Looking for tickets or info for the Get Happy Tour 2018 featuring Bowling for Soup, Army of Freshmen and The Aquabats?

This domain name was used for the Get Happy Tour back in its original run around 10 years ago, when I used to do work for BFS and AOF. However, for the past 5 years it has been used for my travel blog as I never thought we would have another Get Happy Tour and I didn't want it to go to waste.

But as a favour to two bands who have done a lot for me over the years, and so you don't miss out, ticket info is:
O2 Presale: 10am on 25 September
General Onsale: 10am on 27 September.

Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk and bowlingforsoup.com
 


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Posts Tagged ‘Uzbekistan’

My Uzbekistan & Kyrgyzstan blog is online!

October 10th, 2015 No comments

I’m pleased to announce that my blog from this year’s trip to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan is finally online. As I’ve mentioned a few times before I wrote my blog in note format when I travel, in order to maximise the time in which I’m able to get under the skin of a destination, before typing it up properly and sorting through photos when I get home.

As I’m sure you can imagine this takes longer than if I was to post from the road, or to write in full on the road then type up when I get home, but it works better for me. Normally I’m able to type up my blog within a few weeks, or at most a couple of months, of returning but this time due to various personal reasons it has been 4 months since I returned from my trip.

It’s now too late for anybody to travel to that part of the world this year, as it’ll soon be winter and the area will be blanketed with snow, but hopefully somebody will find this blog useful when trying to decide whether or not they should visit the area in the future.

I have just one word to say in response to people wondering whether they should visit Central Asia – YES!. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The people, the scenery, the fresh air, the culture, the memories are all so amazing. Kyrgyzstan isn’t a place for people who don’t like nature and want to look at sights or get involved with activities, although it does have a couple of ski resorts. Uzbekistan on the other hand isn’t quite so magnificent but has a large number of sights that you could visit. My trip focused on Kyrgyzstan but the entire region is worth a visit.

Here are some photos of highlights of the trip. For many more photos, and full information about the trip, please read my blog entries.

Helena rests

Me and Kyrgyz kids

Lake Issyk-Kul

Yurt camp

Chaek drinks

Walking around Tashkent

Blue Mosque

I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about the trip, the area, the culture, the public transport I somehow survived or indeed anything else related to this and other trips featured on the blog. Just click the “Contact Scott” link in the menu and send me a message. I’m always happy to answer questions or just hear from people who have found the blog useful.

For the benefit of search engines and rankings, since this blog was posted late and in one go, some of the places and sights that we saw were:

  • Uzbekistan
  • Tashkent
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Silk Route
  • Osh
  • Song-Kul Lake
  • Kockhor
  • Home Stay
  • Yurt Camp
  • Karakol
  • Jeti-Oguz
  • Lake Issyk-Kul
  • Bishkek
  • Fergana Valley
  • Mountains and Lakes
  • Turkey
  • Istanbul
  • Dragoman
  • Central Asia
  • Overland Truck

I hate having to do that list in these posts, but due to the nature of how my blog is posted I have to. However so that I don’t finish the post with a boring list here is a photo of some lovely scenery in Kyrgyzstan.

Fairy Tales do come true :)

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Thoughts from Central Asia

July 10th, 2015 No comments

I have been back from Central Asia for a few weeks now and have had some time to think about my time there, look through my photos, and generally process the things that I experienced. I will post a more thorough country overview in the “Country Opinion” section of the site as I always do but first I just want to share some thoughts with you about the trip.

The food in this part of the world was generally nothing special which is why I was glad I was on a Dragoman trip where many of the meals are cooked by the group. This gives us a chance to source local ingredients but to make meals that suit a diverse group of people from all over the world.

Dinner time

Dinner time

Lunch

Uzbek food

I did personally enjoy the food, such as Camca and Shashlik, and thought it was tasty but I will not be thinking about it for years to come or making any of it myself in the future.

The people in this part of the world were really friendly. Being former Soviet countries, and with not much western tourism, I wasn’t sure what to expect but they were great. Maybe not as open as in Central America or Africa but I had some great experiences interacting with local people.

