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  • hardie karges 9:47 pm on October 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Uzbekistan   

    Dynamic Pricing, Dynamic Booking, Dynamic Traveling…. 

    First come first served

    First come first served

    Everybody knows about ‘dynamic pricing’ by now, that internet-era phenomenon of everybody paying a different price for the same flight.  It’s a whole lot like haggling with a rug merchant in… well, just about anywhere.  Actually it’s mostly about tailoring certain prices to certain markets at certain times based on certain criteria, and as long as you know some basic principles, it can work to either party’s advantage.  It only gets creepy when it seems like the robots at Google know more about me than I do, or when they think they do, but really don’t, since how can they tell what activities of mine are for work and which for pleasure, after all?  Once again, this can still work to my advantage, since they know nothing about me if not that I am thrifty.  So if they want to give me the best rates, then that’s cool.

     

    So I’d been pricing my recent trip to Uzbekistan off and on for a while, trying to decide whether it was in my price range or not.  Since it’s about half a world away from LA any direction you go, that gives multiple options, if not cheap prices, so I’d just about decided on Korean Air, which had a RT flight for about $1500.  Then I waited a day or two too long, and it was gone, cheapest available now a hundred or two more.  So I started the process all over.  Well, at this point it was right at two months from the planned departure date, a crucial time in the booking process, AND Turkey had been undergoing social turbulence for a week or so by then, and their tourist season was looking dismal.

     

    So, suddenly, flights that had cost $3000 a month before—via Turkey—were now going for less than the original Korean flight.  Can that be right?  Then I did something I’d never done before: push that button that offers to compare four to six flights simultaneously.  It works.  THAT’S how dynamic pricing works for the consumer.  You’ve just made a quantum leap in the process, wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it for myself.  Now prices are coming up for $11-1200, mostly on Turkish Air, hubbing out of Istanbul, of course.

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    • Armel 12:41 am on October 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      This made me change the way I think about travel, completely, Thanks Hardie man 🙂

    • Rasto 7:21 am on November 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Beyond the cost, its more social. You meet peploe you wouldn’t meet otherwise. So it depends on what kind of experience you want. Also, say a hostel in a city costs €20 and the cheapest hotel costs €25. The hostel might very well be nicer, because that’s on the higher end of what a hostel costs (depending of course on where you are) versus a very cheap price for a hotel. The hostel might be cleaner, have a freindlier staff and be more pleasant than a hotel that costs so little. Also, private rooms in hostels are like having the privacy of a hotel but without the cost, if you don’t want anything incredibly special but just want a place to lay your head at night and spend a little downtime. In hotels, you often pay for lots of services (gym, concierge, pretty lobby, swimming pool) that you may or may not need or want.

      • hardie karges 2:48 pm on November 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Exactly; couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s like another form of social media, without the uncertainties of Couch Surfing…

  • hardie karges 4:45 pm on September 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Uzbekistan   

    TRAVEL ALERT: LOSE 10 POUNDS IN 30 DAYS! WITHOUT EXERCISE! EAT ICE CREAM! 

    Image

    Shades of Istanbul…

    Yes, you can do all this in Uzbekistan, especially if you’re vegetarian.  When the national cuisine (e.g. comfort food) consists basically of meat, fat and starch, it’s easy for me to abstain.  It’s not that they don’t have good healthy food.  They do.  But like elsewhere, it doesn’t show up much in restaurants.  Fortunately hotels and even hostels tend to include breakfast, frequently good, often massive.  That’s where I stocked up the old belly.  Other than that it’s pretty dismal, and often over-priced.  You could do better in any fast-food Chinese joint in Los Angeles, IMHO.  And if you decide to go with Western food instead, then you’re pretty much limited to xot dogs, gamburgers, and пицца, without the anchovies.  It’s still a nice country.  And you really don’t need to pack the vitamins.  I know when I’m vitamin-deficient.  They do have fresh vegetables, and instant noodles, and fresh eggs.  Mini-fridges are not uncommon either, even in the cheaper rooms.  Next time I’ll take a 220V traveling tea kettle.  The ice cream is cheap and nothing special, but not bad.  They’ve got corn (maize), too.  I like that.  I like people who eat corn on the cob.  I like Uzbekistan, too.

