Kyrgyzstan is Stan-Tastic
Hi, I’m posting these travel updates a bit out of order and late. A friend of mine suggested that I post my email updates onto this site becasue readers might get a kick out of them. I was in Kyrgystan a few months ago, so keep in mind that this post is a few months out of date.
Well I made it to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Unfortunately it was neither on the day I planned nor the airline I planned, but I did make it here. (Although, a week later than expected.) After I sent my last email from Delhi I went to the airport 3 hours ahead of schedule like a good little tourist. At first things were fine. I saw the flight to Bishkek up on the board as expected. After an hour of waiting and seeing my flight move up the board I began to wonder where I should check-in. All the other passengers on flights before and after mine were eagerly lining up and checking their bags. My check-in counter was mysteriously dark and empty. “Ah well, this is India,” I thought. Then, while I was watching the notice board, my flight just disappeared. It didn’t say “CANCELED.” It just vanished. No announcement or anything, just gone. Long story short, I made it to Bishkek a week later.
Now, I imagine you are asking where Kyrgyzstan is. Well, it’s easy to find. It’s south of Kazakhstan, east of Uzbekistan, north of Tajikistan, and boarders China. Easy.
What is Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan like? Well, first of all, it is 95 percent Muslim. However, the Muslims here are a bit different then the more orthodox Muslims with “explosive-personalities” in the middle east. The Kyrgyz Muslims are vodka swillin’, mini-skirt wearin’, and bar-room brawlin’ kinds of Muslims. Being from Texas, these are my kinda Muslims! Second of all, there is a little bit of political instability in the region. For example, the day after I arrived this happened: <>
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (Reuters) — More than 1,000 Kyrgyz troops fired tear gas and bullets on Friday to drive protesters away from a government building they seized to protest at their candidate’s exclusion from a presidential poll next month.
Police drove the supporters of would-be opposition candidate Urmatbek Baryktabasov out of the building in the capital Bishkek and chased them through nearby streets, shooting in the air and firing tear gas.
Full story: http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/06/17/kyrgystan.protest.ap/index.html
I didn’t see the hullabaloo, but I roamed around after-wards. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera to take pictures of about 1000 police men all sleeping in the parks using their riot shields for pillows.
It may sound crazy, but it turns out the ousted presidential candidate just payed each protester three dollars to storm the White House. All in a day in Bishkek.
Putting aside the political uprisings, Bishkek is surprisingly nice. It has many parks full of flowers and artwork. In the day everyone is smiling and more than happy to help. However, once the sun sets, Bishkek is neither safe nor well lit. The beautiful parks turn into ominous dark patches of city-scape that you can be sure you are being watched from. The trick is to travel in groups or take taxis everywhere – which are incredibly cheap. As a matter of fact, everything in Bishkek is incredibly cheap… and I mean EVERYTHING.
From Bishkek, my brother and I went up into the mountains to stay in a “yurt” (a fat little tee-pee that Mongolians like to use.) Normally, when you go up into the mountains you are planning on a little hiking, a little soul searching, and a little drinking. I did all of these things, but Kyrgyz style. I did learn a few things about myself:
First, I can drink vodka from ten in the morning until twelve at night.
Second, I can ride a horse while I’m drinking vodka from ten in the morning until twelve at night.
Thirdly, I am a dead-eye shot while I’m drinking vodka from ten in the morning until twelve at night.
Fourth, I can also drink a gallon of fermented horse milk while I’m drinking vodka from ten in the morning until twelve at night.
All things considered, these are some things I could of lived my life without knowing.
We also bought a goat from the shepherds, slaughtered it, and ate it. (Make sure you see the pictures below… as long as you are not a vegetarian.)
The trip into the mountains lasted a day longer than we hoped. The problem was that we were going to take a village elder down to the village and away from the nomad camp. That, per se, was not the problem. The problem was that he needed to sell a cow to some guys and he couldn’t find the cow. So, we got to stay an extra day (sleeping in the car because the yurt was full with the guys buying the cow.) Stupid cow. Check out the pics of the mountain adventure.
From Bishkek my brother and I are going to travel south to Osh. From there we are going into Tajikistan to take the Pamir Highway. The Pamir Highway goes into an area where several of the of the worlds highest mountain ranges radiate, including the Karakoram, Himalayan, Hindu Kush, and the Tian Shan straddling the Kyrgyz-Chinese boarder. It’s so high and inhospitable that even Marco Polo complained about it. The whole thing is over 5000 meters high and runs along the northern Afghanistan boarder for about 100 miles. Yes, I said Afghanistan. And yes, I need my head examined.
Not to worry, it is more or less safe to travel, considering there are so few tourists on it (less than 300 a year), it isn’t logistically feasible to pester tourists.
After that, we (my brother and I) are going to head west into Uzbekistan, next Turkmenistan, then across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan. Finally making our way towards Turkey and into Eastern Europe. At least that’s the plan… we’ll see what happens.
Stay in touch.