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Have you visited one of the Stans?

As this plague continues, I keep looking for new places to consider to visit. I see FB posts from an international language teacher as she travels around parts of the world and her latest posting is in Uzbekistan. She photographs during organized school trips, but I am interested in visiting as a DIY solo trip. Uzbekistan may be the easiest as it seems to have a strong train route, but I am pretty open to any of the 'Stans' for hints of the Silk Road and Genghis Khan.
I would prefer something with enough of an infrastructure that I can comfortably (and safely - supposedly they are crazy drivers) get between major cities, and then add on some shorter trips to 'the country' for culture or birding trips.
Any words of wisdom to share?

Posted by
5511 posts

MariaF, assuming I'm not one of the Stans being considered, I thought I'd mention a couple of books by Erika Fatland, a Norwegian journalist who has traveled through this area, recently enough. "Sovietstan" and "The Border". She has great observation and writing skills. Plus she is a woman and has a more human perspective than a dry male historian.

Posted by
3559 posts

Thanks Stan...perhaps I should change the title to '-Stan'....but the current spelling adds a little levity to the day. (as my province has just entered a 4 week 'stay at home' order, levity and travel research helps).
Thanks for the recommendation. I have Sovietstan requested from the library as well, so glad for the recommendation. My creative brain doesn't retain dry historical facts, so I look forward to a 'human' perspective.
Thankfully library pick ups are allowed.

Posted by
17868 posts

I haven't been to that area but agree that it sounds fascinating. The Mir Corporation does guided tours there; perhaps a bit of information could be gleaned from its itineraries.

I don't know what your streaming options are in Canada, but here in the US there's a free service called "Tubi". It currently has fifteen episodes of a show called "The Silk Road". Each episode runs a bit under 30 minutes, probably including at least one commercial. I haven't watched any of the shows yet.

https://tubitv.com/series/4541/the-silk-road?start=true

Incidentally, Tubi has a very long list of movies and TV shows available--helpful for folks running out of things to watch as the pandemic drags on.

Posted by
2643 posts

Several years ago, Leyla@women-on-the-road.com went to one or more of the 'Stans' and did several reports on it. You might be able to look back in her archives or send an email to her. She even dealt with packing...I think a satellite phone was involved, plus an emergency GPS (again, my memory might be faulty on her packing). She is a retired UN journalist who has learned to be prepared and/or was traveling to an unusual area. She also runs Off Beat France and the French Minute on FB. Maybe this will help in your research, maybe not...

Posted by
3559 posts

Acraven. Thanks for the Tubi recommendation. I can get it in Canada as an app, but I tend to limit those types of add ons. However, I may be convinced to upload it just for those shows....or check YouTube for them.
I am at work, but if life is still restricted once retired late July, I may need to find additions to Netflix.
:-)

Posted by
3559 posts

@Wray, yes, Lela, I had forgotten she had done the Stans. I had read them with interest, though her posts since retirement are not my favorite any longer. She had a very intrepid travel history as a correspondent. I suspect that part of the world 'modernizes' pretty quickly, so perhaps a satellite phone won't be required. If I want to go that far off the grid, I most likely will do it with a tour.

MIR - I should mention I did look at them yesterday, but Cdn$ exchange makes them way off my budget, I am afraid. But could look further into their itineraries. It does feel like outside Uzbekistan it may be more logistically difficult to do without entrusting your life to kamikaze drivers.
Man in Seat61 mentions Advantour for purchasing train tickets, and I had seen their selection for tours - much more affordable as they are a local company, and 2-3 day or day tours are accessible from the cities I was looking at - at least for Uzbekistan.

Posted by
3559 posts

@Joel, yes, birding is always of interest. I hadn't gotten that far to looking for a book, but had looked at 'hotspots' in eBird. Thanks for remembering my not tourist(y) hobbies.

