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Archie brings us to Tashkent and Tipping the Guide

It feels good to have our truck Archie back. She’s like home to us, especially for those who are on the road for a very long time. While we used alternative transportation during the last two weeks (minibuses, air-conditioned coaches, train), Archie will bring us today from Samarkand to Tashkent, the final destination of our current leg from Ashgabat to Tashkent.

At lunch time we stopped along the road to prepare sandwiches. We had quite some leftovers but neither wanted to throw them away nor store them in the fridge because it stops working when the engine of the truck isn’t running for a couple of days. Therefore, Alistair and I grabbed the stuff and walked over to a guy and his wife sitting next to the road selling cigarettes and sweats. They happily accepted our leftover food and put it into plastic bags for later consumption.

We arrived in Tashkent in the afternoon. Our hotel was a bit outside why there wasn’t an opportunity for a quick stroll around the city center. In the evening all of us went out for a group dinner to a nearby restaurant. My fellow traveler Lauren from Australia, who is beginning of 20, had already put on her fancy nightclub outfit consisting of an LED-flashing t-shirt, a colorful miniskirt, fluffy bright blue gaiters and tons of make-up. It somehow reminded me of my style at her age which was similar crazy.

In comparison to the prices we’ve paid during the last weeks, the ones here were four times as high which made a couple of people leave and go somewhere different. However, in comparison to the prices back home it was still very reasonable why the rest was staying. At dinner we also celebrated Sam’s, Chris’s and my birthday. For Chris and me it was after the celebration on the actual day in Iran and the belated celebration in Ashgabat the third time we celebrate our birthday and I hope it will be the last one too. Not that I don’t like celebrations, I just don’t like to get reminded I’m getting older. At this occasion I also gave Sam the silly hat I’ve purchased for him in Ashgabat. Guess he didn’t like it since it really looks silly and very traditional.

After dinner we were hanging out at the terrace of the hotel where Sam was playing the piano for us. It’s incredible how these hands can repair a truck and play a piano. He’s certainly gifted in many ways. We also had some beer and vodka which made it an entertaining evening. Around midnight Lauren and Andrew left to check-out the local nightlife. Nobody else was really up for it since we had made our experiences… (see post of May 19). The next morning it turned out the hottest nightclub in town, which was recommended by our local guide Jelol, was actually closed for a private party and they didn’t let them in. The whole nightclub excursion finally ended in a taxi odyssey through Tashkent and Lauren coming home at 6am the following morning.

Since the Ashgabat to Tashkent leg is ending here we will lose some people and gain new ones. Actually from the 19 people, who were travelling with us during the last two weeks, 11 will continue, 8 will leave us and one new traveler will join. This brings the total number of people on the next leg from Tashkent to Bishkek to 12 travelers plus two crew members plus a local guide. The new traveler joining us is Martina, a very funny woman with a big smile who was born in Slovakia but is living in London for many years.

Since people are leaving it’s also on them to tip the crew and the local guide. I heard one of the guys gave our local guide an old second-hand electric shaver as a tip. Jelol wasn’t very amused about it since he was fulfilling every special request of this guy during the last weeks, e.g. taking him on a private half-day tour etc. When discussing the topic of tipping in my blog entry on May 11, I received an email from Bob I travelled with in South America saying: “Tipping is a very cultural habit. People from US do it all the time, because the wages for the workers in certain jobs are very, very low, and tipping is expected. In Australia and many other countries the wage structure is quite different and all workers get a basic wage, and tipping is not done.” But this guy was from the US… I don’t understand the world anymore! Why are some people so mean? They spent more money on lunch than on the tip for a guide who has been with them for two weeks. I also heard Kurt, another traveler from the US, asked him why he didn’t give the guide a more appropriate tip. He responded he didn’t have change for a 100 USD note…