Well I've spent over a week in Mashad(NW Iran) and don't have a whole lot to show for it. But that is a good thing as I have been trying to relax and remove chaos from my mind.
After dealing with central asian bureaucracy and cluttering into town on a half broken down scoot, which couldn't even pull out of third gear, I battled the crazy night traffic of Iran's second largest city to arrive right dazzled at my well hidden home stay. There I could think about what I had just done.
Since the last post I had some time to kill while I waited for my Iranian visa to be processed so I took the train to famous Samarkand south of Tashkent in Uzbekistan. This would allow me to save time by not having to stop when I came back through on my bike. This was the first time in my trip I had taken public transport and it proved to give a much different experience. Though less stressful than tackling the map on two wheels I felt some what detached from my environment and then all of a sudden I was at my guesthouse in the middle of another city. No cranky farmers along the way, no strangers to ask for directions, no broken down locals to stop and talk to, no petrol station attendants to make chit chat and no feeling of experiencing one place morph into another. It felt much less gratifying this way and I felt more like tourist than before. Maybe this is all in hind sight but it added to the disappointment I had with the place. It wasn't all bad, unfortunately! Coming around the corner and first seeing the Registran was freakin' amazing.
It is prolly my own fault for not doing enough reading but I wasn't expecting the place to be so touristy and everything to be overly clean and restored. It certainly took a lot of the mystery and historic feel out of it. I don't think the bus loads of old french tourists helped or that these old Muslim buildings were no longer used other than to flog off nick knacks to visitors. I think that's why I liked the mausoleums as even though they had been restored Muslims still went there to pay their respects and there was no one to sell me painted paper maiche boxes(though i must say these were pretty good value once you bargained them into the ground!). ..
note: it was at this point i was distracted buy Bike Snob NYC blog, If you haven't checked it out, I recommend you do. to paraphrase BS, like Cyclocross News it's a lot less pretentious than the New Yorker!
TBC.....Adventures in Samarkand, Bukhara, back to Tashkent, back to Samarkand, back to Bukhara, Escaping Uzbekistan, transiting and escaping Turkmenistan.....Oh then there is Iran...What happened to China or Cambodia for that matter!