Finally, I arrived in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
The Tajik border is located across the river from the Afghan port of Shir Khan Bandar. It’s an expensive fare of 10 dollars per person to cross the river by boat. The Tajik immigration is located somewhere further, and it was another 1 dollar to reach the immigration office by bus. And they still charged 5 dollars for luggage checking (customs).
I befriended the old customs officer. We talked in Farsi and he was so happy looking at Indonesian photos. Actually he already signaled me to leave soon after the custom check, that way I could avoid the 5 dollar fee. But I really didnt know about the 5 dollar game, and I insisted to get a registration slip from him, as I presumed in Central Asia if you leave the country without the slip, you will have problem. He told me that for Tajikistan, registration slip would only be given to people who carry more than 3000 dollars. I only had 2000 dollars with me. But as I insisted, he brought me to his boss’ office, where then I bargained down the scam from 10 dollars to 5 dollars.
I was travelling to Dushanbe with 6 Afghan students who got scholarship to study in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. As there is no Kyrgyz embassy in Afghanistan, they had to go to Dushanbe to pick up their visas.
We travelled by taxi from the border to Dushanbe, and it cost another 10 dollars per person. Somehow I felt Tajikistan was a very expensive country. Anyway, a litre of petrol here costs 3 Somoni or about 1 dollar. Tajikistan is a little bit of a surprise after Afghanistan, where you see women in short sleeves and short trousers or skirts, laughing freely on the streets. When passing thorough a horse cart with an old grandma on it, laughing to us, the driver teased the Afghan passengers, “In Afghanistan, women dont laugh, do they?”
The language, Tajik, is very close to Dari of Afghanistan and Persian of Iran. Several words are different and I had difficulties to catch the conversation at the first time. What is different here that they use Russian Cyrillic alphabets, where in Iran and Afghanistan they use Arabic script. It was interesting to see the signboards along the road, like “As a nation, we should defend our culture,” or “water for live.” Everywhere you will see in Cyrillic: “Rahi Safed (=Selamat Jalan in Indonesian or Safe Journey in English)” or “Xus Amaded (=Welcome)”.
The Tajik capital, Dushanbe, at first glance was a small town, but beautifully decorated by green parks and avenues. It looked quite organized, but expensive. After walking around the city, I found the cheapest hotel cost 10 dollars. Quite a surprise. I was luckier than the Afghan students. They had a friend here in Tajikistan who promised to accommodate them, but then when they called their friends, nobody answered the calls. Somehow, I am used to these ‘untrustworthy promises’ since my time in Iran and Afghanistan. But for them, it meant to stay in hotel, and for sure the 10 dollar rate was too high for these students who only carried 300 dollars cash (to reach Bishkek….)
Welcome to Tajikistan. Xus Amaded.