After 16 wonderful days in Mongolia, it was time to leave and head to my next exciting destination: Kyrgyzstan! Whenever I had told people where I was heading next, I had been met with curiosity. Because Kyrgyzstan definitely isn’t a standard backpacker destination. I have, however, always been interested in the Central Asian countries (or “the Stan’s”, if you will), and thus chose Kyrgyzstan as my first Stan to visit because a visa is not required unlike all the other Stan’s.

Arriving in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, was an interesting experience. I boarded the full plane in Ulaanbaatar after much confusion, as the gate on my ticket had Istanbul as the destination. I found out that there would be a stopover in Bishkek, where a few of us would get off, before the rest continued on to Istanbul. I was worried about my luggage being sent all the way to Istanbul, but it turned out to not be a problem. I had never tried anything like this, but it makes sense when flying between such sparsely visited destinations. The flight was beautiful and I had great views of the Mongolian desert, the Altai Mountains, the vast steppe of Kazakhstan and finally, Kyrgyzstan. Four hours after boarding the plane, I arrived in Bishkek and met my friend Steve at the airport.

Steve and I have travelled together before; we met each other in the Faroe Islands, travelled to Iceland together and met up again in London. This time, we had planned to travel together for a month through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

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Flying into Bishkek

Going by what I had read online before coming to Bishkek, my expectations of the city weren’t high. Basically, people describe Bishkek as this boring city that people only go to to get visas for other countries in Central Asia. While Steve and I were also going to get a visa (to Tajikistan), it wasn’t our only plan in the city. We spent an entire day wandering around the city and while everything is easily seen in a few hours, it’s not because Bishkek is lacking in sights, but because everything is located close by.

I was actually very pleasantly surprised by the amount of sights to see and things to do in Bishkek. It didn’t take us long to see all of the main buildings that are all located in the center of the city:

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The marble-faced Philharmonia Concert Hall
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The City Hall
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The White House – the presidential office of Bishkek
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Ala-Too Square – the main square in Bishkek

After seeing all of the main buildings in the center as well as a hidden Lenin Statue, we went for a stroll in Panfilov Park, which is an amusement park in the city center. I was so surprised to see this area! I don’t know why, but I expected Bishkek to be bland and dull, but it was full of atmosphere! Everywhere, children were running around and playing, people were eating candyfloss (including us) and playing tabletennis and other fun games. I could imagine being young in the city and coming there to hang out every day! I loved this park a lot!

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Steve with our ginormous candyfloss!

Our next stop was the Osh Bazaar, which again was full of life and atmosphere, but unfortunately, the amount of people there was just too much for us to handle. We walked in a loop around it and got out of there as fast as we had gotten in!

We had planned to buy some fruits at the market, but had to give up because of the crowds, but thankfully Bishkek has some decent supermarkets (unlike anywhere else in Central Asia, as we later found out).

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Osh Bazaar – one of the few quiet corners

The next day our plan was to go to the nearby Ala Archa National Park after applying for our visa, but it was raining hard and eventually started thundering and lightning, so after much trouble of even finding a marshrutka (mini bus) to go there, we gave up and went back to the hostel for a lazy day! The weather only got worse, so the national park wouldn’t have been much good going to anyways.

The day after, we continued our travels in Karakol, a quaint town located in the easternmost corner of Kyrgyzstan, with many beautiful places to be explored nearby. Stay tuned!

Here is some info on travelling in Bishkek:

  • There is a marshrutka just outside the airport’s arrivals hall waiting when planes arrive. It takes you to the city center for 40 soms per person, which is way cheaper than a taxi. A taxi costs 500-600 soms from the airport to the city center.
  • Marshrutkas around the city cost just 10 soms per person, which makes walking seem stupid. You can get to the Tajik embassy by marshrutka or catch a taxi for 300 soms.
  • We stayed at Interhouse in the city center and paid 11 USD per night for a double room. It was a very clean and comfortable hostel, but unfortunately, the staff didn’t know much about Bishkek and how to get to the different places around town. There is free wifi, towels and breakfast that changes every morning (sometimes it’s fully vegetarian, otherwise you can ask to get it without meat).
  • The Tourist Information Center in the city center is very helpful and can even exchange money for you.

7 thoughts on “Bishkek: The Dynamic Capital of Kyrgyzstan”

  1. Having lived here for almost 18 years I think that Ann is being somewhat melodramatic. Yes there are huge problems in the country and there are many people who have little. But there are also those who are striving to change the landscape and are doing so successfully, if somewhat slowly. Much happiness and contentment exist here and negative attitudes do not help. Please Ann, go and live in Europe and see what life is like as an immigrant. Believe me European life is not a bed of roses and for many is very tough. There is more true happiness here than you will ever find in Europe, unless of course yourdefinition of happiness is the thickness of your wallet..

