A trip to the tower

Tokmak Travel Blog

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People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)

Reaching Burana Tower from Bishkek seemed like it should be pretty easy, but like most things, it ended up far from it! Nurdan had told us to catch minivan 175 to the end of the line, which would be a bus stop that had buses to the town of Tokmok. What he didn't realise is that they had extended this route only recently, so the end of the line was now 15 minutes past the bus station! When the bus terminated in the middle of nowhere it was obvious we had missed our stop, so we had to board the next bus setting off back in the direction from where we had just come! As a result we missed our connecting bus to Tokmok and that subsequently led to there been no bus to Burana Tower from Tokmok for another 3 hours! Not having this much time at our disposal to sit around twiddling our thumbs, we instead opted to hire a taxi, which did the return journey for 250 Som ($7).

The original Burana Tower dated back to the 11th Century, although this had been heavily restored by the Russians in the 1950's. Having seen photographs in the adjoining Museum of what poor condition it had been in, it did look as though the restoration had been necessary to preserve it. Saying that, i think it had far more charm in its dilapidated state than what stood before us now.

Its setting at the foot of the Shamsy Valley was idyllic, with picturesque mountains forming a splendid backdrop. To the North of the tower, there were numerous Balabol stone statues, so we went and took a look at them. The statues served as gravestones and reminded me somewhat of the sculptures on Jeju-do Island in South Korea.

There was also a mound of earth to the North West of the tower, where the ancient citadel of Balasagan had once stood.
In fact, Balagasan had been the capital of the Karakhanids in the 11th Century, although it was the Sogdians who had originally founded it. Today, it takes quite and imagination to picture what had once been there.

After popping into the Museum to see drawings of how the area had once looked, its former glory began to become clear. The site had not only served as a capital, but had once been an important post on the Silk Road. Archaeologists had made some interesting finds, including armour, pottery and coins. Once we had looked around, the curator gave us the key for the Tower, so we went and climbed up to the top for some panoramic views. The narrow staircase leading to the roof actually proved to be the most fascinating piece of the tower, as it spiraled upwards, on an incredibly steep gradient.
From the top we could also see the reconstructed bases of some Mausoleums, but these were far from impressive.

Having seen everything that was of interest to us, our taxi shuttled us back to Tokmok, which is on the main road from Bishkek to Issyk Kul Lake. It was therefore a little surprising to find that there were no direct buses from Tokmok to Cholpon Ata and we knew that every bus that would pass through from Bishkek would more than likely have been filled from the outset. After waiting in vain for nearly an hour, we gave in and took a shared taxi.

The ride was fairly pleasant as we passed through some aesthetically pleasing landscapes, with cemeteries sporadically dotting the roadside. On a less pleasing note, there were also numerous police check points. This did however provide a source of amusement, as i watched the driver fill his passport with small bank notes, which were obviously intended as a bribe, in the likelihood that we could get pulled over!

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photo by: delsol67