The main experience which will stand out for many years to come, and which I am still in shock about every time I think about it, is in the Uzbek town of Kolkand. As mentioned in my blog we stopped here for a little while to look around a former palace which is now a museum and while we were there we generated a lot of attention.

A lot of the attention was due to Sam and his blonde dreadlocks – at one point we had several hundred people surrounding us wanting a photo with him which was just incredible. I’ve never seen such interest from people when travelling and we just kept saying things like “what on earth?” and “this is completely crazy” to each other as the numbers kept growing and growing, but the people were really friendly. Now I know how famous celebrities must feel if they travel and people continually ask for photos with them so I’ll never be asking anybody again!

I did personally generate a little bit of interest and had three small groups of people ask if they could take photos with me. I never mind this sort of thing, especially in places that I travel, as they’re doing it to have an excuse to interact with you. I would probably have found Sam’s level of attention overwhelming but the people meant well – Jalal, our local guide in Uzbekistan, said that a lot of the people in the square had travelled down from the valleys due to it being the last day of school and that they wouldn’t have spoken to many westerners before.

Sam's Fan Club

Sam's fan club

The kids I interacted with at Lake Issyk-Kul were adorable too and were so happy just when I made a simple gesture of giving them some printed photos of themselves that I made using my Polaroid Pogo printer. If you like to go on this sort of trip then I would recommend that you invest in one – they are worth their weight in gold for memories like mine has given me.

Me and Kyrgyz kids

Finally I just want to mention something about the scenery in Kyrgyzstan. I can’t really comment on the scenery of Uzbekistan as I was only there a couple of days but the scenery of Kyrgyzstan is so beautiful and divers as to almost be unbelievable.

The scenery is one of the main reasons I went there and I was definitely not disappointed. I couldn’t believe the richness of the colours, the diversity of the landscape and indeed how quickly the scenery changed. One day we went from a beach at the shore of a lake, to red rock which looked like the Badlands of the USA combined with the Red Centre of Australia, and finally to mountains that reminded me of the Alps of Europe. In addition to that there were lush valleys, mountainous regions, farmland, so many rivers. The country is heavily mountainous but there are so many lovely valleys and plains too. Just have a look for yourself at some of my favourite scenery photos below, and the read my blog entries for more.

Kyrgyz lake

Kyrgyz scenery

Mountains

Lake photo

Helena

Kyrgyz scenery

Song-Kul

Fresh snow in Kyrgyzstan

Fairy Tales do come true :)

Crossing the river

I had wanted to visit Kyrgyzstan for some time and it was worth every penny, every sleepless night, the sub-zero temperatures at Song-Kul Lake and the long travel days. I would highly recommend a trip here if you love natural beauty – I have never seen such diversity in one small country before.

If you do go then please go on a trip like the one I picked with Dragoman, or alternatively go with one of their competitors, as it really allows you to get under the skin of the country and see so much more than if you travelled around from hotel to hotel by sterile tour bus or train. You could do the area yourself and use public transport, indeed many people do, but group trips like the one I went on combine security and organisation with seeing some amazing off-the-beaten-path locations.

So many experiences, so many memories. I’m not sure if or when I’ll be back but it’s definitely a destination that I would visit again if everything worked out like this time. There are a number of places I want to see first but I thoroughly enjoyed Central Asia, even if I did have to return home a few days early for personal reasons.

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Charlie : Uzbekistan

May 26th, 2015 No comments

Charlie crossed into Kyrgyzstan with me this afternoon after a few days in Uzbekistan. We only saw Tashkent, the capital of the country, and the Fergana Valley between Tashkent and Osh in Kyrgyzstan, but it was a nice introduction to the region.

In Tashkent we had a look around the city, saw the main sights, had some street food for lunch and looked at some old temples including one which houses what is claimed to be the oldest surviving Koran. Overall it’s a nice city and I wish we could have spent longer there but our trip is mainly focusing on Kyrgyzstan.