Posted by
16809 posts

I joined a great tour similar to this one in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan with Lyuba Tours (instrumental in Rick’s Bulgaria tour) https://lyubatours.com/page10948621.html and co-operated with SRM Travel (who guide Rick’s Turkey tours, no info currently on their Central Asia page). Tours require a minimum number of participants (or cash) to operate, so you can’t count on many departure options.

Uzbekistan, which has recently made it easier for Americans to visit without a lot of visa hassle, is more know for colorful tiled mosques, for instance, while only more modest buildings featured in the above tour.

Posted by
1584 posts

Have fun, hope you go. One of the reasons I bought an AWD vehicle in Bulgaria is so we can eventually do a long roadtrip through this region, it is very high on the list.

Little known fact, but "stan" is just persian/farsi for "country" or "land" and as such has been picked up by many of the surrounding countries. For example in Turkey where they use a lot of persian loanwords, they call Bulgaria "Bulgaristan" (land of Bulgars) and Georgia "Gürcistan."

Posted by
12112 posts

Uzbekistan sounds fascinating and has been on my "A" list for a lot of years.

Interesting that Wizzair flies direct, Budapest to Nur-Sultan, the Capital of Kazakhstan. Flights start at about $100. Wizzair also flies Budapest to Baku, Azerbaijan for about $100.

Posted by
3559 posts

How's the fishing in Uzbekistan, James E?
I see that 'a good time to visit' is Spring or Fall (September to November). That is tempting for a 'run away after retirement' trip and with a November birthday, it's kind of fun to celebrate it somewhere else...or at least not celebrate it, but at least be somewhere else.

I received some feedback from elsewhere and it seems that Kazakhstan has good train service...but not so much Kyrgyzstan.
I was reading an interesting article - by Leyla, as mentioned above - about the Nomadic Games that run every 2 years. They started in Kyrgyzstan, but for 2020 were to be held in Turkey. Slated for 2021, but I can't find dates. They may not post the details until 6 months prior, so they may still happen. That would be something to behold.

Posted by
3559 posts

@acraven, this isn't available through Tubi in Canada, but I can actually stream it from my library. There are so many online untapped resources in that institution.....

Posted by
407 posts

I've visited two of the Stans - Kyrgyz and Kazakh. Fascinating places, both of them, quite DIYable. Nomadic games are awesome!

I've found https://againstthecompass.com/ blogposts on Stans to be accurate and engaging, with some good travel tips. One annoying thing about the site is gazillions of ads, but still a good resource once you get thru those.

Posted by
3559 posts

@PerilsofP. Thanks for the recommendation and glad to have a couple of more countries to consider. I'll read the blogs.

Posted by
12112 posts

MariaF, surprisingly there is a tiny corner of the country near Tashkent with mountains forests, trout filled river and streams, and even skiing in the winter. Thats part of why its been on my "A" list Well, that and Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. It would be a trip of a life time.

Posted by
3559 posts

@James E, Fergana Valley? Looks lovely...and it is 'birdy' so in a plan.

Posted by
1308 posts

Just back from hiking and camping in W Colorado so just seeing this thread.

Here is a link that has my post from a few years ago about our visit to Uzbekistan.
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/been-to-uzbekistan

Our trip was Tashkent-Khiva-Bhukhara-Samarkhand-Dushanbe-Pamir Highway (Tajikistan) - to Osh in Krygystan. Then flew to Bishkek since we didn't want another 10-12 hr taxi ride. Also took a side trip, via air, to Almaty (Kazakhstan) which had just made it easier for Americans to visit without a visa. Did not go to Turkmenistan due to difficulty getting a visa.

Send me a PM if you have specific questions.

Posted by
3559 posts

Thanks Arnold. Canadian here, so different visa requirements, but I'll be sure to check on those and read the link thread at lunch.
It was meant to be considered as a 'yeah, I can finally travel' Autumn 2 weeker, but as always, seems to be worth expanding into something more extended. A trial flight booking has me gulping, however, even for just Uzbek. Very pricey.