As we depart Central Asia, we’re hit with a bittersweet feeling partially of relief and partly of sadness. Central Asia is like no other place on earth. Check logic at the door, and reason as well sometimes. The people are so vastly different from one another between the Stans that each place is like stepping into an entire new continent. Some are friendly, helpful and kind while others are greedy, rude and unethical. Its a region that will test even the most tried of travelers, and will cause even the most devout to swear. At the same time, it houses some of the world’s most cherished relics, a complex and interesting history and some of nature’s most comical and magnificent structures. While in Central Asia we composed a few top ten lists, here they are, as we say adieu:

Camels
Camels

Top Ten Illegal Things We Saw in Central Asia:

  • Illegal money changers with counterfeit bills
  • Marijuana growing on the curb in Tashkent
  • Drug deal exchanges in Bukhara
  • Transporting illegal substances across borders
  • Prostitutes all over Central Asia
  • Bribing guards on trains, border crossings
  • Dangerous driving, with no regard for safety
  • Hassling tourists, foreigners
  • Cops patting down travelers for money
  • Camping on protected ruins

Top Five Things you Don’t Want to Hear while on rusted, Soviet Chairlift:

  • “Is that a broken chair down there?”
  • “I think the two seater in front of us is seating four.”
  • “Are you wearing Birkenstocks?”
  • “Thats definitely wreckage of a chair lift down there.”
  • “…and now we have to get back down the same way.”

10 Most Difficult Things to Achieve in Central Asia:

  • Getting a napkin out of the booby-trapped holders
  • Crossing the street without losing a limb
  • Hailing a cabby who will charge in local currency
  • Avoiding food poisoning
  • Conversing with anyone about Russia
  • Mentioning America without getting a response of “George Bush, Michael Jackson or Michael Jordon” in return
  • Finding a road without potholes
  • Avoiding manty (meat dumplings)
  • Changing money across currencies
  • Finding shoes in any size above women’s 8

Top Five Strange Things We Heard at a Restaurant in Central Asia:

  • “That guy is playing with his belly button.”
  • “Last time we ate here, we didn’t get sick!”
  • “Try the tongue.”
  • “That guy is combing his stomach hair….”
  • “Even the waitress looks like shes about to throw up.”

Dino Eggs
Dino Eggs

Top Five Strange Menu Items in Central Asia:

  • Lamp Shish
  • Banana Spleen
  • Corn and Cancer
  • Language Beef
  • Two Generations
  • Frog Paws
  • Cinnamon of my Youth
  • Seafood pizza with Fruit
  • Beer: The Goner
  • Fish on a Shish

Top Ten Strange Sites We Visited:

  • Flaming crater called the “Gates of Hell”
  • Sarcophagus of Daniel (13m long)
  • The nodding donkey monument
  • Mosque honoring Turkmen Dictator, not Allah
  • Russian Orthodox Church in the desert with skull and bones
  • Downed MiG plane on display in someone’s yard
  • Snake infested section of Caspian Sea
  • Torture chamber and bug pit where condemned lived for years
  • “Big Mac” restaurant on top of a mountain (lamb burgers)
  • Petrified dinosaur eggs in the desert

Top Five Things We’ll Miss About Central Asia:

  • Friends
  • Bazaars (Push-Push in particular)
  • Camels, EVERYWHERE!
  • 2000 year old ruins…everywhere
  • Constant oddities making you shrug and say, “its CA!”

Yup, Central Asia is a strange and mysterious place! We loved our time in the region, despite a few down times (being shaken down by cops, bad border guards and dishonest cabbys). We were lucky to be able to spend over three months in the Stans!

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  • Anil says:

    I’ve been planning to go through all of the Stans at some point but it’s a big undertaking like I’ve been reading in your posts. I guess it’s the adventure that makes it so enticing.

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