Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Visit to Imam Bukhari Complex, Samarkand

Recently, I visited Imam Bukhari Complex, 30 km north of Samarkand in Uzbekistan. It was Friday and there were many people. I had the opportunity to do Friday prayer here.

This complex has 3 main components : Mosque, Mausoleum and Museum (3M). On  arrival, we were led to a long wide footpath which finally lead to the complex. The so called boulevard has road side trees, and upon reaching the gate there is a big fountain. This complex is maintained by the authority.

At the entrance, you need to pay if you bring camera in. Inside, besides the 3M, there is a big court yard, where century-old big tree were kept and preserved.

Our group posing in front of the mausoleum.

I was told that this complex was built in 1998 by the authority on the occasion of commemorating the 1225 birthday of Imam Bukhari. He was born in 810 in  Bukhara (i.e. 178 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad saw) but died in 870 in this village at the age of 60. He had compiled more than 600,000 hadis (the phophet's saying) and was a renowned scholar in his years.His contribution to Islamic knowledge is really superb.

The mable slab with Quranic verses being inscribed on it. Underneath is the real tomb of Imam Bukhari.
The waiting area or holding area for the ladies while the men went for Friday prayer. On the left standing is the guide, Farruh from Abask Travel. The far end is the museum.
The mosque which can accommodate 500 people or more at a time.
The wide footpath leading to the complex. View from the gate of the complex.

My group was large enough comprise of 20. Since the visit was on Friday, the men had to pray Jumaat prayer first. While the ladies had to wait in one of the corners in the complex. The mosque is big enough to accommodate at least 500 people at a time.

After the prayer, all of us was ushered to the mausoleum of Imam. The mausoleum comes in good shape and design. It has a tower which has turquoise dome on top of it  with beautifully designed wall tiles mostly in geometric. The upper grave looks grand with marble slabs with Quranic verses engraved on it. While the real grave is at the bottom. We were lucky that day, the caretaker allowed us to go underneath via small staircases to view the real grave. We spent sometime here. There were other visitors too especially from other regions.

Lastly, we visited the museum on the right corner. This museum seems very new as there are few collections there. This includes Quran that were presented by the world Islamic leaders who happen to visit this complex. I saw Quran that were presented by the Prime Minister of Malaysia and the President of Indonesia.

By 3.00pm, we left this complex to make way to the city centre.The travel time to the city took 40 minutes.

If you wish to visit this complex, it is open daily from 10.00 am to 5.00pm.

Happy travelling.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

From Bukhara to Samarkand by SHARQ Train

Recently I had the experience of riding a train from Bukhara to Samarkand in Uzbekistan. The train called Sharq (means East). It took 3 hours to reach Samarkand. The train fare is around USD55 (SV), USD35 (1 class) and USD25 (2nd class).

Going through the Bukhara Station, you must go through 3 screenings. First at the gate to the building,next when you enter the terminal and third when you go into the waiting hall. This indicates the level of security and the need to step up security.

The train comes with 10 coaches and each coach has 56 seats. Each coach has a canteen where you can order drinks. Its turquoise color on the exterior looks pleasant while the metal seat with soft cushion in grey provides some comfort. Each coach has a mini television hang over the ceiling where over 3 hour period, passengers are fed with film shows.
The train "SHARQ" at the Bukhara Station platform

View from the train.

Inside the friends are at the back..

We started our journey at 8.05 am. My group was scattered in three different coaches. However, majority of us is the coach no.2. Travelling by train gives us some flexibility in our movement. We can move around the coach and speak to other fellow travelers. I found many businessman travel in this train.They are going to Tashkent.

For us, it is an excitement as we see the outside panorama looks picturesque: the barren landscape, the green agriculture area, desert plants, barren mountain, industrial area, farmers toiling the land in the hot sun, rural houses, grazing land with herds of cattle, goats and sheep, barrier trees, cotton trees, olive trees etc. All these are rural landscape of Uzbekistan.

On the train, we occupy our time with reading, talking, sleeping, watching films on TV, drinking lemon tea (buy from the canteen) and eating.
Afrosiyob Fast Train at Samarkand Station.
We reached Samarkand Station at 11.10am. Once on the platform, some of us were busy taking pictures. I saw Afrosiyob train at the station.It looks like the bullet trains in Tokyo.....

The next time you are in Uzbekistan, try taking the train instead of the shared taxi....

Happy travelling.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shasha and Son Hotel, Bukhara

Recently I visited the ancient Bukhara, Uzbekistan and stayed at this hotel, Shasha and Son at Pir-3 Street. It is located right in the town centre along Bahaudin Nashbandi Street. I found this hotel is very unique in terms of decorations and its architecture. You also can experience staying in the old centuries building that was renovated.

