Uzbekistan as a travel destination never really occurred to me. All I knew about the country was that it was one of 'the Stans'. Of course, I didn't really know anything about 'the Stans' either. If pressed to identify Tajikistan or Turkmenistan on a map, the best I could do is say, "you know, over there... near Russia."
In fact, if I hadn't been exchanging travel stories with a friend of mine on a ferry in Japan's inland sea, there's a good chance that I would still be one of those poor souls, wandering through life ignorant of Uzbekistan's beauty. "Uzbekistan". Within seconds of the word leaving her lips, I knew I had to go. The names of ancient cities danced in my imagination... Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva... visions of the Silk Road and old Persian empires raced through my thoughts. For weeks, I dreamed of seeing things that I wasn't even sure existed. Things that I had heard of in stories and read about in books.
After scraping some money together (with much help from a good friend) and begging my boss for some time off, I was on the first Aeroflot flight out of Tokyo. Landing in Tashkent at 3 am with nowhere to stay sounded like a good enough plan in the comfort of my living room but it seemed less well-thought out after a 10 hour layover in Moscow and a rather uncustomary experience in Uzbekistan customs. But, as the sun began to rise, a lovely old woman in a rather stylish set of pyjamas came to my rescue. Within hours she had sorted me a bed to sleep in, breakfast in her courtyard, and a stack of currency procured from the black market. What more could I have asked for.
As the days passed on things just seemed to get better and better. Yet, as I sat each night to write in my journal, the magic of Uzbekistan escaped me. My words fell flat and the redundancy of superlatives on each page was, quite simply, revolting. And so it was that I turned to my camera, hoping that it would succeed where my prose had so clearly failed.
The images that fill these pages are of an experience backpacking through Uzbekistan. Nothing more nor less. Although they are my favourites among the thousands of shots that I took, they provide only glimpses of a country which deserves far more. Marco Polo once said that he had not told half of what he saw. I think that trying to explain travelling is often that way. In fact, in my humble opinion, Mr. Polo was rather lucky to have told half.
– Tyler Palma