Traveler’s Tale: A Journey Through Central Asia
MIR traveler Bill Thornton visited the little-known region of Central Asia on MIR’s popular small group tour Journey Through Central Asia: The Five ‘Stans, a modern-day caravan through the exotic countries of the Silk Road – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. We caught up with Bill to learn more about his impressions of the tour and of his time spent exploring this fascinating and relatively undiscovered area at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.
It was a process of elimination. I was using a globe one day to explain to our grandchildren all the places my wife and I had traveled. As we touched locations on the globe it became apparent that we had a significant gap between the Black Sea and China. Our guiding principle has been “let’s go where we’ve never been” as we plan trips — this led us to begin to explore a journey to Central Asia.
Our daughter lives in Seattle, so we’re always drawn to any company that is “close to home” as we travel from Austin to the Pacific Northwest 3 or 4 times a year. Further online research (especially the attitude about small groups of 16 or less) and a visit with Joanna Millick [MIR’s Director of Sales] was the clincher. She listened very carefully to our likes and dislikes about small group travel. We discussed including Iran in the trip, but she suggested we visit Iran on a separate trip dedicated only to that country due to our interest in visiting smaller cities and interacting with local people.
The reference list provided by MIR included Warren and Janny Strickland from Dallas who had made this trip a year earlier. I reached out to the Stricklands via email and Janny was quick to respond with a forthright recap of their experience. In fact, they were passing through Georgetown a few months later and we had lunch, further picking their brains about the trip.
While the initial impetus for most of our adventure travels come from me, she’s quick to jump on board. Her biggest concern was the use of eastern toilets. Being the adventuresome trooper that she is, she initiated a workout regimen to strengthen her leg muscles to offset this issue.
Packing for adventure trips is much simpler than many other trips. There are lots of “outdoor” clothing companies that sell quick drying garments – both under and outer. Packing for 5-7 days is what we target. A good pair of shoes is most critical for the trip. The other thing we’ve learned about fellow travelers that enjoy this type of adventure…no one is a fashion critic.
Two things are lasting impressions of any trip – the people and the beauty of the country. Central Asia is an inhospitable land inhabited by hospitable people.
The people of Central Asia are wonderful! They were quick to smile, pose for pictures, curious about us, and trying out their English. I captured a delightful short video of four women in Registan Square who broke out in such spontaneous laughter that I have made it a highlight of my photos.
The ruggedness of much of Central Asia has a beauty of its own…much as the Southwest part of the United States. I’ve told several people the land is much the same as one would see if they drove from Denver to San Diego…with only a few miles of good highways and fewer roadside rest stops.
The bazaars are so much fun, as the people, both vendors and customers, seem eager to interact with visitors. Of course, children are favorites for a photographer (after getting parents’ approval of course) as they show the character of the society with little “varnish”.
But the best “ice-breaker” is always a constant smile and/or a genuine laugh. People all over the world love to laugh.
I found the sites connected with Tamerlane were impressive – his palace in Shahrisabz and his mosque in Samarkand. Additionally, the Shah-i-Zinda Ensemble and Registan Square in Samarkand were remarkable. The old city of Bukhara, the intriguing city of Khiva, and the bizarre city of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan were all favorites.
The fashion show in Samarkand was beautiful.
As mentioned before, I enjoy opportunities to interact with people in their places of shopping and where they live. Being able to walk the streets of Bukhara in the evening and observing the families sharing food and laughter was fun.
The border crossings…especially the first one into Uzbekistan.
- The cleanliness of the countries…very little litter or trash in the cities or countryside.
- The outgoing nature of the people.
- The modern cities of Tashkent, Samarkand, and Ashgabat.
Bukhara…Sasha & Sons Hotel was most the interesting accommodation – both the facility and the location. The city itself was genuine…had no feel of a “tourist” location.
Reinforced my belief that there are good people all over the world who are basically the same – focused on family, endeavoring to make life better for themselves and their children. Also, there is little to fear when one travels to the far reaches of this planet.
Shirley MacLaine said, “The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people that should be friends.”
- Pack light
- Wear good shoes
- Accept that unplanned things are going to happen
- Trust your Trip Leader
- Don’t complain
- And most of all, smile!
Travel to Central Asia with MIR
MIR has more than 30 years of travel experience in Central Asia with an affiliate office in Uzbekistan, and has a roster of contacts that can take you to places you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”
Experience firsthand the hidden treasures of the Silk Road just as Bill did on MIR’s small group tour Journey Through Central Asia: the Five ‘Stans.
Or choose from one of MIR’s other small group tours and rail journeys by private train to Central Asia, such as:
- Small Group Tours
- Rail Journeys by Private Train
- NEW! Persia & the Silk Road by Private Train (Westbound)
- Jewels of Persia & The Silk Route by Private Train (Westbound)
- Iran & The ‘Stans by Private Train (Eastbound)
- Essence of the Silk Road by Private Train (Eastbound / Westbound)
- Essence of the Silk Road & Beyond by Private Train
- Caspian Odyssey by Private Train
You can also book a custom private journey to any or all of the five ‘Stans. MIR specializes in personalized, private journeys, and we’d love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you. Travel wherever, however, and with whomever you like, relying on our expert assistance. Contact us to find out more about our custom and private travel expertise – each trip handcrafted to your interests, dates and pace.
Contact MIR today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-424-7289.
(Top Photo: MIR client Bill Thornton meets with young students from Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Photo credit: Bill Thornton.)
PUBLISHED: January 10, 2017