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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby mpkz » Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:46 pm

Thought I'd post a rough sketch of my itinerary here to see if I can get any comments / tips:

First, I'm spending 2 weeks in the Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan). Flying back to Europe for a festival, and am currently planning a month trip in July from Iran to Kashgar. I know, July is going to be hot as hell but I'm just going to have to live with that. On the plus side I'll probably lose weight due to sweating ;)

This being my 4th or 5th trip to Central Asia in the past 3 years, I can now skip a few things and focus more on hanging out rather than trying to sight see a lot. That being said, I'd still love to see Turkmenistan and Kashgar/Xinjiang as a tourist.

My thinking was along these lines: Start out in Tehran with a few days of hanging out. I've spent almost 2 weeks in Iran on a previous trip so I've "seen the main sights" in Tehran at least. Head to Tabriz, and hopefully cross into Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan is another issue - I want to get in on a transit visa, but this is apparently a bit risky. My current thinking is that after my festival, I'll apply in London, hopefully pick up an Uzbek visa there beforehand (which reminds me to apply for the LOI here) with pickup in Tehran. No idea how feasible that is. If I don't get it, I could apply in Tehran if I can keep the waiting time down to less than 10 days. Travel through Turkmenistan, zoom through Uzbekistan and then cross into either Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan. I haven't been to Tajikistan yet but it seems like a lot of hassle if I'm not that interested in the Pamir Highway. Any thoughts? Spend a week or so hanging out, seeing things. Then from there, cross into China. I have about a month for this trip, which should be enough seeing as I'm just sort of traveling through instead of hanging out and sightseeing which I normally do - it helps that I've been to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran and lived in China (though Xinjiang is completely new to me). If things turn out like they normally turn out, I'll meet someone cool, spend way too much time in one place and then quickly rush through the rest anyway.
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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby bwv812 » Tue Jun 07, 2016 7:43 pm

You wont be able to apply for a Turkmen transit visa until you have the Uzbek visa in hand.

I don't know why you wouldn't be interested in the Pamir highway; even if you don't like beautiful landscapes and empty places, the people and culture there are very interesting. If you haven't been to Tajikistan before but have been to Central Asia before, it just doesn't make much sense to me to skip it.

Of course I think that Xinjiang is the most interesting part of the region, as the culture is very distinct and hasn't been westernized the way that the Russified 'stans have been. The contrast will probably be even more pronounced for you given that you have lived in (Han) China before.
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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby mpkz » Tue Jun 07, 2016 7:52 pm

Yeah, I know about the Turkmenistan visa rule, so I'd pick up my Uzbek visa in London or in the Caucasus and then apply immediately after for the Turkmen visa with collection in Tehran.

Pamir Highway - well, I'm not that into landscapes and emptiness as you correctly guessed, but there's also the issue of organizing it which to me is a pain (if anyone is going in July, let me know, we could go together) especially as I don't really like tours, even just a driver, at all. I mean maybe I would do it if there are people on here going at the same time who could help drive down the costs and provide company (is there a thread for that btw?), but otherwise I might be one of the few people in the world who would enjoy hanging out in Dushanbe for 3/4 days more than going on the Pamir Highway. Same goes for Kyrgyzstan actually, where I enjoyed the landscape and so on (went skiing last time) but really I just enjoyed hanging out in Bishkek more and seeing how the locals celebrated New Years.

I'm looking forward to Xinjiang.
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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby steven » Wed Jun 08, 2016 2:10 pm

Hey mpkz,

just so you know, you're not alone. :-)
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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby bwv812 » Wed Jun 08, 2016 5:17 pm

In my opinion getting from Uzbekistan to Kashgar is going to be a bit of a chore no matter how you slice it, given that the Osh-Kashgar leg is as challenging as any of the Pamir highway. You can absolutely take share taxis fro Dushanbe to Khorog, Khorog to Murghab, and Murghab to Osh/Sary Tash if you don't want to go off the beaten track; booking private transport is by no means required. Just chilling in Khorog is also a great way to meet locals with a very different outlook than you see in most of Central Asia.

Dushanbe is also a very pleasant city with a very different feeling than Bishkek or Tashkent.
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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby mpkz » Wed Jun 08, 2016 5:33 pm

Am I underestimating it or something? The simplest route that skips Tajikistan would be: Turkmenistan - Bukhara - Tashkent - Andijon - (some time in the Ferghana Valley) - Osh - (some time in Kyrgyzstan) - Irkestam Crossing - Kashgar? To me that seems fairly straightforward without any legs that take more than 24 hours and can't be done at a "local" price. edit: I understand the Irkestam Pass crossing and all that is not the easiest, but I mean I can do that with bus or hitchhiking in the worst case and it's not so much that I want to do it but that I have to

Including Tajikistan (which I am considering) could be done by crossing at Denau into Dushanbe and then essentially doing what you said to get to Osh. Anyway, I guess I need to think it through. First though, time to finish the documents for my Uzbek visa ;)
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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby bwv812 » Wed Jun 08, 2016 6:41 pm

Well, if I just wanted to get to China as painlessly as possible I would consider Tashkent-Almaty-Urumqi (I would prefer getting off the bus/train before Urumqi, but if you like big cities and don't like smaller places your preferences may well be different).

The most difficult part of adding Tajikistan would probably be Uzbekistan-Dushanbe, which sounds about as annoying as Osh-Kashgar. The Dushanbe-Khorog leg is long but not difficult to arrange.
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