How the world has changed so drastically in the last 2 months. We are all now grounded and there is no end in sight yet to lock downs of various degrees. This trip report is my last trip which also partially occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic. On the outbound in late January, everything seemed normal. Yes, we heard of some outbreaks in Wuhan which seemed far far away. On the return a few days later, things have changed slightly. Doctors came onboard, crew in masks etc.
Will this be my last trip of 2020? It could well be.
I am dividing this trip into 4 parts.
Part 1: Delhi-Tashkent on A320 JCL and snippets of Tashkent
Part 2: Round trip to New York on the Dreamliner JCL
Part 3: The highlights of Uzbekistan and high speed rail (Samarkand and Bukhara)
]Part 4: Tashkent-Delhi on 767 JCL
This was not my first trip with Uzbekistan Airways. In 2016, I had also flown with them between Delhi and London. That was on the 767 which was fantastic and also on the ageing 757 which was quite terrible.
The trip report of the same can be read here in the link below. https://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1356875
That time it was just a transit and visa was a hassle. Today, since 2018, Uzbekistan has liberalised its visa regime. It’s visa-free for Singaporeans. I have also always been intrigued by the melting pot that is Central Asia. This used to be heart of the world and its heritage shows it. I hope everyone will be inspired to come and appreciate. The people are also very friendly. Part 1: Delhi-Tashkent and Tashkent CityFlight: Uzbekistan Airways
The first part of the journey at Delhi airport, during a busy long weekend peak period in late January. It was Republic Day. The airport was quite chaotic. Bumper to bumper traffic was there in the early hours just after sunrise.
Our check-in counter however was pretty much quiet. Most people don’t travel to Uzbekistan for a long weekend.
The process was quite smooth and there were not too many questions asked unlike in my first trip with them 4 years ago. Boarding pass issued with no fuss and we were on our way shortly.
The passport control and security line however were very long with travellers. This was so pre-covid.
Anyway, we soon found ourselves in the ITC lounge, a contract lounge for Uzbekistan Airways, also used by others like Malaysia Airlines.
Breakfast spread was adequeate although I can’t say much for the quality.
The lounge was pretty much empty except for a handful of other travellers. And this bird. How on earth did they get in. There must be a leak somewhere on the roof. Poor Construction quality, which it is for Delhi airport.
I had enough time for a coffee and soon found our way to the gate, why which time boarding had already commenced and we were rushed in.
First look of this beautifully-coloured bird. We were originally booked on the 767 but this Friday flight got substituted with an A320 on a schedule change.
Anyway, coming onboard we were greeted by an OK-looking cabin with black faux leather upholstery arranged on the regular 3 rows of 2-2 each.
As one can see, 2 packets of tissues have been placed on the seats. This was pre-Covid. Good practice for hygiene.
Soon after, water was also served. They did offer a selection of juices too but we were ok for water that time. I thought the coaster is nice.
Legroom is standard for a narrow body business class.
Outside was the bluest sky I ever saw in Delhi even after almost 20 years coming and going. This was unseasonal. and this was also pre-covid. Now during the lockdown, apparently it has been like this.
The inflight magazine is in 3 languages: English, Uzbek, and Russian. Russian is still the lingua franca of the region.
Compared to 2006, they now already have a handful of Dreamliners. There are 2 versions of it. The older style business class all facing right forward and the newest one I think has the angled arrangements and they can pack 4 rows there in the first mini cabin.
Safety video is old-style. Compared to what others are doing now, this is Jurassic era.
There was no inflight amenity on this sector except for a pair of Slippers. Much more modern blue now compared to the ones in 2016.
Comparing the the previous one from 2006
And they also gave a bag for it.
Soon we were airborne and it was truly stunning clarity of the air above Delhi. This is never seen before. Except during lockdown period like now.
A little bit longer and the Himalayas were seen. I always enjoy travelling across northern India. I feel very attached to these mountains.
