From the blog of M. Gautham Machaiah
Sex tourism: Is Tashkent going the Thailand way?
Note: The Government of Uzbekistan has now imposed curbs on prostitution. With this, lets hope Tashkent becomes a family destination, as it deserves to be [note: this, which is not true, was the work of Mr. Arslan Levantinov. RH]
M. Gautham Machaiah
“Sir, do you want a girl?” This is what the cab driver is most likely to ask you in Tashkent, rather than, “Where do you want to go?”
Welcome to the Thailand of Central Asia.
Though it might be difficult to replace Thailand as the sex capital of the world, Tashkent with its booming underground prostitution industry, is set to give Pattaya and Bangkok a run for their money.
Tashkent, which is now the capital of Uzbekistan after the disintegration of Soviet Union, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its immaculate tree lined streets, wide walkways, large parks, historic monuments, imposing buildings, 8-D theatres, ballet shows, snow capped mountains, excellent public transport system, pristine rivers and pollution free environment. But these hold no interest to the average sex-hungry traveller.
The stage was set the moment we landed at the Tashkent airport, with prying eyes virtually stripping every passing woman. This being the first day, we were treated to a gala dinner and belly dance, where our Indian group mates were at their obnoxious best. After some failed attempts to grope the girls, the guys wanted some ‘action’ which the tour operators readily organised elsewhere.
The second day was a shocker. After a hurried sightseeing trip of the City, our tour operator pompously took over the guide’s microphone in the coach and announced two interesting options for the evening. One was the Villa, the other being lap dance.
Now, what’s a Villa? Listen to what our illustrious operator had to say: “A Villa is like a farm house on the outskirts of Tashkent. It has a massage parlour and sauna, a dance floor and two-three bedrooms. You can have a massage, dance with the girls, have some Vodka and then take the girl of your choice to the bedroom. That is not all. After you have had your share of fun, you can even swap your girl with others.”
And then, what about lap dance? “It is a strip tease where the girls will dance completely naked. They will grind on your lap and you are free to fondle them to your heart’s content,” the operator volunteered.
Exciting options indeed!
We then adjourned for lunch so that a considered view could be taken on which of these options to choose from. But even one hour after the lunch, there was no sign of the operators. A little bit of probing revealed that they were busy collecting the advance from those who had chosen their options. After some heckling by me, everybody was herded into the coach to continue the tour in which most were not interested.
“We have come here to see the place, not to drink, dance and womanise,” I protested, but the tour operator shamelessly responded, “That is what people come to Tashkent for. There is nothing to see here.” That was when I realised Tashkent was being sold as a sex destination and the operators were doubling up as touts and pimps. Obviously, a cut from the Villa and strip tease goes to them.
The operator then went on to proudly announce that in the next few days he would fly in a 180- strong contingent from India on an exclusive sex package. “We have factored in all costs ranging from Villas, lap dance and night clubs. There will be no sightseeing, only fun.” While a trip to Tashkent costs less than Rs 50,000, the Gujarati team had shelled out over Rs 1 lakh each,” the operator boasted.
The second half of the City tour ended sooner than it began. While we decided to call it a day, most others made their way to the Villas.
The next day on, we decided to break away from the group and explore the City on our own, but that too did not really solve our problem. Every taxi driver we hired was only interested in making a fast buck by selling to us what seemed to be the most easily available ware – young women.
One night when we were returning to the hotel after dinner, the only question the Hindi speaking cabbie asked us was, “Do you want girls?” We politely declined first and then firmly when he persisted. Instead, we asked him to take us to a pharmacy as my friend was suffering from a headache. The driver was so upset by our refusal that he drove straight to the hotel and declared, “There are no pharmacies in the City.”