Switching Gears to Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek Travel Blog

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View from the plane

The smooth Air Company Kyrgyzstan flight from Dushanbe to Bishkek was a little over two hours. We glided over frosted mountains and valleys until within 20 minutes of landing until the mountains ended abruptly and turned into flat farmland. I had a pleasant ride chatting with Dave, a Scottish man who was traveling in the area on business and who had previously worked in Afghanistan. Bishkek was pleasantly sunny, although a mild chill persisted, preventing a previous snowfall from entirely melting. Obtaining a visa was probably the easiest process I've ever completed, and took only about five minutes. Passport control was equally simple and my baggage was ready. I was greated by an eager taxi tout as soon as I exited, despite being the last passenger.

Welcome to Bishkek!
After buying a new SIM card for my phone, I agreed to take a taxi downtown while I waited for my host who hadn't answered her phone. Because the price I agreed to was lower than normal, the driver suggested I wait until we pick up another passenger, which was fine with me. I actually fell asleep in the front seat before we left. I may have waited an hour, which by that time was about 3pm (Kyrgyz time is one hour ahead of Tajikistan). The drive from the airport was 30 kilometers, took about 35 minutes and cost 250 Kyrgyz som (roughly $6).

I called Alexandra after I got out of the taxi and she agreed to meet me in five minutes at the Russian Orthodox church across the intersection from where I was dropped off. While I was waiting, a Russian lady invited me in for services, which were just beginning.

Orthodox Church on corner of Togolok Moldo & Jibek Jolu
I politely declined and soon Alexandra met me and we went back to her flat. It turns out she is originally from a small town in southern Kazakhstan, but moved here about six years ago and just last year completed her studies at the university. She lives with her brother Ilya, a friendly Russian-speaking girl named Sasha and a quiet Chinese guy named Dima. She immediately offered me some food, telling me that she and Sasha were vegetarians. This was not the typical Kyrgyz household!

The vegetarian food was delicious and mildly spicy. She also offered me some unusual looking preserves, which she said were white cranberries but they looked more like tiny gooseberries or currants and had small, gritty seeds, but tasted very good. Sasha offered me some cheese and bread and I also had some herbal tea. We chatted for awhile while we sat on cushions on the kitchen floor at a 6-inch high table. Alexandra works as a freelance translator and tutor and her English was excellent. She had an appointment with the neighbor's kids in the evening, so I decided to venture out even though it was dark. I only walked a couple blocks past a couple glitzy restaurants to an Internet cafe then back. Around the corner from the flat was a small store where I bought some spicy carrot salad and rye bread to snack on and share. They'd given me a spare set of keys so I could come and go as I pleased. When I got back a friend of theirs, Mika, was visiting and he spoke English so we talked about politics and had tea, visiting for a couple hours into the night.

The apartment is relatively small, but has 24-hour electricity and hot water so it was nice. I slept well in the "living room" where Ilya and Dima also slept. The girls had their own room, which joined a balcony. Already less than a half day in a new country, I felt Tajikistan was weeks ago and I was entering a new dimension. I still hadn't really experienced much in the city but knowing I would have to spend time applying for a Kazakh visa here, I was in no rush. I just hoped for continued good weather.

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View from the plane
View from the plane
Welcome to Bishkek!
Welcome to Bishkek!
Orthodox Church on corner of Togol…
Orthodox Church on corner of Togo…
photo by: londonstudent