And then we left the mountains and over many flood plains of Pakistan. We also flew directly over Amritsar and Lahore but I lost the photos.
Not too long over Aghanistan. Then it became cloudy. Otherwise, i would be transfixed there. It's always an impressive sight from above.
Meal was served above Afghanistan and it was sumptuous. It was not the most modern presentation but the quantity was good. The taste was not bad too. All the courses came together
Then tray was taken away and tea and dry nuts and fruits were served a la central Asian customs. I was then checking out the local music videos loaded into the Ipad – which by the way is the IFE. Every business class passenger is provided with one.
It’s loaded with a lot of Russian movies … not so much English.
So I kept getting entertained by music videos, that sound little bit like Viet pop. And I was fascinated by the range of facial features among the Uzbeks. Some are more oriental, some more Turkic, and everything in between.
And then a visit to the basic toilet which has a fake flower. How old-fashioned.
It was cloudy all the way after the meal and we landed in gloomy weather. From this angle, it feels like we were coming down back to the Soviet Union era in all its drabness (which i find fascinating btw)
Tashkent Airport is a paradise for aviation geeks of the soviet era.
I have been travelling the region and also been to the aviation museum in Ukraine (https://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1395075
. So let me try testing my soviet airliner knowledge. Please correct me if I make a mistake.
This is the Il 76 ! with a belly so low it almost touches the ground.
Then this is Il-114. Up to 2-3 years back, this was still flying ! I missed the chance. My only experience with actually flying on the soviet airliner was an An-24 in Ukraine 2 years ago. I miss that! (https://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1396741
And I think this is the Tu-154
On arrival , and this was not the experience in 2016, we were directly escorted using a van to a separate part of the terminal.
They have VIP terminal sort of. And it is very quiet. 2 immigration counters and a single belt.
There is a seating area while we wait for the belt. And coffee and drinks.
Then we exited the single lane customs and we landed up here in the middle of nowhere and I got no clue how to exit. No further signage for the so-called VIPs! We didn’t even have local money. It’s like being ejected right into the city…. There is not even a helpdesk.
This is actually adjacent to the departure terminal, which doesn’t have any taxis. All taxis are shut out at the parking area. But most importantly where is the money changer!
The arrival terminal is actually a separate building on the other side of the compound. It looks like this.
And inside it has all what first time arrivals need. Money changers, ATMs, infoHelp!
So I changed a hundred dollars and oh wow … look at what I received back in return. I need a bag to carry money in Uzbekistan.
From here, we took the airport taxi to our soviet era hotel. The infamous Hotel Uzbekistan – a soviet-era icon.
It's around a large city park where a statue of Timur now stood. it used to be Lenin here, I think.
I am a soviet geek and I purposedly picked this hotel for the nostalgia experience. So i better not complain as I signed up for it myself!
The room is the best part. It is decently renovated while still keeping a touch of nostalgia.
Tashkent is drab. Really drab. Especially in late January weather. In the summer, i heard it is the greenest city in Central Asia, even more so than Almaty which I found to be one of the greenest I know.
The only fantastic thing is probably the metro stations. They are really beautiful, just like in many former soviet union countries.
This turnstile also is similar to the ones in Ukraine. Yes, this used to be in the same country. It is a really big country.
Even the train cars. I have seen the same one in Kyiv, Baku, Tbilisi, Almaty
The other wonderful thing about Tashkent is the food. Uzbek food is flavourful. We went to the local market we had some of the best tender kebabs ever, the most fragrant breads (the smell was everywhere), and also some strange noodle like shaved meat dish on the top left which was absolutely delicious. It was a little bit like Pho. I think it was horse meat. Oops. I just have to try things once at least! Not the first time with horsemeat anyway. I tried it before in Japan and also Kazakhstan. But this was the best tasting one.
By the way, the bottom right is a sausage. I dared not ordered that! but I am sure it's good.