Tuesday 18 October - 19:00 - London Heathrow Airport


So Uzbekistan Airways really does exist! Check-in was no more painful than usual, for us that is. The guy in front had a huge amount of luggage and not enough money to pay the excess. After a lot of argument he took his cases away and I never saw him again. The queue contained a number of fierce looking gents in the sort of clothes you see in films of Ghenghis Khan, but everybody is amicable enough. Its a good reminder that we are off to somewhere very different.
Different, but probably better! We decided to go through to the departure lounge for a bite to eat. Bad mistake. Heathrow Terminal 2 seems to be undergoing a major rebuild. A new shopping mall presses in from all sides, attempting to relieve us of all our travelling money, but the catering facilities are not yet complete. What there is appears largely closed and almost sold out. So much for one of the world's busiest airports - I doubt if Tashkent airport will be as bad.
Uzbekistan Airways aircraft
We board the brightly painted Uzbekistan Airways Airbus on time at 22:45. Clean, modern, bright interior seems just like any other major airline. The excellent In-flight magazine holds a surprise though - a half page advert for Internet Access in Tashkent! All my preconceptions about the backwardness of Central Asia are proving badly ill-founded, and I'm beginning to feel this trip will be more educational than I had thought. No doubt the in-flight catering will bring me back to earth.
Wrong! An excellent dinner of curried lamb (choice of lamb, chicken, or vegetarian) was up to restaurant standard, and the cabin staff were cheerful and efficient. Quite a lot of room too, so I drop off to sleep looking forward to breakfast. I should have stayed asleep! Breakfast consisted of cheese, a half slice of white bread and butter, two shortcake biscuits and a Danish. The tea was cold. Dawn was better. The moon seemed to float below us like a reflection in misty blue water,and the horizon was an angry purple as though night was furious at being displaced. It made up for breakfast, and even compensated for the fact that there was no duty-free trolley on this plane. At full light below us was endless desert like sea-rippled sand.
Dome in Tashkent
As we come in to land at Tashkent, the landscape is definitely foreign. We have to change planes here at Tashkent Airport
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