Charlie

Charlie in Tashkent

Charlie

Charlie in Tashkent

In the Fergana Valley we stopped at the town of Kolkand to have a look around a museum built into an old fort and also to have a look at a silk factory. While in the town our group was surrounded by a group of a couple of hundred locals who all wanted a photo of us which, as I am sure you can imagine, was a bit overwhelming but they meant well and were friendly. We also stopped overnight in Fergana itself, where we went swimming and had a nice dinner, but we didn’t stay there long.

Due to the large amount of interest we generated, and the short time we were in the Fergana Valley, Charlie didn’t feature in too many photos. However I did take this photo of him at the Kamchik Pass on our way out of Tashkent.

Charlie

Charlie at the Kamchik Pass

Our trip stays in Kyrgyzstan for a lot longer than it did in Uzbekistan so expect lots of photos of Charlie soon. It is a country that I have wanted to visit for a long time and so I am pleased to finally be here!

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Into Kyrgyzstan

May 26th, 2015 No comments

Today we made our way across the border and into Kyrgyzstan, the country I have been looking forward to ever since seeing that photo. It is a shame that we didn’t see more of Uzbekistan as there is so much to see but it Dragoman do offer a segment of overlanding between Turkmenistan and Tashkent for people who want to see more. I would have loved to have done the entire month between Ashgabat and Bishkek but unfortunately I can’t take that amount of time off work.

We had an early start in order to give us a head start with the border crossing and I’m glad we left when we did as it took a long time to cross. It didn’t take time as the border guards were lazy it took a long time as they were very, very thorough. We had our passports checked several times before getting to the immigration desks and, after filling out lots of forms, we joined a slow queue for the final passport and customs check. This wasn’t the end of the process, however, as we had a detailed bag search before we were able to leave Uzbekistan and walk across no-mans land to Kyrgyzstan. I assume the checks were to stop drug smuggling but I can’t be sure.

Inside the truck

Inside Helena the truck

Heading to the border

Heading to the border

There were a number of passport checks on the Kyrgyz side but the whole process went a lot quicker. We were through immigration and stamped into the country in no time and as a result my first impression of the country is exponentially better to that of Uzbekistan. The people seem friendly too – after being stamped into the country I was making my way out of the building and a Kyrgyz Army officer was attempting to come in at the same time. I stopped to let him pass first, naturally, but after enquiring whether I was a tourist he said “No, you are a tourist to my country. You first” before stepping to the side to let me pass which was really nice of him. If only border guards and officials could be this friendly everywhere *cough* America *cough*.

It took a while for our truck to go through the border so we had a chance to get to know our local guides before finally resuming our journey. Our first stop in Kyrgyzstan was Osh, the second city of Kyrgyzstan. It seemed a nice place but we only spent enough time here to change some money, have lunch and stock up on personal supplies for the trip. I changed $140, thinking this should last me until I am able to work out how much I’ll need for the entire trip, but judging by the price of lunch I don’t think I’ll need to change any more – including drinks and tip I only paid $5!

Osh

Arriving in Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Lunch in Osh

This is where we had lunch in Osh

Osh

The town centre of Osh

As we drove from Osh towards Arslanbob, where we are staying tonight, the scenery kept changing so quickly that I almost didn’t have time to take photos of everything. Due to the delays at the border we didn’t have a chance to stop and take many photos, unfortunately, except for having to stop for 20 minutes next to a lake so that the President of Kyrgyzstan could drive past. No I’m not joking.

Scenery

Kyrgyz scenery

Waiting for the President

At the lake

Helena the truck

Helena by the lake

The President of Kyrgyzstan

The President of Kyrgyzstan passes

Kyrgyz lake

The lake we stopped at was beautiful

Kyrgyz people

Kyrgyz riders

The last leg of today’s journey was the final ascent into Arslanbob, after one more quick stop to buy supplies. We are staying in home stays for the next couple of nights and the house I’m staying in is really nice. It has a little stream passing through the garden, has lovely views, a working power supply, nice beds and the family seem really nice. The food is plentiful too, judging by dinner tonight, and I definitely won’t go hungry!

