Eating vegetarian in Uzbekistan

How to survive as a vegetarian in Uzbekistan

Being a vegetarian has gotten much easier in recent years, especially in Europe. There’s always one vegetarian option on the menu. But here in Central Asia, things look a bit different. They eat a lot of meat here. Like, a lot. They don’t really understand the concept of being vegetarian so you’ll have explain to them a few times that you can’t eat meat, chicken or fish. Even when you’ve explained this, they’ll probably give you a few weird looks before asking you, yet again, if you want to eat the plov that’s been cooked in mutton fat.

It can get really frustrating to travel around Uzbekistan as a vegetarian, but as long as you just know where to go and what to ask for, you’ll be happy to know that it’s not impossible. It’s just a bit trickier.

The main dishes in Uzbekistan are pilaf (plov) and lagman, a noodle dish that’s usually cooked with beef or any other type of meat (in Kazakhstan it’s usually with horse meat for example). Even if you ask for plov or lagman without meat, they might just remove the actual meat from the dish, but it’s still been cooked with meat. So if that’s something you don’t want, it’s best to order something else. There are a few restaurants now, notably in Khiva, that serves vegetarian lagman and plov.

It’s much easier to find vegetarian dishes in the touristy parts of Uzbekistan such as Bukhara and Khiva. What you can do is download the app “Happy Cow” which will tell you where you can find vegetarian friendly restaurants. Don’t expect to find any all vegetarian restaurants in Uzbekistan though. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything like it here.

You can also hit the cafés. Although you might not want to eat café food every day, they still have a decent amount of selections usually. They can serve everything from pasta, pizza and sandwiches. Just ask for pizza without any meat for example or pasta with tomato sauce or such. It may not be the most thrilling dish you’ve eaten, but at least it’s not with meat.

If you’re getting sick of chasing vegetarian food in Uzbekistan, why not cook at home? Most hostels have kitchen areas where you can cook  your own food. Buying fruits and vegetables at the supermarket is very affordable and you know exactly what’s inside your dish. I once ordered a lagman without meat, but I could taste in the sauce that it had been cooked with beef. So when you cook the dishes yourself, at least you know what you’re putting in your mouth.

The Uzbeks are very hospitable people and they’ll always make sure to find ways to cook a vegetarian meal for you. It’s just that sometimes they think it’s enough to just remove the meat from the dish, but not say that it’s been cooked with meat. So if you want to survive as a vegetarian in Uzbekistan, either learn to say in Russian that you cannot eat any type of meat, cook at home, hit the cafés, or be very lucky and find vegetarian dishes on the menu.

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First time travelling in Asia

Why you should go to Southeast Asia if you’re a first time traveler  

Southeast Asia is one of the most visited places in the world. It’s become an iconic destination for backpackers and all kinds of travelers who are seeking a slice of paradise. Southeast Asia has a lot to offer as well- you have everything from beaches to grand mountains, small cities, massive cities and incredible food. If you’re going to travel for the first time, go to Southeast Asia. Why you may ask? Here’s why:

The tourism infrastructure is so developed

Traveling in Southeast Asia is a piece of cake. There’s so many established routes now that you can always be sure to find your way to the place you want to go. There’s so many hostels, so many restaurants with English menus and locals who’ve learnt the language. The transportation system is also super easy and there’s simply so much information about traveling in Southeast Asia that you might even feel overwhelmed by the information. Compare that to for example Central Asia, where there’s not many tourists and where it can be a bit hard to understand what there is to do and see. But if you want to go to a place that’s easy to travel around in, Southeast Asia is probably your best bet.

It’s safe

Traveling in Southeast Asia is safe. If there’s anything to think of, it’s to keep your valuables close to you when you’re outside. But even pick pocketing is rare. It’s always nice to start your traveling journey in a place that at least feels safe.

There’s so much to do and see

If you’re going to travel for a longer time, you’ll want to see and do a lot of things. Thankfully, Southeast Asia is the perfect place to go to if you like adventure and pace. Vietnam is a perfect example of the diversity of Southeast Asia. In the north you have the beautiful mountains where you can trek, you can cruise around in Halong Bay and you can go partying in Hanoi. In central Vietnam you can visit the stunning ancient town Hoi An and watch all the lanterns light up at night. In the south there’s wonderful beaches where you can relax, try some kitesurfing and eat some good food. And that’s just in Vietnam!

