Khujand is Tajikistan’s second largest city, but to most foreigners, a miss on their tour of the country.
After crossing over by land from Uzbekistan, we thought it would be a good place to break up our journey.
Our hostel/homestay was located right next door to Panjshanbe Bazaar, the place all locals shop. It was crazy packed with vendors and buyers selling fresh baked bread to plants.
Robb and I got a lot of stares from the locals. Foreign faces were a mystery to them. Some waved hello. Some even spoke to us.
We ate a random shashlik restaurant and had our fill with Tajik samsas which were surprisingly better than the Uzbek ones. (There’s also a huge Uzbek contingency in Khujand.)
The grandmotherly lady in charged asked us in Russian where we were from. She was really shocked when I said I was from the US. She also had no idea where the Netherlands was at.
Paying for lunch became a comedy routine as the samsa lady and the shashlik guy worked separately but shared the same seating area. Fingers were shown to indicate the amount needed to pay. Then phone calculators came out. All the while, the customers around were just chuckling at the scene.
We searched at least 15 different ATMs hoping that one would actually give us money. But with all three cards we had, all Tajik banks hated them.
We resorted to exchanging some Euros I had left over and headed to the bank. Even though there were signs for the day’s current exchange rate in Euros was at the teller, for some reason he wasn’t allowed to give us any Tajik somonis (TJS). He signed us to wait.
A female bank worker came over and tried to talk to us. Mustering all her English, she told us to sit down. So we did, and she smiled. More bank workers then started saying all the English words they could remember. “Coffee or tea,” someone shouted. Several people laughed hysterically.
A man entered the bank and stood next to us. He started counting TJS next to us as if he was about to do some transactions at the teller. Then he gave us the money. We were confused. Then we figured out he was exchanging money for us. We have him the Euros and he left. As we left the bank, they waved us goodbye, still trying to say English as we walked away.
Khujand felt small, but the backdrop of snow-capped mountains was breathtaking. Hunting for money took us a good part of the day.
By the time we got back to the hostel, many vendors had packed up for the night. But it was still buzzing with activity.
The hostel owner drove us to the bus terminal to find a ride to Dushanbe.
Khujand was a nice, off-the-beaten track place to stay for a day. Unfortunately, we spent a lot of time finding ATMs than enjoying the city. But it had its quirks. At least many thought we were funny!
- Accommodations: We stayed at Hostel Sharq 21, which was more of an attachment to a family’s house. The father and daughter could speak some English. And the room was big and spacious.