We approached the Uzbekistan border crossing with some trepidation. The Uzbek border guards (and police generally) have a reputation as being some of the most corrupt and difficult to deal with anywhere. Add to this the large amount of bureaucracy associated with entering the country and the slight irregularity in our visas (the Uzbek embassy in Bishkek made a mistake in the dates and corrected them by hand) and we were ready for the worst.
Happily, it didn’t materialize. In fact the whole process was very pleasant and smooth! There was a friendly English speaking lady who helped us fill out our customs declaration forms (the Uzbek government is extremely nervous about the flight of wealth from their nation and are very strict about ensuring that visitors leave with no more hard currency than they enter the country with.) And while the immigration guards raised their eyebrows when they saw our visas, when we pointed out that the changes had been stamped and signed by the embassy officials, they said it was A-Okay and welcomed us to the country.
On the far side of the border gate was, well, nothing. There were a few soldiers sitting around chatting and one guy with a minivan waiting to take passengers somewhere. We were passengers of just the sort he was looking for. With no alternative and only a vague idea of how much the ride ought to cost. We knew the $30 we paid for the trip to the city of Kokand was clearly too much, but after the smooth border crossing we were feeling happy enough not to be too too worried about it.
A weaver at work turning silk fibres into fabric by hand in the Fergana Valley town of Margilon