We decided to get to Uzbekistan, we would take the train. We were a bit skeptical since the Uzbek train looked like this:
Old, dilpidated Soviet- built trains held together by duct tape with windows cover in dew because of the lack of circulation inside the carriage. But we hoped for the best.
Since we couldn’t buy the tickets online, we had to go to the station to get the tickets. We ended up splurging by getting the “lux” berth because we couldn’t get any other sleepers together. And for a 16 hour train ride, I’ll pay a bit extra to lie down. And we justified everything because at the end it was only 13,000KZT ($41.23).
What arrived at the station was one of Kazah Railways Spanish-built Talgo trains. In our suite, we had a movie player that showed this the entire time:
But we got our own bathroom and shower! On a train! Easy access to a toilet was nice. The shower, while nice in theory, was not as great. The hot water came on sporadically, and considering was cold and rainy outside (maybe 5 deg C), it would’ve been nice.
But my favorite part:
Our Kazakh Railways caretaker, Marat, was quite comical. Once he realized both Robb and I couldn’t understand anything he was saying, he dug down deep to think of as many English words as he could. His coworker also came to his aid and we started playing a game of gestures, telling us where the water and the restaurant carriage was at.
The ride out of Almaty was pretty quiet. Since we departed at 22:30, we went straight to bed and woke up to this:
Almost the entire train emptied out after arriving in Shymkent. And the train employees were sprawled out in coupes charging their phones and cleaning the beds. I found Marat stretched out on a bed, hat off with a big smile on this face.
We arrived at Sary-agach (сары-агач), the last city in Kazakhstan. Stamping out of the country was very easy. We were not allowed to leave our room. Every once in a while, a whiff of wet dog passed as they scoured the train. One dog even sniffed my bag.
Once the formalities were done, the train kept going. It was very interesting to watch people stare at a train. Since this route only runs once a week with the sleek Kazakh trains, I can see why all the looks. It’s a pretty nice train. I did manage to have people wave back at me.
Then it came time for border control in Keles (Келес), Uzbekistan. Kazakh Railways estimated 50 minutes of wait time here. An Uzbek border officer looked at our customs form and said “Нет” (no). We filled out too much information.
Our friendly Kazakh Railways train guy, Marat, stood next to us and helped us fill the form, now in duplicate.
The Uzbek border officer asked us to open our bags. He touched a few things, then went on my computer. He asked me to turn it on. Then he took a seat and for 10 minutes, he kept browsing. Because of the angle of where he was sitting, I couldn’t see what he was looking for. Marat kept going back and forth and once in a while look at what the Uzbek border officer was doing. Finally, he gave me my laptop. He basically searched the word “icon.”
Robb got the same treatment except his laptop battery died on the officer.
More guys in military garb roamed the train. While the Kazakh sniff dogs were big German Shepherd dogs, the Uzbek sniff dogs were cute and cuddly Maltese Shih Tziu puppies.
Eventually, we got our passports stamped and within 30 mins, we arrived in Tashkent.
At the end, the “lux” seats were not really worth the price. But it was nice to have our own bathroom. But our train guy, Marat, made up for it with his help.