Day 108 (2): I don't like this place at all, makes me wonder what I'm here for

Kochkor Travel Blog

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I must admit that in daylight this town looks a lot nicer

The guy from Jailoo travel was surprised to see me back. I explained what had happened to him, that his guide had abandoned me halfway down the mountain, some 15 km from the end point, because he was only getting paid for 2.5 days instead of the 3 days I had paid Jailoo.
“Yes, I see” was the response. “The 2.5 day thing, that is our problem. I suppose you want your money back?”

That was not quite the explanation I had expected, but money back sounded good enough. I was then asked to come back again tomorrow, because he didn't have enough money. Well, no, after all that had happened I was not taking any more chances with these people. I told him to get the money somewhere, while I waited in their restaurant.

At the restaurant I had some decent dinner and a beer, while I chatted to a French lady who was travelling through Kyrgyzstan by herself.

Kochkor
Howcome the only people I meet this trip are French? She actually had a good explanation for that. Apparently there has been a lot of media attention on travelling to Central Asia recently and on top of that the French have more relaxed visa requirements for countries like Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan than other nationalities. Her explanation for the huge invasion of French in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan was that probably many people who originally planned to travel Kyrgyzstan went there instead when the war started.
It kinda made sense, but it still amazes me how about 90% of the people I've been meeting in the pas month have been French of French speaking.

An hour later the Jailoo guy came back with my refund. He refunded me the money for the booked transportation from Song-Köl back to Kochkor, as well as one night yurt stay which I hadn't used.
Erm, thanks, but what about one day refund for the guide and horse?
The following is a pretty accurate transcription of the discussion that followed:

“no, you are not getting anything else. This is all I will give you”
“wot?”
“This is all you are getting from me, now please leave”
“Wait a minute, I paid for three days guide and horse. One day was supposedly needed for the guide to travel back home, that leaves two days - I only got two half days.”
“the 2.5 day thing is our problem, I will deal with that”
“yeah, so give me back the difference”
“no”
I started to lose it now. “What no? Your 'guide' left me alone, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. That is totally, absolutely not done!”
“that is your problem”
“What??”
“I told you it was four hours horse riding per day, you agreed.”
“No, I asked you how long it was, approximately, to make sure I wasn't booking something I couldn't manage physically”
“yes, and you got your four hours per day”
“for the record, it was only three hours today. But that does not deter from the fact that your guide was supposed to bring me to my yurt today”
“that is your problem”
“well, how about we make it your problem then? Should we call the police? Because where I come from this is considered theft, and theft is illegal”
“I don't care if you call your f**king embassy. I don't like you, I will not give you any more money, so f**k off back to Holland”

He literally said the F word. To one of his customers. What kind of place is this? And the reason he wanted me to f**k off was because I had shopped around for my trip and compared his prices with CBT. And he had talked to the CBT guy and heard that I had dared to challenge his exorbitant prices. This is totally not done. “If you want to complain about prices you should go back to Holland. We don't want your kind here, so f**k off!”

I asked him to repeat this, just in case I had not understood him properly.
“F**k off. F**k you”
“Once more, a bit louder, so that any other, potential customers who are sitting in the restaurant, can clearly hear you”
“F**k you” and with that he gave me the finger as well.

I must admit that I am not much of a fighter. I'm able to make myself look very big and mean, but if that doesn't help then I'm out of options. I mean, what was I to do? Hit the guy? That really is below me. It didn't seem like I was going to win this argument and the last thing I wanted was another Iranian taxi driver story. Besides, I was pretty sure that if the police would get involved they'd be on his hand. It seems as if everybody will stick up for everybody in this place.

He locked the door of his office and left, leaving me (and a handful of restaurant customers) flabbergasted. I was completely shocked at what just had happened. I had expected some kind of discussion, but never had I expected to be treated like this.
What made it worse was that the only money he had refunded me was the money he had not spent yet. The money for the driver who would have picked me up tomorrow (who was a lovely guy, by the way) and the money for yurt stay. So the driver and the family where I would be staying the night are the only ones missing out on income due to this whole affair. That horrible guy at Jailoo Travel, and that awful guide, Stalbeck, both still got their money and would not be affected in any way.

I decided the best thing I could do is to post a warning on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum. Both Jailoo Travel and Stalbeck Kaparbekov are recommended in the Lonely Planet of Central Asia (pages 316 and 318 respectively), so I also wrote to Lonely Planet detailing my experience. With a little luck the new edition of the Central Asia LP will no longer list them. Any customers they lose based on my blogs and recommendations, will be a small victory for me albeit a bitter sweet one.

Today was genuinely the low ebb of my entire trip.

jujulia1 says:
Dear Biedje,

I've been reading most of your blog articles on Kyrgysztan as I'm planning to go back there for some travelling and wanted some advice and suggestions where to go and I want to thank you for your beautiful pictures and for some useful information.

One thing I find more and more disturbing: You seem to be calling Kyrgyz "these people", "what's wrong with them?", "they all seem to stick out for each other" and similar stuff. I understand you were not happy with what happened to you in Kochkor and I agree that you should report the agency to warn other travellers. Still, I just don't like your take towards locals in some of your blog entries - Kyrgysztan is a poor country and people are trying to eke out a living from tourism. It's happened to me as well that locals seem to think of me as a kind of milking cow in the beginning, but I've usually managed to get reasonable prizes by staying calm and friendly and explaining that my own financial situation wasn't as rosy as people in other countries might be inclined to believe from media etc.

Most Kyrgyz I've met in the five months I've spent teaching in Bishkek have been wonderfully hospitable and honest and they don't deserve any of this backpacking-we-have-to-get-the-most-for-almost-nothing-attitude I sometimes sense here.

Just wanted to let you know how your descriptions sometimes sound to me - still thanks for good advice and for keeping a regular travel blog which will inspire many people, I'm not disciplined enough to do so....

Posted on: May 10, 2015
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photo by: Biedjee