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Current Location : Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, China
Last entry date : 07 june 2008

Kyrgyz man in traditional costume in Southern Issy-Kol lake

22/May/08 to 26/May/08

I heard some stories but I now know why seasoned travelers and backpackers are flocking to Kyrgyzstan. This country well tugged in by mountains, is beautiful, the people are friendly and it does not burn a hole in your pocket to stay as long as you like, should you decide to do so !

The entry into Kyrgyzstan was the easiest amongst the 4 Central Asian countries . The border guard at the Chaldibar crossing took a look at my passport, went inside his office, put a rubber stamp on it, smiles and tells me “Welcome to Kyrgyzstan”  – all this in 5 minutes. No hassle (… imagine, 3 hours for the same thing in TM). I was quite happy there was even an official money changer located just outside the exit gate. The buy & sell exchange rates are published on the wall and there’s no need to bargain or argue with black marketers (some I met were bandits in disguise) as is the ritual the last 3 countries.

As I rode towards the capital city Bishkek, the country resemble a bit like old Russia. It seems less developed than Khazakstan and I watch the roads as these are often not in good condition. On the way I met 2 german cyclists Toby & Hardy, cycling their way to Beijing for the Olympics (there must be something about the Olympics that make cyclists take up the pain & challenge to cycle thousands of km). Its becoming a joke to me as Toby actually left Germany on his bicycle around the same date as I did from France and we arrive at the same time in Bishkek. All 3 of us ended up staying that evening at the Nomad travelers guesthouse run by 2 young friendly Kyrgyz named Umat & Raisa.

Nomad guesthouse seems to be the best in its kind at time of this writing for backpackers and budget travelers. Its seems cheap, very friendly, correctly clean and I’ve never seen so many travelers converged in one place and sharing travel tales – travelers who have no fixed end dates for their travel plans. For less than US$ 2.00, I’m offered a bed in a dormitory or yurt (or you can choose to pitch your tent and save a dollar if you’re 2 persons), get to use the host’s kitchen & phone, access to hot water for tea, shower, WC, pay internet inside their home, cooked meal if required, etc. Of course I chosed to pay for my meals. The others chosed to make their own breakfast, lunch & dinner. Here I met soft spoken Gayle & John from Liverpool UK who are into their 17 mths of their 3 yrs travel – they have their tent pitched next to my yurt. Jeremy & girlfriend have cycled their way from South America & China, and are now slowly on their way back to France. 62 yrs old Reinhart from Germany celebrated his birthday that evening by sharing beer with us – he’s traveling alone and just came in from SE Asia. Tatsuya & Hiro, from Japan are just hanging around and planning where they should be heading next. And etc, etc many more coming and going when I was there. I was the rare biker amongst these free spirits for the next 2 days.

The travelers at Nomad have been to the Issy-Kol lake (the 2nd largest salt lake in the world and 150km long) and recommended the southern route as its more scenic, so that was where I went, expecting a day ride to the eastern town of Karakol. The roads soon turn into mountain country again and the ride was as scenic as they said. I remembered it being a quiet country road with high mountains on both side of the lake. Beautiful. I was only troubled by the fact I may not have enough petrol to reach my destination, then halfway through when I saw young kids selling petrol in plastic bottles, my fears disappeared.

At Karakol I knocked at the Yak Tour guesthouse which Reinhart recommended and had stayed a few days earlier. A young Canadian couple on bicycles arrived the same evening from the northern Kazakhstan border – they looked more tired than me after having taken a shortcut and pushed their way through on a mountain road. To me, Karakol is a town which Alfred Hitchcock successor must visit for a follow-up of the film “Birds”. They are everywhere and can be heard from morning till evening. When asked why there are so many crows here, Valentin, the co-host of Yak Tour, said it’s a sign that the air is good in Karakol. On one stretch of road, I watch in amazement as crows risked their lives when they fly across the road in numbers. I saw 2 crows got smack dead by passing cars while watching the show.

Life in Karakol (I suspect the same for most of Kyrgyzstan) is simple and slow paced. Even when the neighbours and friends get together for a feast, some tables and a simple canvas sheet above the head will do the job, or a simple picnic out in the fields will do – see photos. All smiles and that don’t seem so bad.

4 Responses to « Kyrgyzstan – A quiet paradise in Central Asia (part 1)  »

  1. Thinking of my energetic and adventurous brother, remember to eat well and take care.

  2. Siew Hoon & Victoria7 June 2008 à 9:04 pm

    Hi- Sheen,
    Another interesting update & beautiful photos. Take care.

  3. Definately silkroad 101 ….. keep it up!

  4. Apa khabar,
    seronok sungguh perjalanan kamu, pepatah berkata jauh perjalanan, luas pandangan, I’m seriously bout havin my own F650GS and do the the same like you do…
    have a nice day

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