     
  • hardie karges 6:49 pm on September 23, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Hermen Cain, , Islam Karimov, Tashkent, Uzbekistan   

    Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of… Uz-beki-beki-stan-stan (A Satire in Several Parts) 

    Uzbekistan Wear for Guys

    Uzbekistan Wear for Guys: Making Sgt. Pepper Proud

    Poor Ali G: there he busted his hump to make an Oscar-worthy mock-doc poking gentle fun at America while skewering one of the Turkestan republics, in the course of redefining a genre little utilized since Spinal Tap.  Then Herman (Pizza Man) Cain’s reference in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination to “Uz-beki-beki-stan-stan” only—what, less than two years ago?—one-upped him just by being a dumb-ass American who doesn’t know his Uz from his BekiStan (much less gthe name of their President).

    My, how time flies…  In the course of that exchange he managed to reveal his own ineptitude more than Uzbekistan’s, of course, but that’s politics for you.  His only real mistake was in assuming that no one else has ever heard of them, either.  That’s when he made really an Uz of himself.  Many people are familiar with the glories of the old Silk Route to China, and the fabulous civilizations that flourished there.  Of course it was a Soviet state for most of the 20th century, and frankly, hasn’t changed much.  That president whose name Cain can’t remember has been in power the whole time.  He supported the coup against Gorbachev, too, and was reluctant to declare independence.

    Uzbek Wear for Gals

    Uzbek Wear for Gals

    What do you miss most about the demise of Soviet-style Communism?  The mindless bureaucracy, maybe, or the endless queues for bread?  Or what about the paranoia?  You gotta’ love the paranoia.  Me, I think my favorite part were the five-year plans.  Those were pretty, cool, certainly better than showing up every day for meetings of the Capitalist Youth League.  Those were boring.  I mean: Cub, Bear, Lion; what’s up with that?  But the five-year plans were cool, as if someone up there were actually doing some thinking and planning, rather than just running for re-election every two to six years in some corrupt capitalist lackey front for democracy.

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  • hardie karges 12:18 pm on September 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Uzbekistan   

    Khiva Caveats, part II: Partially-Nude Semi-Transparent Thinly-Veiled Over-Priced Lunch 

    Khiva for Sale

    Khiva for Sale

    Besides the over-commercialization of Khiva, then there’s the problem of food.  I’ve mostly been avoiding sit-down restaurant food in Uzbekistan, 1) because it looks pretty fatty, meaty and starchy, so not impressive; 2) it’s pretty much the same everywhere, with little variation, again not impressive; you’ve basically got variations on the theme of fat, meat and starch: somsa, manti, piroshki, palov, shashlik, shwarma.  There are a couple soups that I haven’t tried, but who eats soup in this heat?  And complaint 3) my main beef (pun) about Uzbekistan: dual-pricing, i.e. overcharging of foreigners.  Over-charging is an old travelers’ complaint, of course, and is not limited to any one country or region of the world. (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 3:26 am on September 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Uzbekistan   

    Khiva Caveats, part I: Love in the Ruins 

    Kyziylkum Desert Pit Stop

    Kyziylkum Desert Pit Stop

    Well, I’ve been so effusive in my infatuation with Uzbekistan so far, like a kid in a candy store, or with a new toy, or a new girl-friend, that it had to end sometime, so I guess I’ll have to vent my spleen against the good folks of Khiva, since they are less attractive to me than the people of Samarkand or Bukhara in the first place.  You’ve got a vast desert between the two, for one thing, the Kyzylkum (“red sand”), not to be confused with the Karakum (“black sand”) which usually should take no more than a few hours to cross, half day at most.  It took Marco Polo and Ibn Battutah longer than that BTW.