Kyrgyz scenery

Kyrgyz scenery

A donkey

A donkey blocking our path

Dinner time

Dinner in the home stay

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The start of the trip

May 25th, 2015 No comments

So much for the good nights sleep I was looking forward to last night as at around 3.30 this morning I was woken up by my room mate finally arriving almost 24 hours late. Although I needed the sleep I can’t really complain as he has had a rough time and after speaking to him it turns out I almost ended up in the same situation.

I had originally planned to fly our of London Heathrow on the late morning flight with Turkish Airlines, which would give me a 3 hour connection for my flight to Tashkent, but as mentioned earlier in the blog my plans changed once I heard about the free Istanbul city tour and I flew out the night before instead. Jon, my room mate for the night, left London on the flight I had planned to take but it was delayed due to a technical fault which meant that he missed his connection in Istanbul and had to wait 24 hours for the next flight with space. Not only that but when he arrived in Tashkent he found out that his bags were still in Istanbul – for once I had a lucky escape!

After a quick breakfast we all jumped in taxis that had been booked to take us across the Kamchik Pass to the Fergana Valley. This is a requirement as large passenger-carrying vehicles are not allowed over the pass due to a high rate of fatal accidents. Normally no large vehicles are allowed over the pass at all but our local guide knows the local chief of police and is able to barter, for a large sum of money, permission for the truck to travel as long as it is done overnight.

Uzbek town

An Uzbek town that we passed through

The scenery as we left Tashkent wasn’t anything to write home about but the scenery that we were presented with when we stopped at a viewpoint on the Kamchik Pass was absolutely breathtaking. I’m told that the scenery gets better and better throughout the trip so I’m really excited as the landscape and remoteness were major factors in me deciding to visit this part of the world.

Kamchik Pass

The Kamchik Pass

Kamchik Pass

The view point on the Kamchik Pass

Lunch time

This is where we stopped for lunch

Lunch today was at a cafe at the side of the road and, except for the fact they forgot my order, was really simple but nice just like in Tashkent. I’m getting a feeling this is a sign of things to come, which I’m pleased with as I’m a fussy eater, but hopefully the service will improve.

We stopped in the town of Kolkand along the way in order for us to visit an old palace which has been turned into a museum. According to our guide today is the final day of primary school which explained the large crowds in the park next to the palace but meant that we got a lot of attention. One of our group, Sam, is a tall Austalian with blond dreadlocks and apparently this is the description of a legendary character from an Uzbek folk story which of course meant that everybody wanted a photo with him. A few people we wouldn’t have minded – even I had that attention and had to pose for three photos – but at one point there was a crowd of several hundred people surrounding Sam!

Sam's fan club

Sam’s fan club

Sam's Fan Club

Sam’s fan club grew quickly

Inside the Museum

Inside the museum

Inside the museum

Inside the museum

Inside the museum

The museum courtyard, with some of the kids who followed us

Kolkand

The park outside the museum

The museum itself is worth a visit if you’re in the area as it tells you about the history of the valley from ancient times, to the days of the silk route, all the way up to modern times and includes photos, maps, artefacts and more. Some of the original palace was destroyed when the building was used as a Russian Army garrison but I enjoyed looking around the remaining sections.

Before making our way to our final destination we stopped at a silk factory for a pre-arranged tour. We were shown the entire process from the breeding of silk worms to the cooking of the silk, the dying process and the manufacturing process. Most of the group, myself included, found the visit quite boring but it was nice to be able to get out of the cars and stretch our legs and there were several members of the group who could have easily spent hours there due to enjoying the experience so much.

Silk Factory

Cooking the worms

Making scarves

Making scarves for Uzbek Airlines

Tonight we’re staying in a hotel with a pool in the city of Fergana, close to the border with Kyrgyzstan. We didn’t see much of the city as we arrived late but after a quick swim in the pool there was time for a group meal at a local restaurant. I ordered Shashlik and chips – the quality was nice but once again the service was slow and my drink never arrived. I’ve been partnered with Sam for the night – it looks like we will be mixing and matching room mates throughout the trip.

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A day in Tashkent

May 24th, 2015 No comments

I have another night on my own tonight as my room mate still isn’t here due to flight delays but I can’t complain as it gives me a chance to have a good nights sleep before the start of our overland trip tomorrow. Although I wonder what state he’ll be in after being delayed for so long.

