This was the first time that we got invited into a local family’s home where we stayed for a night and had our meals together with them. We labeled this as our favourite experience as it was a truly authentic experience where the invitation was out of pure kindness and not for money. We got to spend a lot of time with the family and even visited their extended family. We will never forget this act of kindness which made our experience in Central Asia such a memorable and enjoyable one.
We were on a train from Tashkent to Urgench when we bumped into kind strangers, Kudrat and his wife. Kudrat stopped by our beds after refilling his pot of tea and invited us over to his bunk bed for breakfast. We went over and was warmly welcomed by them and the ladies promptly shifted to make space for the both of us. Then the endless questions began, with the limited English skills of the locals, we carried on the conversation with animated hand gestures often filled with interminable bursts of laugher. They started to look through my photos and stopped at this photo of the cow’s trotter taken at the bazaar in Tashkent and laughed! They showed the photo to the other locals and they all started laughing hysterically like it was the most hilarious thing ever.
They were so curious about us, our country, people and culture. They asked questions like what’s the capital of Singapore, what’s our local cuisine like, are we mostly Muslims or Buddhists, where exactly is Singapore located, is Singapore part of Malaysia, what’s our first language and even personal questions like how much we earn, are we married, do we have any children and so on and so forth. Thankfully Gina had a ready set of photos of Singapore’s landscape and local food in her phone to distract them from the incessant questions. The locals were so fascinated with the photos especially with the “ship on the top of building” (MBS). Apparently MBS has been featured quite a lot on TV in Central Asia and most of them recognise this unique building of Singapore! Also when they saw a photo of our Hokkien Mee, they responded excitedly by saying “Laghman”, which is actually a popular noodle dish of Uzbekistan.
After about 2 hours of chit-chatting with them, Kudrat and his wife invited us to his home before alighting at their station, Hazarasp, which was about an hour drive away from Urgench (where we were heading). We gave him our number and he said that he will call us today or tomorrow to arrange for us to go over to his place. We weren’t sure what to expect and gave him our number without much thought to it. What surprised us was that after we’ve alighted at our station, we received a call from Kudrat who told us that he’s on his way to pick us up to bring us over to his place! What touched us was that he and his wife actually took a taxi just to pick us up from where we were and it took about an hour to get here!
Finally after a sleepy hour drive, we reached his house where the rest of his family members were waiting by the door, expecting our arrival. We felt really welcomed as they ushered us into a cozy heated room where a long table was set up with a wide assortment of dried fruits, candies, chocolates, biscuits and tea. We were stuffed with so much food! They gave us a bowl of shorpa (soup with meat and potato) each for lunch. We actually had lunch already while waiting for Kudrat to pick us up at the train station. We showed them photos of Singapore using Gina’s phone and they were so mesmerised by Singapore!
Kudrat’s wife started her preparation for dinner where she will be cooking one of my favourite Uzbek dishes, Plov. Apparently this dish needs a long preparation time and it’s often cooked for guests. Gina tried learning to cook and was rather shocked to see so much oil being used in this dish! The rice was soaked and literally cooked in oil! No wonder plov is always so tasty and delicious! Thankfully dinner wasn’t going to be served so soon and Kudrat decided to invite us over to his aunt’s and uncle’s house to introduce his newly found guests to them. We were again warmly welcomed by his aunt and cousin and they provided with lots of food to eat again! haha…no escaping from the true hospitality of Uzbeks.
The next morning, we were treated to another popular traditional local breakfast, Tuhum Barak. Similar to our dumplings in Singapore, but they stuffed egg inside instead of meat. Also, they dipped it in yoghurt before serving it. It was okay, but our taste buds aren’t very used to the yoghurt and preferred it plain. A lot of effort was needed in preparing this dish though! Kudrat wife had to knead the dough for a long time, hard work!
To wrap things up, Kudrat together with his uncle personally drove us all the way to Khiva and we managed to snap this shot of us before we bid farewell to them. Not sure if he will ever read this, but thank you Kudrat and family, for making us feel so welcomed in your amazing country! 🙂
Ps. We tried to give Kudrat some money and explained that it was for the food and petrol, but they insistently refused to accept our money and claimed that they just wanted to help us. We’re really so blessed to have met such kind souls! 🙂