Train Ride from Khiva to Bukhara
The main worry of our leader Jason was how we all will be travelling to Bukhara the next stop of our journey. Our truck is still in a workshop in Iran. The posh air-conditioned coach, who picked us up at the border and brought us to Khiva, isn’t available and there is no other coach which we could rent. While validating different options our local guide Jelol came up with the idea of us traveling by train to Bukhara. The train is only running every few days but luckily there was a train running overnight from May 17 to May 18. Travelling overnight means we will miss our second night in Khiva for which we will receive no refund from the hotel. Therefore, we at least stayed in the hotel until 8pm yesterday when we left for the train station by minibus.
We had reservations for sleeping cabins holding four people each. Unfortunately we couldn’t occupy each cabin with four people of our group and so we ended up sharing with strangers. I was sharing a cabin with a fellow traveler from the UK and two local guys who didn’t speak any word with me during the entire journey. Instead they were staring at my ass when I climbed up on the bunk bed since I was wearing a mini-dress only. My fellow traveler Chris from New Zealand was luckier with his cabin mates. He shared with a couple from Kazakhstan offering him some of their tea. Unfortunately they didn’t speak any English and so Jelol helped translating a basic conversation. Their first question was not what Chris’s name is or where he’s coming from but for what that big red plastic thing, he’s carrying with him, is good for. The thing is Chelsea, a red plastic sheep, which Chris received as a present from Alistair and Andrew in Ashgabat (see post of May 13). It’s of no specific use but we all love it by now and it has become the mascot of our journey through Central Asia.
During our train ride the main action was actually not in the cabins but in the dining car where we started a little party with the locals and the restaurant staff. It started off by us playing a card game called Asshole. It has very simple rules and determines a winner and a second place called “President” and “Vice President”. The looser and the second last place are called “Asshole” and “Secretary”. For some reason, which doesn’t include cheating, I was doing well and never ended up last or second last. So I could avoid drinking a shot of Vodka after each round which was the penalty for the “Asshole” and the “Secretary”. Jason and my fellow traveler Paul from Canada where the unluckily ones who had to drink a lot and ended up pretty much drunk after playing the game for an hour or so. In addition to the drinking penalty the “President” could determine another penalty for the looser and so I made Jason and Paul performing a catwalk show making use of the whole length of the dining car for our all entertainment.
After playing that drinking game for a while we started toasting to all kinds of things and so I couldn’t avoid any more drinking one shot of vodka after the other. Since I’m not a big drinker I switched into survival mode and started cheating. It wasn’t too hard since we were using tea bowls for drinking since no glasses were available. Nobody could see how much Vodka was in my bowl and how much of it I was actually drinking. Whenever no one was looking I used the opportunity to distribute parts of my Vodka to other bowls which avoided me getting totally pissed. With this strategy I even managed to survive Alex, a local guy drinking with us, who seems to drink Vodka like I’m drinking water. While his wife and baby were sleeping in the cabin he was up and partying with us. What a great intercultural exchange. When returning to my cabin in the middle of the night the restaurant staff thought I’m completely drunk and tried to charge me twice for some of the drinks we had. Nice try since I was still pretty much sober. After a ten min discussion I just walked off and they didn’t stop me.
Sleeping in the train was really comfortable. Luckily none of the three boys in my cabin was snoring and so I had a very deep sleep recovering from the drinking event. I got up around 9am and when I went to the dining car to check what’s for breakfast the staff recognized me and gave me high 5 for seeing me alive without any signs of a hangover.
After we arrived in Bukhara around 10am we took a minibus to our hotel. On the way to my room I was running into a guy hanging out in the lobby area and exchanged 2-3 sentences with him. Afterwards I went with my roommate Isabella to grab some lunch but we somehow got lost and ended up in a not so nice part of the town where we had not so tasty but cheap street food. There I also bought crisps with Shashlik flavor which had a very interesting taste.
Back at the hotel I received a phone call in my room from the guy I met in the lobby of the hotel inviting me to spend the evening with him. His name is Murat and he’s an engineer from Turkey. Since he was quite handsome and entertaining I followed his invitation.