Grant Wargren

Joined May 2019Living in: New South Wales, Australia
  • Day20

    Best Dive Ever

    May 27, 2019 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Another wonderful couple of days diving and snorkeling have concluded with today’s dive where I was fortunate enough to have a Whale Shark pass not 2 meters from me, it was incredible as I have been wanting to dive with one for years.
    On returning to the dive shop, the manager who has been instructing for years and has over 3,000 dives to his credit was so jealous as he has never seen one in all that time.
    The water around here is crystal clear and around 30 degrees on the surface so it is really pleasant to snorkel in.
    Tomorrow morning I am off to start the journey home, first by long tail boat to the jetty then by speedboat to La-ngu, then mini bus to Hat Yi followed by a flight to Bangkok and finally my flight to Sydney, oh and then the train to Central followed by another train to Berowra then car home - it’s going to be a long trip, but worth it as this place has been incredible
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  • Day18

    Thailand Diving

    May 25, 2019 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 20 °C

    It was an incredibly long trip to get here from Tashkent involving two plane flights, a bus ride for several hours, a wait for the ferry, then another hour wait for the speed boat/ferry before a short long tail boat ride to the resort.
    Fortunately it was worth it as the water is a beautiful 30 degrees and as clear as crystal.
    The beach here is lovely, I go snorkeling off it and can see quite a few fish and coral, one of the very territorial fish keeps nibbling on my leg which is a little distracting..
    The diving here is spectacular, I wish I had an underwater camera, there is so much to see from turtles to giant moray eels to a huge range of soft and hard corals, not to mention a vast array of tropical fish in all sizes and shapes.
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  • Day14

    Sandarkan, Crossroads of the Silk Road

    May 21, 2019 in Uzbekistan ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Several days in this 2,700 year old city were spent looking at the many mausoleums that celebrate the lives of past nobles, I’m seriously over them, many have been well restored surprisingly often by the former Soviet Government.
    Fortunately there were lots of other things to see including the making of ceramics, metal trays, miniatures, carpets, embroidered goods, etc.
    My guide and driver here were great value and were happy to find interesting things to do including taking me to the best somsa making and eating place in town, it was us and the locals only which was great.
    We even went wine tasting to kill some time till my train came this afternoon, the white wine was light and nice and the first couple of reds were ok but from there they got stronger and sweeter, too sweet for me as each tasting was the size of a normal serve of desert wine at home, the last couple were cognacs which were 40plus percent alcohol, I just about staggered out of there after 12 tastings.
    Tonight I arrived back in Tashkent after several hours on the fast train which topped 212kph, not bad I thought.
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  • Day12

    Bukhara to Samarkand

    May 19, 2019 in Uzbekistan ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    My day sightseeing in Bukhara was quite good, my guide was a retired lady who used to work at the museum there and spoke excellent English, she was proud to tel me that she was one of the guides for Hillary Clinton when she visited some years back.
    After the day sightseeing I went to the hammom (bath house), this is quite a few centuries old and was an interesting experience, at the end I certainly was scrubbed clean.
    Today I spent the morning looking at more Bukhara sights, alas these were mainly Muslim cemeteries which were boring, however the summer palace of the last Emir was quite interesting.
    Then off for the 4 hour drive to Samarkand.
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  • Day10

    Goodbye Turkmenistan

    May 17, 2019 in Uzbekistan ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Well I’m glad I visited as there were some interesting sights but when I reached Bukhara in Uzbekistan I actually felt as though I was back in comfortable territory.
    Yesterday I visited the ruins of Margush, which flourished between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC. The site is still being studied by archeologists and quite amazingly you can walk over it all, I actually worried I was destroying 2000 year old UNESCO world heritage listed walls as we clambered about. There are pieces of broken 2000 year old pottery all over the place, if it were nearly anywhere else the place would be roped off.
    Today we spent time in the ruins of the ancient city of Merv before heading to the border where I said goodbye to my guide Olga and after 1.5 hours including two short bus trips made it across the 1.5km border area and into Uzbekistan again.
    Tonight I’m in Bukhara which is a good city from what I have seen. My hotel is in the middle of the old city which is great for walking around .
    Tomorrow I get down to a day of serious sight seeing here.
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  • Day8

    A Day in Ashgabat

    May 15, 2019 in Turkmenistan ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Last night I walked around the area near the hotel and finally found a restaurant, on the way home I discovered that there are places I’m not allowed to go and key amongst these is anywhere within a city block of the Presidential Palace (which along with any government building I’m not allowed to photograph). When I got too close the police and security people were very fast to let me know I was not welcome there.
    Today I looked at Ashgabat which everyone is fast to tell me is noted in the Guinness Book of Records as having the most marble clad buildings in the world, along with several other records (they seem a little obsessed with these records).
    I wandered around the remains of Old Nisa then headed off to the Spiritual Mosque, one of the biggest mosques in Central Asia I’m told, then off to the Monument of Neutrality (they are very proud of being a neutral country). I visited another mosque and the Independent Park and spent a while looking through the National History Museum which was good.
    Unbelievably in this city in the desert it rained today quite heavily for a short time.
    Tonight I will play it safe and look for somewhere to eat in the opposite direction to the Presidential Palace
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  • Day7