     

    And, just when it seems like the desert itself will never end, you’ll soon come out on a sizeable fertile plain that was the ancient kingdom of Khorezm, the same Khorezm that gave its name to the mathematician al-Khorezmi, architect of the ‘algorithms’ that define the operating systems of the computer you’re using right now.  It doesn’t look like much on the map, not much more than a bend in the river.  In fact it is the capital of an ancient culture, one related but not synonymous with its cousins back east.

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    • annathrax 11:21 pm on September 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      i am thoroughly enjoying your uzbek blog posts. its my dream to get here one day! (nearly did but then got pregnant lol). looking forward to more stories from you! greets from australia

  • hardie karges 11:29 am on September 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Bukhara, , , , Uzbekistan   

    Six Days in Bukhara 

    Sunrise over Bukhara

    Sunrise over Bukhara

    The babushka looks at me with derision this morning.  That’s nothing new.  She looks at me with derision every morning, up and down, lingering on my shoes, sending me a discreet message.  Or so I imagine.  What?  Are holey kung fu shoes not ‘in fashion’ this morning?  Are they not the ‘next big thing?’  Cut me some slack.  I’ll make up for it a little later.  That’s when I’ll flash the big bad hiking boots for public consumption.  That always wows ‘em down at the marketplace, where souls go for social intercourse, and basic ground provisions.

    The babushka seems dissatisfied with her place in life, as if she thought the revolution would bring instant wealth, as if you could just add water, beat lightly, then allow to settle.  She probably berates her moosh every day, for what he fails to provide.  I’ve never seen her smile.  She probably never wanted the hotel on this side of town, anyway; location location location, remember?  She certainly didn’t want to list the place on a hostel-booking site, I’ll bet.  Doesn’t the moosh know that hostels only bring in the lowliest of backpackers?  She imagined there’d be elegant foreigners, sharing their lives of wealth and fame!  What a crock!

    Passages in Bukhara

    Passages in Bukhara

    This place is nice enough to be a good deal for a backpacker, but not nice enough to bring in the tour buses.  Maybe they should take credit cards.  Everybody wants top dollar, but nobody wants to take credit cards, and this in a nation without ATM’s.  Do the math.  But the WiFi works most of the time, even in my room, so I see an opportunity to catch up on some work.  I’ve even got air conditioning AND a hot tub bath; this could seriously destroy my street cred.  I’ll have Hell to pay if the babushka catches me pocketing a hard-boiled egg, though; and Hell just raised its rates, I think.

    The irony, of course, is that while I refer to her as the ‘old lady’, she is, in fact, probably young enough to be my daughter.  She’s just trying to be ‘adult’, whatever that means.  Now the patriarch of the hostel in Tashkent was old, doddering around half-way hunch-backed, with a hang-dog look, and full of mock seriousness.  He wiped the table with the expertness of a squeegee engineer on the exit ramp of I-10.  Actually he’s a former Soviet soldier and university professor, full of info on Uzbek history.  “Too old now,” he says when asked why he’s not still there.  He’s five years younger than I am; good laugh there.

    (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 12:34 pm on September 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Uzbekistan   

    Samarkand is for Lovers… Crashing Weddings 

    Somebody needs a plumb Bob

    Samarkand’s Registan: Somebody Needs a Plumb Bob

    My main inspiration to be in Samarkand at this particular time was to attend the biennial Sharq Taronalari music festival, but once past that event, I extended my stay.  I kinda’ like this place.  I was always a bit skeptical of the ‘famous Turkish hospitality’ of Istanbul and Turkey, but this seems more genuine to me, and is really quite endearing, I’ll have to admit.  There is always something special about a nation ‘coming out’ for the first time—think Laos 1994, or Cuba 2020—and this is no exception.

     

    And if you figure a nation of ex-Commies and Muslims to be some bad-ass mothers—sleeping with Kalashnikovs (good name for a movie, I think) and bent

    Samarkand Market: Special Bread

    Samarkand Market: Special Bread

    on jihad, then you’d be wrong. There is an optimism on the faces, and a sincerity in the smiles.  Old men want to compare beard lengths with me.  They invite me to tea, and take pictures with me, their long-lost other brother from a different mother.  We can’t communicate much, of course, but that’s okay.  I’d like to pretend that we have some non-linguistic mystic thing going on, but no, we just exchange smiles and stare in silence.  Still it’s nice… and I’m studying Russian, so it should get better.  The kids are studying English.