    1. Ann does live in Europe though, so I think she knows what she’s talking about as far as that goes.
      Personally, I only saw happy people in Kyrgyzstan and while I definitely realize that people are poorer there than in Europe, I don’t think that matters. Money does not give you a better quality of life. Life is more simple, but I would prefer that over the madness we’re experiencing in Europe at the moment.

      1. Mel, please forgive my for my maybe a bit strict respond to that Mike…I believe I have a right to protect my opinion. Surely, you see life from your own point of view, which I respect hugely, in fact, I always enjoy reading your posts which are so positive and inspiring…I believe you the best representative of Western Europe I know, such a brave and kind girl I have never met! I agree with you about happiness at any cost, but when I see a dying young person who has no money for surgery…I feel a bit different! Money is nothing, just a paper and I do think like that and never chased for money, just sometimes money can help you rescue someone…that’s all I wanted to say that I would like to see Eastern Europe more free from thinking about money, then they can be truly happy! And last thing whenever you live or work, you can be happy only at home…that’s so right! Please forgive me for this words battle!

        1. Don’t worry about it Ann, it’s fine and you’re definitely entitled to give your opinion!
          I can’t say much about this tropic, as I haven’t seen or experienced anything like it, but I do believe you.
          Hopefully we’ll meet someday! 😀

    2. Hello, Mike! As I see you mentioned my comment, thank you, I am actually feel very pleased to know there is a different opinion, I respect yours even more than you think and I partly agree with you, because I know that people in Eastern Europe are happy and very kind, at least many of them. And I also agree that many strive for changes and even are successful. I have to reply you directly, since honesty is the first priority of Eastern Country people, I feel insulted by the statement that my definition of happiness is the thickness of my wallet, I believe nobody gave you a right to even say anything like that…surely, Western habits of word freedom, I suppose. I don’t know where you live and how, but salary of 100 euro (in my country) is so true as that the sky is blue, how about living for such amount of money, paying bills that are higher than it and trying to eat something, huh? Perhaps you know the secret, since you are so sure in yourself. Please share with us, with those melodramatic people…be so kind! If you read my comment carefully I haven’t told that Western Europe is the Paradise, I know it better you think…just what I told that possibilities to earn for a decent living are bigger, people are free to buy food not looking at the prices, and this you call thickness of the wallet…when your kids are hungry…
      Then, you know nothing of life yet, dear boy, how old are you, 18? Do you know what is hard work? I have war in my country, how about that?
      So, please respect my opinion and be kinder to people, to anyone, no matter of which part of the world we live in…Your country wherever it is the most beautiful and charming as well as you are…as anyone. Boy, learn how to respect some others’ opinions, it will help you to take off your “pink glasses”!

  2. Your story about this country is very nice and useful, although I recognized Signs of Red architecture (Communist times) and felt disappointed or, better to say, I recognized the style. All ex-USSR countries are a bit similar, red signs in architecture and lifestyle have deeply settled in our lives. Surely, every country still has own something unique, but also something similar as well. It’s Asia and my country is in Europe, but gosh, I feel sometimes that I am still in Asia! For this reason, I prefer Western Europe more, there I find something what I am lack of here. However, for you as a typical EU citizen this part is particularly exotic, I know it very well. Although, let me open a little secret, you might see in that countries smiling people and sometimes even happy atmosphere, but this is for tourists mostly, the reality is more sad, especially in a rush hour in a public transport where you see many exhausted sad faces who are struggling for survival, believe it’s so sad that you can hardly look at it. Happiness and freedom do not live here. Kyrgysztan and other Asian countries are even worse than mine. Right now I do not talk about politics, I just feel that people cannot change themselves, they get used to always follow what someone said to them and they would not like to think, change and try to act. Very often I feel that we are all sheeps. I would not like to make you sad, I just know more. Here, money problems are so high that you even cannot imagine, you won’t believe that you may have only 100 euro as a salary to live the whole month (net) and nothing else or even less. And nobody in the whole country will mind that you are not able to live for this money, nobody. In such cases even beautiful landscapes do not help!
    I hope I did not make you sad, just wanted to share with you something new!
    Thank you, Mel, I always look forward to reading your posts! Keep on writing!
    Hugs

    1. Oh wow Ann, I had no idea that this was the case. I honestly felt that the happiness that I saw amongst those people was real. It does make me sad, not because you wrote it, but because it’s reality. I’m glad you did write it though, thank you for opening my eyes to this issue. I didn’t realize that the Soviet times still had such a big impact on peoples lives. Kyrgyzstan is supposedly the most liberal country in Central Asia, which I thought that I could feel, but maybe I was just getting it all wrong? :/

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