Friday, January 15, 2010

5 Weeks Between China and Uzbekistan and Now the Trip Is Over

So the trip is over, I’m back in Philly now.
Since Korea, I’ve been in Beijing for 5 days. The Great Wall is awesome!! I walked along it for about 4 hours and was extremely sore for a couple of days afterwards. I was hanging out with a guy from Switzerland that I met at the airport and was couchsurfing with a girl from France and guy from Amsterdam (they live in the same apartment). All of them were really cool. After a few days of going around the city and a couple nights of partying I got on a train for 41 hours to cross most of China over to Urumqi. It was a loonng train ride. I had a bed, but it was the top one of 3 beds (bunk beds) so there wasn’t much space up there. One girl in my car could speak just enough English for a conversation, but she got off about 20 hours into the trip. The rest of the time there was very little talking for me but many people kept giving me food and just smiling at me.

There was nothing too special about Urumqi (but it was freezing and I had a bit of a cold so I didn’t really explore much). The main reason that I went there was to catch a flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. So Uzbekistan….. I spent about 3 weeks there. It’s a very interesting country. I think Uzbekistan has the most hospitable people out of anywhere I’ve been so far. People are so nice there that even if they don’t like someone they would probably still host and take care of that person. Some important basics for the country: nice people, very good food, too much vodka, and lots of corruption but even with that still an amazing place.

I stayed with 2 of my friends and their families at first. It was really nice and interesting also. In the first couple weeks I hung out a lot in Tashkent (the capital), went to an ancient city called Samarkand, went up to the mountains, went to an Uzbek wedding, played soccer once, went to the sauna multiple times and even swimming a few times at 6am! Also, I made the first bribe of my life. I was late to register myself in the country so they said either I pay 50x the minimum salary (~$945) or get deported. Well both options would suck so in the end I got away with a $250 bribe (which is still a lot but next time I’ll register on time).
The last week there I went to a couple other cities, Gagarin and Andijon, and spent some time also in Tashkent staying at Aybek’s house, another couchsurfer. Andijon is supposed to have the nicest people in Uzbekistan (that’s what some people told me), and I think it’s true. I stayed at someone’s place that Aybek knew. The two days I spent there I was always with many people… some people to drive, some to hang out, one guy came just to translate for the day because many of the guys there didn’t speak English. All the time they were making sure everything was alright.
There’s a lot more things about Uzbekistan that I think are cool or interesting, but can only write so much now..

The last couple days I spent in Tashkent hanging out with couchsurfers (both locals and foreigners). I also received my invitation from the Peace Corps!! I’m going to Honduras on Feb. 22 for 27 months so I’m very excited.

After Uzbekistan I went back to China. First went to Xian where I got to see the Terracotta Warriors. Somehow I ended up on a Chinese tour when I went to see them. So I was with a bunch of Chinese people and a lady with a loudspeaker speaking in Chinese the entire time. Obviously I didn’t understand anything she said but it was still a fun day. Afterwards I spent a day in Shanghai and then had to come back home. I was hoping to spend a couple weeks more in China instead of just a few days but I had to come home early for some paperwork/passport application for the Peace Corps.