Uzbek Money

A couple of days supply of Uzbek money

The view from my room

The view from my hotel room

For me today was definitely better as I had a chance to explore the city and see some of the things that Tashkent has to offer. We grabbed a taxi into the centre and decided to start at Amir Timur Square for a couple of reasons – firstly it was somewhere that we could describe to the taxi driver and secondly as it is a good focal point in the city.

Amir Temur Square

Amir Temur Square

Amir Temur Square

Amir Temur Square and the Hotel Uzbekistan

Amir Temur Square itself was really nice. It’s a sun trap, surrounded by a main road, right in the middle of the city and is centered around a statue of Amir Temur – a leader of the local people who unified a number of nations during the 14th century. We spent some time wandering around, taking photos, and watching some sort of promotional video shoot involving local school children but as this was our only day in the city we didn’t have time to take in the atmosphere for as long as I would have liked.

We spent an hour or so wandering around the city taking in sights such as mosques, a museum, open air art sale, Independence Square and numerous other impressive buildings before finally ending up at the park next to the Uzbekistan Senate building. One thing that’s fairly obvious as you walk around Tashkent is that the Soviet Union had a huge influence in the way the city was set up and the way buildings were designed. This gives the city a familiar feel, having been to Kiev a couple of years ago, but at the same time it has managed to hold on to its own heritage. It is this heritage that I was keen to see, even though most of the city is new, due to the fact our time in Uzbekistan is limited on this trip so we made plans to visit the Khazrati Imom complex after lunch.

Walking around Tashkent

Walking around Tashkent

Art sale in Tashkent

An art sale in Tashkent

Me in Tashkent

Me in Tashkent

Uzbekistan Senate

Uzbekistan Senate

Lunch was a simple Shashlik kebab with bread and tea at an open air food market but it was really nice and seems to be a favourite with the locals. If it’s your sort of thing then head down to the Chorsu Market area and you won’t be disappointed. It wasn’t imaginative food but it was tasty, cheap, filling and good quality which is the main thing.

Lunch Time

Time for lunch

Uzbek food

This is what we had for lunch

After stocking up on supplies at the market we made our way to the Khazrati Imom complex that I mentioned earlier. The buildings here are built in the traditional style, although not all of them are original, and they are featured on the front of countless guide books on the country. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in Tashkent and won’t be visiting other parts of the country which have a wider selection of original buildings. However the buildings here are an attraction in their own right and include a mosque, a palace which is now a market and museum containing a large selection of Korans including one of the oldest copies in existence. I must admit I don’t know much about Islam but I found it really interesting to see all of the copies there and if you visit I’m sure you will too.

Walking around Tashkent

Walking around Tashkent

An ancient Koran

This building contains what is believed to be one of the world’s oldest Koran’s

Walking around Tashkent

Walking around Tashkent

It was starting to get late by this point, and the weather looked like it could turn at any moment, so we made our way back to the market area in order to catch a taxi to our hotel. Instead of taking the main roads, now that we knew the route, we took side streets through local areas which gave us an insight into what it’s like to live in the city. One thing I didn’t understand, while walking through the area, was why the gas supply to the houses looks like this.

Tashkent gas supply

Tashkent gas supply

We had to shelter from the rain for a while before catching a taxi back but this gave us a chance to people watch.

Dinner was interesting tonight. We decided to have a group meal in the hotel restaurant tonight to get to know each other, and say goodbye to the people leaving the Dragoman trip in Tashkent, but I’m not sure we made the right decision as the service was among the worst I’ve experienced while travelling. Once we ordered it took forever for food to start arriving, people who ordered the same thing ended up being served a long time apart with meals that didn’t look the same, the people served first had finished their meals by the time 50% of the group had been served and one person was told that they had run out of what he ordered well over half an hour after our order was taken. The food, once it arrived, was actually quite nice but if you’re staying at the Grand Orzu hotel I’d recommend just heading out to a local restaurant. The service didn’t spoil the evening, however, and it seems like I have a nice bunch of fellow travellers. I look forward so travelling with them.