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  • hardie karges 4:00 am on September 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Uzbekistan   

    Samarkand is for Lovers… and Babies 

    Samarkand: Afro-Siab

    Samarkand: Ancient Tombs

    Samarkand… the city evokes names as diverse as Alexander the Great and Tamerlane, Marco Polo and Ibn Battutah, and images of lonely desert caravans and exotic colorful markets, sipping tea from samovars and slicing fruit with daggers. It must have been quite the vision in the desert after a week or two of travel from any direction. The present day reality is a bit different, and modernized of course, but still not bad.

    So after a brief stay in Tashkent, I set my sights here, flight already booked in advance in the US. Knowing how bad I get jet-rag (“don’t touch me there!”), I didn’t want to create for myself the extra chore of seeking onward transportation on my only full day in Tashkent. And the Cheapo Air booking was hitch-free, sounds easier than booking in-country, in fact, but I don’t know if it’s the same price. There is a 4:3 difference between market and official exchange rates here. I recommend Cheapo Air for remote locations, though. The other large air bookers won’t touch ‘em.

    Samarkand- On more smoke break

    Samarkand- One more smoke for the road

    Tashkent doesn’t seem too much different from any major ex-Soviet city, be it Yerevan or Vilnius… or Moscow, for that matter, with vestiges of the old guard still lingering, including much Russian language. That includes all the signs reading, “stomatologia,” which I had once mistakenly thought indicated that Russians had frequent stomach problems, but actually I think means ‘dentist.’ I’ll check my dictionary. Either way, it sounds like I better watch what I eat.

    That Russian influence is less in Samarkand, but the Tajik influence is greater, it being the predominant language here, I think, in fact. That reflects old mixings and minglings, and probably a few misgivings, the original meeting of East and West, today still reflected in racial and facial lines, the Mongol-related Turks taking from the Persian Tajiks to compensate for what the Han Chinese took from them, no doubt. (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 5:33 pm on August 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Tasdhkent, Uzbekistan   

    Escape from LA…..Back in the USSR 

    Sometimes my life feels like a B-movie, made for TV, straight to DVD,  Maybe I’ll have a future on YouTube re-runs.  I hope so.

    The madrassah in Tashkent

    The madrassah in Tashkent

    This trip was doomed from the start.  Part of that is my fault.  It’s been put off and postponed and changed until I almost forgot what the original inspiration for it was—a major excursion into the heart of Central Asia—and now only this tiny bit of the original project remained as a possibility for this year.  So when the timing seemed to fall into place, I went for it.  That could have been a bad mistake, of course, because Uzbekistan is part of the old USSR, you know, so still has much of that old mentality of endless and mindless bureaucracy, in this case (expensive) visas, letters of introduction, and all that.

    Outside the Market in Tashkent

    Outside the Market in Tashkent

    So I sent in the application and money order.  Then all of a sudden I found out that I would have to move from the apartment I’d been living in for almost a year, and to which I’d addressed a self-stamped envelope for the return of my passport.  So the first thing I did was send a letter to the Uzbek consul asking to change my return address.  I never got a response.  So I waited, growing a little bit more-than-antsy with stress as the weeks passed.  Still I received no response from the Uzbek consul.

    By that time my only real concern was my passport, out there in the ether, no direction home.   I don’t like being without my passport.  I can’t even go to Mexico without my passport.  The month of July passed slowly.  I didn’t even care about the trip anymore.  I just wanted my passport back.  As the month came to a close, I started making contingency plans to report it stolen, get a new one and just continue on with the European part of my trip—I was connecting in Frankfurt—and forget Uzbekistan. (More …)

     
    • Kc 5:48 pm on August 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      you must feel like i feel if i go walking in this town w/o i.d. yes, they check i.d.s here in the Deep South.

c
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