There’s a lot of travelers there

This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It all depends on your preferences. But if you’re traveling for the first time, it can be nice to be surrounded by other travelers rather than staying all alone in a hostel. In that sense, Southeast Asia is great because you’ll definitely meet a lot of people that you can chat with, travel with and grab a beer or two with. Southeast Asia is a very social destination and it’s always nice to have people around you when you’re a first time traveler.

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Harry Potter Cafe

There is a Harry Potter themed cafe in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Imagine you’re going to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a country in Central Asia that’s still quite the hidden gem, and you’re looking for a nice cafe to eat at and drink a cup of coffee. You’re looking for something different, perhaps not your typical cafe. All of sudden you come across something – Pottermania? What’s that? Why, it’s a Harry Potter themed cafe. In Tashkent, of all places in the world.

When I heard about it, I immediately knew I had to go there. I’ve always been a huge Harry Potter fan but never had the chance to visit Harry Potter World in London for example. So when I found out about this cafe, I hurried up to get there the minute I got to Tashkent and I have to say – I was impressed.

The cafe is centrally located in Tashkent and it’s not hard to find. You’ll see the signs saying “Pottermania” with the iconic scar Harry has on his forehead. But this cafe isn’t your ordinary cafe though (if you haven’t figured yet). Instead of sitting outside and enjoying the sunshine or even the sunlight, you’ll have to go underground to access the cafe. It’s dark, it’s decorated with all things Harry Potter and it’s wonderful. Imagine walking into a cafe where you can drink butterbeer! YES! Butterbeer! The entire menu has names named after a Harry Potter character, potion, or anything related to Harry Potter. If you’re a vegetarian and struggling in Tashkent, come here! There were surprisingly a lot of choices here.

Besides eating and drinking potions, you can also dress up. They have the cloaks, the wands and the hats, all so you can get the perfect picture. By the entrance of the cafe, you can also take a photo of you running to platform 9 ¾. I was a very happy kid.

The butterbeer tastes a bit like caramel coke float, if that makes sense? For lunch I ate a salad, which was quite good. The prices are fair too, like everywhere in Uzbekistan, and it was nice to get a break from the scorching sun outside. There weren’t many guests when we were there, which was perfect, because you could goof around and take as many nerdy photos you wanted. The staff speaks English too and will gladly help you with anything you need.

So next time you’re in Tashkent or you’re going there for the first time, make sure to make a pit stop at this Harry Potter themed cafe. It’s absolutely lovely and it’s even better that it’s in Uzbekistan, not exactly the first place you’d expect to bump into a Harry Potter themed cafe.

Staying in a Hostel

How to behave in a hostel

If you’ve traveled for a longer time and stayed in a few hostels around the world, it’s likely that you’ve come across all kinds of people. Some are more respectful and others. But when you’re going to live with others in the same hostel and same room, you got to know how to behave. If you’re a first time traveler and going to a hostel, or you’re just curious, read on to see how to behave in a hostel.

First of all, respect people who are trying to sleep

The worst thing is the people who have zero respect for the ones who are trying to sleep and start making a bunch of noises, turns on the lights for a longer time, slams doors, etc. You wouldn’t want anyone else doing this to you so why are you doing it to somebody else? Dorms are for sleeping, not for partying! If you want to party, go to a bar where you can be as loud as you want. But be quiet in a dorm when it’s late and if you feel like chatting with your friend loudly, take it outside in the common area.

Keep it clean

Just because you paid for it and because there’s someone cleaning the hostel doesn’t mean that you should act like a total pig. Do your dishes, leave it as clean as it was when you came and if you spilled anything, wash it up! Same goes for bathrooms, don’t leave it a total mess.

Pack your things the day before you leave

Instead of deciding to pack everything at night, when everyone’s asleep, pack everything you can before you intend on leaving so you can just go as quietly as possible. It’s not cool to be making a ton of noise in the middle of the night just because you’re catching a bus somewhere else and forgot to pack.

Use your headphones

Too often have I been in the same room as people who’ve watched movies loudly without putting their headphones in or put on speakers when they talk to someone on the phone. It’s not nice and it’ll never be. Respect other people.

Share the outlets

Don’t be a jerk and use all the outlets. In some hostels you can use more because there’s a lot of them. But there’s also smaller hostels where you might just find a few of them. Share it with others and don’t be selfish.

Don’t be rude

Seriously, just don’t. Maybe some people won’t share the same opinions as you but it certainly won’t get better if you’re being rude and mean to someone. Instead, be respectful and open-minded. Traveling means getting to know people from all cultures and countries. There’s other ways to communicate to people than shouting or saying rude remarks.