How do I get cash in Tashkent?!

Andy, Omar and I grabbed some food, while Mike stayed to let us back in. We shared a final breakfast together at Andy’s friend’s kitchen table before Omar and I jumped in a taxi and head to the airport. I packed away my camera stuff because of all the strict regulations and not wanting any trouble. We got there early, hung out for a while, then flew out on a quick hour long flight to Tashkent. Once in the country, we saw many Pakistanis at the airport, arriving on a flight from Lahore. Once through customs, we hopped in a cab after negotiating a price. The guy thought it was funny to try and double it on the way. I opened the door and threatened to get out, and he quietened a little. We got to the place and he did try one final time to squeeze some extra money out of us. I just handed him what we had agreed and left it at that.

 

The hostel owner greeted Omar and I with some Urdu. Unfortunately, after the usual Muslim jokes, all he could muster was a lot of cursing, asking if we wanted to do all kinds of idiotic things that we had no interest in as some kind of a joke. It is a pleasure to be looked down upon for your race and the unfounded (as in equally applicable to anyone else) prejudices linked by people to it. Even better to hear all kinds of dirty talk from some old drunk guy with a daughter and wife who should know better. Luckily, the place was comfortable, clean and cheap. On top of that the wife and daughter are very nice and seem to run the place, while the guy just sits around with his old buddies getting drunk all day. All in all, one of the better places we have stayed at.

From there we set out to find an ATM. 8 hours of walking from one to the next and finding them all empty all over town, exhausted us physically and mentally. The saving grace was the kindness of people. Seriously, we have met so many wonderful people on this trip, but the way people tried to help us out here in Tashkent is really amazing. For every annoying jerk we meet, there are tons more warm people who go out of their way to help us, and that I think is the lesson to learn from.
I had limited cash that I exchanged from the airport, but didn’t want to run out, so we just walked and walked. Along the way, we met bank staff who called around to help point the way. This is apparently a big problem in Uzbekistan. The currency is valued at about 1,329 Uzbek Som to 1 US dollar, so people have wads of cash, but very little money. That and the fact that atms are almost immediatly emptied makes it very hard to get cash.
At one bank, we met a wonderful lady who walked us up to an office where we met a kind man who had learned English as he said from John Lennon and Mick Jagger. I knew he was cool even before he handed us cookies when we asked for a business card and he had run out.
It is a treat to meet such great people, with so much charm and charisma. Even though we felt miserable, hungry and exhausted at trying so hard to find cash and failing, the city is beautiful with mosaics along the sides of buildings, and amazing architecture all over and more kindness from everyday people than we have run across before, and most of the other cities were very generous and kind also.

The metros are absolutely amazing. Each terminal has a unique design. One had amazing paintings of cosmonauts and the space program. Others had beautiful tiles, or vaulted ceilings with flower designs, or sculptures in the walls etc.

 

Unfortunately we could not photograph any of these. Each metro station is a work of art.
Along the way we were stopped for our papers many many many times, but at least they were friendly and polite. Still after a while it does make a person feel like some kind of criminal, and what felt like harmless looks by people before starts to feel less so. It’s not a new situation, but it was fun in Xinjiang, China to not feel like that, at least part of the time we were there.

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