It has  courtyards in between the rooms. Each room is uniquely decorated with wall papers of various designs and even corridors were not spared. You feel relax once you are inside the hotel. The writers or novelist perhaps will like this place.

There is Wifi facility and you can use it free of charge. The breakfast is good. The staff  is friendly, even the owner is friendly too. This boutique hotel attacts many visitors worldwide. You can contact this hotel via this number tel (998 65) 224-49-66, fax (998 65) 224-29-06 , email or web Beside this hotel, there are other hotels located around the area such as Hotel Devon Begi, Hotel New Moon, and AIST hotel.

Happy travelling.

Some Historical Buildings in Bukhara and Samarkand

I had the opportunity of visiting many historical buildings and  sites in Bukhara and Samarkand recently. These include Poi Kalyan Mosque, Madrasah Min-i-Arab and Kalyan Minaret in Bukhara; and Registan Square in Samarkand. These sites were gazetted by UNESCO in 1993 and 2001 respectively.

In Bukhara, the Poi Kalyan complex is situated right in the city centre at Khodja Nurobod Street and Samarkand Street. It consists the 45.6 metre minaret (constructed in the 12 century), a mosque (built in the 15th century) and a madrasah. When I visited the place,  I was told that this is the only madrasah in Bukhara which has been functioning and certainly has students. We were not allowed to enter madrasah courtyard as the classes were on.

The tall minaret and the mosque is next to it.
The mosque is located next to madrasah. Architecturally, it  is superb with light blue domes, geometric wall tiles and has a large courtyard. I found this courtyard is interesting. It is wide enough for people to congregate. However, it is now not function as mosque but as historical relics and open for tourists.

Its minaret is also unique, made of sandstones, tapers towards the top. I was told when Genghis Khan invaded Bukhara, this tower was spared.

This area is close to other old relic like Labi Huvaz and Art Fortress. It is a walking distance to both sites.
RegistanSquare: on the left is Ulugbeh Madrasah, Sher Dor on the right and at the far end is Tilli Kori Mosque.

The next day, I made a trip to Samarkand. This time, I visited the Registan which located at Registan Road, right in the city centre. It is a big square with 2 madrasah and a mosque. The madrasah are Ulugbeg Madrasah (built in 15 century) and Sher Dor Madrasah (built in 17 century). While the mosque, Tillo Kori mosque next to it was built in the 17th century. They have a good architecture with domes, and wall tiles of various designs. I entered Ulugbeg madrasah first and found inside there are many stalls or handicraft kiosks. They have replaced madrasah classrooms. The court yard is nice. The building has been restored recently. For the Sher Dor, the design is superb with two domes however, this one has not been fully restored. While the mosque was not a mosque any more and was converted as the craft shop and information centre.

Well, gone are the days where the great knowledge  were disseminated from these madrasahs and now it is disappearing and become purely tourist areas. I personally wish one day, the real madrasah  and the mosque will be fully functioning in the future. I like to hear azan from this mosque when I visit the next time......

Happy travelling.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mosques and Halal Food in Chiang Mai

This posting is meant for the Muslim travellers who perhaps wish to visit Chiang Mai in the future. I hope you will find this posting useful.

There are a few mosques in Chiang Mai. I have counted at least four: 1) in the city Changklan Road-Charoen Prathet 1,  2) 2.5km south of Hidayatul Mosque at Changklan road near Farook Hotel, 3) near Chang Phuak Road, 4) near the stadium in the northern part of the city.
Hidayatul Mosque at Changklan Road in the city centre.

However, the mosque that is located in the city centre is Hidayatul Mosque at Changklan Road-Charoen Prathet 1. This mosque is quite big and has offices and religious school.

As far as the halal restaurant or food stall is concern, the Sophia restaurant in front of Hidayatul Mosque serves Malay and Thai dishes. The Le Spice  next lane close to Kilare Night Bazaar serves north Indian and Thai dishes.

At the Anusarn Night Bazaar, there are many stalls and restaurants that serve seafood, Arab food and rotee, simple burger and fried me.
Halal Restaurant at Anusarn Night Bazaar.

Around the mosque at the south of Changklan road near Farook Hotel, there are a few stalls and restaurants operate by the Muslims there.

Happy traveling.

