My dad is living proof that the travel bug is transported via DNA strands. No really, he, if anyone infected me with the deep deep fascination to explore new places. And so, it was really only a matter of time before we both ventured off on our first trip together in years.
“So what does the perfect father-daughter trip look like?” you might ask.
I’ve got the answer for you. Here’s a hint: it starts with an “M” and ends with “ongolia”.
I know, it’s a tough one. But the answer is Mongolia. But why there? Well, since I hadn’t been before I find this to be reason good enough for me to go, and so we went…
And then comes the next question… Since you’re going to Mongolia, you might as well make a pit stop at one of the “stan” countries, no?
The answer was a very extremely 100% confident “yes-definitely-absolutely-yes”!
Our pit stop included Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Now, I highly recommend this route to anyone traveling from Europe as the flights are pretty long and Bishkek provided a great pause between jumping on the different flights.
So, what is there to do in Bishkek?
A lot actually. However, not having very much time on our hands (only one day) we were able to at least check out a few spots in the city as well as do some hiking in a nearby national park, Ala-Archa, which provided an unexpected natural oasis away from the roughness of the city followed by a visit to Osh Bazaar.
Getting there from the airport
Both taxis and buses are readily available right outside the airport. Taxis will even take you directly to Ala-Archa. However, as we wanted to check out the city before heading out, we opted for the bus instead. We got off around Dubovy Park, about 2 blocks from Osh Bazaar.
1. Strolling around the city
Walking around Bishkek you are immediately thrown into a dim, eerie almost ghost-like atmosphere. Soviet monuments (especially around Dubovy Park and Ala-Too square) are constant reminders of the solemn history that hangs in the air. This will undoubtably be one of your first impressions, among other things like finding out the unusual elasticity of toilet paper, bread and the quirky and shockingly over-friendly attitude of the locals. No, seriously. Emphasis on over-friendly. Ask about a location and people will literally take 20 minutes out of their day to walk you there in person.
2. Osh Bazaar
Markets are always the beating heart of any city and Osh Bazaar was no different. Bursting with people, fresh-baked pirogi scent filling the air, sounds from accordions setting the melody of the space, contrasted by the hustle and bustle of people buying their groceries and funky top hats, it’s a raw introduction to the city. And should I mention, we were definitely the only tourists there. And the best part about it? I found my mecca in their dry fruits and nut section. Fun fact: Kyrgyzstan has the world’s largest walnut forest. Safe to say I stocked up…
3. Ala-Archa National Park
As a fan of traveling by foot, and always having a yearning to visit mountains, Ala-Archa was a perfect day trip from Bishkek. Simply catch a taxi outside Osh Bazaar for around 1,000 som. There are buses as well but they don’t depart very frequently and only take you to the park entrance which is really a few miles from the actual trail head. So, in the interest of time we threw on our packs and opted for a taxi.
Ala-Archa is such a serene oasis only 20 minutes outside the city. With snow-capped mountains, a simple hostel that looked like the inspiration for the Toblerone chocolate bar, waterfalls and blue skies, it calls for both day and overnight hikes. Oh, and the president also has a house here.
Once you get there there is a vague trail map, and the trail itself is somewhat marked out. Note though, that the steepness is no joke. After hiking at a 45-degree angle for more than two hours our calves were screaming in fury. We never made it to the waterfall though. Instead, we were too distracted by the beautiful landscape and decided to sit down, cook some lunch with a view and make an attempt at curing our jet lag with a nap. A very sound choice.
So there you go! Even with only 12 hours to spare in Kyrgyzstan I found myself in awe of the country, the city and the people. Of course, this amount of time doesn’t do any place justice but at least it gave me a sample of the country and fueled my interest in exploring more of the “-stans”! Keep on reading to find out more about my adventures in Mongolia!
“Cool story, bro. But how much did it cost?”
Taxi from airport to Bishkek center: 380 som per person, one way
Taxi from Bishkek to Ala-Archa (includes park entrance fee if you ask the driver to take you the whole way there): 1,000 som
Taxi to Bishkek from Ala-Archa: 1,200 som
1kg dried fruits and 1kg of nuts at Osh Bazaar: 500 som (about 80 som per half kilo of each)
One pirogi at Osh Bazaar: 15 som
One pirogi at airport: 20 som (about 33% inflation for airport prices :s)
Three 1.5l bottles of water, three pieces of fresh bread and a packet pf matches: 98 som
Grand total: 2,175.50 som per person