    Night by the Door of Hell

    May 14, 2019 in Turkmenistan ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    After a short drive to the border the driver said goodbye and pointed toward the deserted border crossing . When I walked the 100 meters to the gate out of Uzbekistan I found a soldier hiding in his shelter who gave my passport a thorough check before saying with a big smile “ kangaroo “, he then pointed me to a building in the wasteland where they stamped my passport and eventually pointed me to Turkmenistan a further 150 meters away.
    Through the gate I went and eventually was met at the gate into Turkmenistan by another soldier who checked my documents out before pointing to another building. In broken English the next person then started the paperwork, all written in a notebook before directing me to the next building where a more official guy started writing 4 different permits all in duplicate which I had to sign, then charged me $US75 to get a visa and something else (who would know what). At this point my guide arrived, a very bright 20 year old called Nikita or Nick to his friends.
    Nick was a great young guy who had spent a year in the US on a scholarship and whose main aim in life is to return there and open his own business. Anyway that made things easier as I then had to have my belongings searched before finally being let through customs. Next we walked the 1.5kms along the dusty track to where the rest of Turkmenistan starts and our car was waiting.
    We headed off to Darvaza in the desert where we had a look at the gas crater (the result of a Russian gas drilling accident) it is known as the Door of Hell or the Gates of Hell and is quite spectacular. We looked around in daylight then after dinner came back in the dark (I’m sleeping 100 meters from it in a yurt).
    This morning after a quick breakfast we headed off through the desert for another 4hours till reaching Ashgabat. The hotel I’m staying at is quite magnificent, a real change from last nights accommodation
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  • Day5

    The trip to Nukus

    May 12, 2019 in Uzbekistan ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Up today for a 4 hour drive south to Nukus. Amazing there were a few spits of rain as we left Khiva but it was still a balmy 33degrees.
    My driver was a teacher of Russian who also drives for tourists, he is the second person I have spoken to recently who said they preferred life under the soviets , I think it is a product of his generation as all the younger people I have spoken to say they would not want to live under the Soviet regime.
    I got dropped off at the ruins of the 1st century capital of the region Toprak Kala which was interesting, further down the highway we turned off and I was dropped at the ruins of an ancient Zoroastrian temple of the wind. I got there at the same time as another car which was a coincidence as we were in the middle of nowhere, the two girls in it were Germans, we climbed to the top together, they were interesting to talk to. I then met up with them at the museum in Nukus and let them share my guide .
    This evening I walked to the bazaar which was heaving with people out after the worst of the heat of the day had gone.
    Nukus is the 6th largest city in Uzbekistan, but seems to lack real soul.
    Tomorrow I’m off to Turkmenistan to camp by the Darvaza gas crater, so guess I won’t be doing anything on the Internet then, it will be interesting to see what the internet is like in Turkmenistan as it’s a pretty closed country and I’m told by others I’ve spoken to it’s quite like North Korea in that you have to have a guide watching over you whenever you are outside the hotel.
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  • Day4

    A day in Khiva

    May 11, 2019 in Uzbekistan ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Today I was up early and left the hotel at 6am to catch the 7:30 plane to Urgench then drive 40 minutes to Khiva, one of the stops on the Silk Road.
    The old part of the city is still surrounded by a fortress like wall and around 3,000 people live inside. The palace was used by the ruler until the Soviet Union moved him to Siberia in 1920.
    As there was no time for breakfast I was pretty hungry by 1300 after wandering around the sights with my tour guide for 3 hours so had a nice lunch of plov ( a local dish of rice, carrots and meat) before doing another hours sightseeing.
    It was great to return to my hotel just outside the southern gate of the city as it has a beautiful cool pool that thank goodness was open, being 35 degrees today it was great to cool off
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  • Day3

    Theatre night

    May 10, 2019 in Uzbekistan ⋅ 🌙 24 °C

    Believe it or not I went to Uzbekistan’s largest and most ornate theatre (built by the Soviets) and watched Aleko, an opera by Rachmaninov, just before going in I saw a guy who had been killed when hit by a car crossing the street, not pretty (it certainly made me more conscious when crossing roads around here).
    I spent about 4 hours with a guide looking at the main bazaar, a few mosques, a museum and rode the metro which was pretty good as there is a train every 4 or 5 minutes on all lines and many of the stations have been decorated quite ornately.
    The price of food is quite amazing, I had a 3 course meal in a nice restaurant including 2 soft drinks for $A17 and it tasted really nice.
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