Kalarie Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai : A Must Visit

This night bazaar is located at Chang Klan  Road (near Charoen Prathat 1), opens daily from 5 pm till 11 pm. I found this bazaar interesting as it has good food stalls (you use coupons to buy food and drinks), performing stage (where you can enjoy people performing on stage like singing, fashion show etc), travel agent, t-shirts stalls, handicraft stalls, clothes and tailor shop and even has a budget hotel (kalarie guest house).This bazaar is close to city hotels like Dusit, Le Meridien, Royal Lanna, and Downtown Inn.

Night singers performing on stage.

Tourists and patrons enjoying the performance.

You can see the signboard of this bazaar from Changklan Road itself. Once you walk in, it will lead you to the food court and the numerous stalls or kiosks. The walkway is nicely paved. The decorative lights and all buntings make it colorful and make the visit memorable.

Beautiful lighting attracts people to experience the atmosphere here.     

Colorful lanterns being hung at strategic places to give certain mood to the area.

As usual, when you shop around, you must bargain. English is widely spoken here as this bazaar is targeted for the foreigners or tourists. Locals normally frequent other areas.

For those who like to stay at its guest house upstairs can book at the reception desk or online via The rate is around 500 baht per room per night(this may change over time). It does not serve breakfast.

Happy travelling.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chiang Mai, the northern city of Thailand: A nice city to visit

Chiang Mai is located at the mountainous northern province of Thailand near the Myanmar and Laos borders. Chiang Mai is not a big city compare to Bangkok. The word Chiang Mai means a new city.

The moat from the south east.
Well, old Chiang Mai city (square in shape) was surrounded by a moat until today. As time goes on, the city spreads outside the moat. It is interesting to visit this city  as it is close to the mountains and forest where you can enjoy nature, farms, animal sanctuary (elephants), zoo and night zoo, etc.

I took the opportunity to visit this city in March  2012 and enjoy the cheap flight ticket which I booked 4 months back. I booked a city hotel from, Royal Lanna knowing that I do not have to worry about transport much as I intend to  explore the city by walking. Once I reach the airport, I took a taxi which cost me 120 baht. It is about 25 minute drive to the city centre. Most roads in Chiang Mai are one way. This is  to avoid congestion, I suppose.

Those who like temples and nature, certainty they will find this city and its surrounding something to offer. There are many temples in the old city boundary and famous temple, Doi Suthep is on the outskirt, west of the city; other attractions include hill tribes (especially Hmongs) and  their plantation; elephant sanctuary, Bo Sang Craft Village (umbrella) and of course its wildlife park.

For the Muslim visitors, you do not have to worry, there are many mosques that you can visit or perform your prayer. The Hidayatul Mosque (Ban Haw) is centrally located in the city at Changklan Road (Charoen Prathet 1) near the Kalare Night Bazaar. This mosque is a walking distance to hotels like Royal Lanna, Le Meridien, Dusit, Downtown Inn, etc.
Hidayatul Mosque at Charoen Prathet 1 and Changklan Road.
Changklan Road, near the Night Bazaar.

The halal restaurants and stalls too are available in the city centre next to this mosque (e.g. Sophia Restaurant) and the nearby Anusarn Market. Even along the streets near the Night Bazaar, you can find Muslim ladies selling "rotee" or roti chanai and others.

Anusarn Night Bazaar.
Shopping in this city, certainly you need to bargain. However you have to be careful on how you bargain. Do not bargain for the sake of bargaining. If they agreed on your proposal (the price you ask for), you have to take it.
Examples of Crafts sold at Anusarn Night Market

Chiang Mai too has many massage shops and spas, almost on every road. They occupy shop houses and mostly located in quiet alleys.  Services include reflexology and many types of body massages. Be extra careful when you opt for full body massage especially massage by men for men. Tell them what you want from the massage and perhaps your taboo. If not, they will give the "ones" that you may not like.

If you like to visit other parts of the province such as Chang Rai, you can book your trip at your hotel, the numerous travel agents or at the Tourist Information Centre. Booking has to be made  a day earlier. A lot of travel packages originated from Chiang Mai are offered to the tourists at a  fee. Example, a half day trip to Soi Suthep and Doi Pui Village in the western part of the city will cost you 500 baht. Going to Chiang Rai will cost you more.It is better to book here, as you will see better option based on your liking. You do not have to pay to the place you do not like to visit. For the city visit, you need 3 days and 2 nights. This is to cover city tour, shopping and rural and mountain sight seeing.

For those who like to buy souvenirs especially the crafts, Chiang Mai has lots to offer. However, when I went to the market, I like to buy dried longan. It is cheap. I bought for friends too. A lot of happenings occur around Changklan Road near Night Bazaar and this attract tourists to the area.

Happy travelling.