wandering amphibia

A visit to Tashkent, and why everyone drives a Chevrolet there

Once we get to the gate, we find out that we have an apron position, so we have to take a bus. Of course, we get the VIP bus (I ended up getting a business ticket, because it was something like $650 for business vs. $500 for economy and seriously, in countries like this, you’re better off flying business, just in case of any irrops or funny stuff happening). We get to the plane, are escorted up to business class. Incidentally, we had pretty disparate seats (something like 2A and 3F) but my newfound friend goes, don’t worry, we’ll negotiate an agreement, let’s just sit together. He talks to every flight attendant, winks at some, chats with others, and eventually plops himself into 3C and we wait for the rightful owner to show up. Sure enough, minutes later, he does; and because he’s Uzbek as well, my friend immediately talks to him in Uzbek, and less than 15 seconds later, it’s settled and the guy is off to 2A. “I know him,” my new-found friend explains, somewhat vaguely. “He works for one of our companies, so it was no problem to have him sit somewhere else.”

At this point the flight attendant comes and asks if we need anything. My friend doesn’t bat an eyelid and asks for a couple of glasses with ice. The FA nods understandingly, then returns in a minute with glasses with ice, and somewhat beggingly asks to just be careful and not flash our bottles too much. The safety video plays at this point, and just when they are very diligently explaining that “consuming own, or duty-free-bought, alcohol is strictly forbidden”, we crack the Johnny open, and the party begins.

The flight is only about three hours long (and it’s a midnight departure), so my original plan was to sleep, since when I land, I was expecting to spend a busy day touristing around, and then eventually around 4pm I had to return to the airport to pick up my actual real friend J.L. who was flying in and because of whom I was even in Uzbekistan in the first place. However, by the third glass or so it looked pretty clear that I wasn’t going to get any sleep on this flight, so I decided to just talk it through instead. The lights went out eventually and everyone went to sleep around us, but we kept talking the entire time – admittedly, we were awful passengers. I was literally just complaining about this very situation a few weeks back when I flew Qatar from Boston to Doha, and these two women just would not shut up – so this time, it was my turn to be that asshole. Amusingly, though, the flight attendants didn’t peep a word of disapproval – I guess my friend’s demeanour (or past history, or who knows what) prevented any sort of petty rule enforcement against him. Business class was full, incidentally: out of 16 seats, 10 were taken up by women that we later found out to be Israeli that seemed to have gone to Delhi as a tour group, 5 was people with Tashkent as a destination, and 1 was an air safety marshal who spent most of the flight sleeping, rather than, you know, marshaling. The Israeli women kept putting up their naked feet on any surface they could find; we tried complaining to the crew, but they most apologetically told us there isn’t much they could do, so we just talked loudly instead to annoy them.

We talked about many subjects, and cars ended up being one, of course. I was curious what an obviously son-of-an-oligarch type of person would drive; to my uncontrollable surprise, he drove a Chevrolet Lacetti. For context, first, it’s a car that used to be produced by GM-Daewoo (and, correspondingly, called Daewoo Lacetti). I wasn’t clear on what the story was here, but as my conversation partner put it, “I really wanted something nice, but I can’t afford to stand out, so I have a Lacetti.” He said he modded it (because really, that’s what people in Russia and the satellites ultimately do), to be “like” a Mercedes. I didn’t give it much thought as I’ve seen many Lada-type vehicles in Russia which have various badging and modifications, often featuring both Mercedes and BMW logos, sometimes a Ferrari one for added speed. However, we will come back to his car later on; appearances aren’t quite always what they seem to be.

The flight attendant, in the meantime, kept coming by and taking care of us. When she saw I wasn’t eating a lot (I was completely full from my Gurgaon meal earlier), but she noted that I had eaten a side dish of sliced meat (on the right of this picture), she insisted I have some more, and went and brought me more. The service was actually really good. I enjoyed it tremendously.

When we got to Uzbekistan, we parked at an apron position once again, and a bus was waiting for us, of course. In fact, the Uzbekistan Airways premium experience was one of the reasons I booked business class to begin with – in these peripheral countries, they seriously treat their premium passengers how they are supposed to be treated. I have written about my S7 Airlines experience; well, Uzbekistan tops it in that they have a separate terminal for business passengers, so that they don’t mix with the riff-raff.

The transfer passengers were all flying to Israel. Only about three of us were terminating in Tashkent.

The arrival terminal was completely dead, but oddly, it featured a duty-free, which was open.

An arrival lounge was there; not quite certain in which circumstance one would use it, because, well, why would you hang around at arrivals when you’ve already arrived?

My friend the duty free addict. He stocked up on some more whiskey since we emptied out some of his stash in the couple preceding hours.

This is the arrivals lounge from the outside.

… and the airport itself.