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Journey to Tashkent

May 24th, 2015 No comments

I have finally made it to Tashkent in Uzbekistan and I’m absolutely exhausted, but I have seen and done loads since leaving London.

My flight from London to Istanbul was pretty uneventful. I didn’t get much sleep, and Turkish Airlines have very little leg room, but they have a good entertainment system which kept me entertained. I picked the flights I did, with a long layover in Istanbul, as this made me eligible for a free Turkish Airlines city tour. It meant having to pay for a Turkish Visa but meant I would see a lot more than if I stayed in the airport. I arrived in Istanbul in the early hours so after putting my name down on the list for the free city tour I had a drink in the 24-hour Starbucks before napping on the sofas for a couple of hours.

If you have a long layover there are two city tours you can take, either from 9-3 or 9-6, which include food and all entrance fees to the sights that you see. I didn’t have enough time for the long tour due to the time of my connecting flight but both tours still show you the best of Istanbul.

Breakfast in Istanbul

This is where we stopped for our free breakfast

Overall I found the trip to be a good introduction to the sights of Istanbul. After breakfast, which was included, we were taken on a walking tour of the centre and shown sights such as the Blue Mosque, Topkapki Palace, some obelisks and a number of other sights. We were given some time to explore the Topkapki Palace, which was good to walk around and gave us some good views of the Bosphorus, but unfortunately the queue was too long to be able to enter the Blue Mosque. The tour was given by a professional guide, in English, and we were given headsets to be able to hear everything that was being said without standing right next to her.

Istanbul

An obelisk in Istanbul

Blue Mosque

The Istanbul Blue Mosque

Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Inside the Topkapi Palace

The Bosphorus

The Bosphorus

The final activity of the tour was the free lunch that was included in the tour, and we were then ushered back onto the coach for the journey back to the airport. During the tour I had been speaking to somebody from South Africa who was flying to Tashkent on the same flight as me so we grabbed some food and drinks together at the airport to pass the time while waiting for our boarding time.

The flight to Tashkent wasn’t as good as the flight to Istanbul. There was even less leg room, my seat was broken and due to delays we arrived 45 minutes after our scheduled arrival time. Normally in most airports this wouldn’t have been an issue but it was already after 2am, and the arrival process was so chaotic that I didn’t get out of the airport until 3am.

After surviving the gauntlet of taxi drivers touting for business I made my way to the hotel to check in. It’s approaching 4am now and the sun is starting to come up so I’ll be heading to bed so I have enough sleep before the group welcome meeting at 10am.

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Central Asia is booked!

August 9th, 2014 No comments

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve booked my next trip. In May 2015 I’ll be jetting off to Central Asia to overland with Dragoman through Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, via Istanbul.

This is a region that I’ve had my eye on for a while, ever since I travelled with Dragoman in 2009. After returning from Africa I decided to research other trips that Dragoman offered and a photo of one of their trucks next to a mountain lake got my attention. After some research I discovered that it was a photo of a trip through Kyrgyzstan and it looked so beautiful I decided to add it to my to-do list. I kept getting distracted by other destinations, such as North Korea and Myanmar, but the time has come to go!

Central Asia is best known for being the region through which the Silk Road sliced on its way from Turkey to China, and we will be visiting some of the old Silk Road cities, but the main focus will be the beautiful scenery we’ll see on the way.

The route will be as shown below.

The route of the land portion of my trip

The route of the land portion of my trip

The entire route I'll be taking, including the flights.

The entire route I’ll be taking, including the flights.

I recently stated that I didn’t expect to be doing any more camping trips but once you’ve tasted overland travel you can’t stay away for too long. The way of life on the road, the sights you see and the experiences you have just trump any other form of trip and help you grow as a person.

I’m really looking forward to the trip. It’ll be the best part of a year before my blog is online but expect tales of pristine landscapes, new cultures and great experiences from a land that’s off of the main tourist trail.

To see a Google image search of images from Kyrgyzstan, to see some of the sights I’ll encounter, click here.

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