Day Trip to Burana Tower

Day Trip to Burana Tower

One Spring-like Saturday in April we decided to see what all the buzz was about and head to Burana Tower, located in a small town just east of Bishkek. We took a city marshrutka to the Western Bus Station, where we transferred to a longer-haul marshrutka heading to Tokmok. 45 minutes later, we arrived. The marshrutkas stop a couple kilometers outside of what you might call the central Tokmok. You'll know you're in the right town because they tell you with a 3-story monument. Not to be bested, an older monument across the street…continue reading →

Happy Nooruz 2015!

Nooruz means a lot of things and can be spelled a lot of different ways, but it's effectively the Persian New Year, observed on the vernal equinox (the first day of Spring, for anyone who doesn't speak Medieval English). It's celebrated enthusiastically in most areas with large Muslim populations, and these days it's still a pretty big deal, even if the official calendar doesn't reset. On March 21st, 2015, we got our first taste of Nooruz in Kyrgyzstan. The taste could be described as nutty, slightly sweet--almost like a peanut butter smoothie--and it's called Sumaluk. Beyond that,…continue reading →
A Girl’s Dream: Shopping in Central Asia’s Biggest Bazaar

A Girl’s Dream: Shopping in Central Asia’s Biggest Bazaar

There are hundreds of bazaars along the famed Silk Road, and each one has its own unique charm. The common image is a labyrinthine network of small alleyways and corridors with quaint little stalls selling everything from gemstones to carpets to pre-Soviet antiques. Ever visit Urgut bazaar in Uzbekistan or Urfa market in Turkey? Yeah, that's the idea. Dordoi Bazaar in Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, is a modern bazaar for a modern girl. There’s nothing cute, traditional or charming about it—it’s literally just endless rows of metal shipping containers turned into shops. And with anywhere between…continue reading →
Karakol in Winter

Karakol in Winter

We took advantage of Women's Day weekend to make the 6-hour trip from Bishkek to Karakol, hoping that we'd get a chance to hit the slopes of Karakol Ski Base before the Spring thaw. What we found in the budding traveler's paradise was a mix of rugged provinciality, first-class hospitality, and in early March, lots of mud. As we've come to regard as the norm in Kyrgyzstan, we traveled to Karkol via marshrutka. The journey--approximately 6 hours from Bishkek's eastern bus terminal to Karakol's central station--was surprisingly easy and unexpectedly scenic. The road stayed relatively flat…continue reading →
Running with the Blind

Running with the Blind

The Bishkek Fun Run club meets every Sunday in Ala-Too Square, rain, snow or shine. Not unlike running clubs around the world, the group is half dedicated to exercise and half dedicated to camaraderie, and is comprised of a revolving set of around 25 characters who may or may not show up for the weekly run--depending on health, hangovers, weather, or mood. BFR, however, has a unique angle: about half of its members are blind. Throughout Kyrgyzstan, blind people are almost exclusively dependent on others, and most remain at home through their adulthood. The Bishkek-based Empower…continue reading →
The Karakol Animal Market

The Karakol Animal Market

Talk to a few locals in Karakol and you’re bound to get asked: are you here to visit the animal market on Sunday? This is one of Kyrgyzstan’s largest and most typical livestock markets. It runs once a week, only on Sundays. If you're in Karakol it is not to be missed! The Kyrgyz name for this place is the "Mал Базар" (Mal Bazaar: мал = animal, livestock) and in Russian the "Скотный Рынок" (Skotniy Rynok). We got a ride from the guesthouse and the car pulled up as far as it could go before…continue reading →
Getting to Ala Archa National Park…And Back

Getting to Ala Archa National Park…And Back

Last week we left the smoggy streets of Bishkek behind for the crisp mountain peaks of Ala Archa National Park. Just 30 kilometers from central Bishkek, the park offers city dwellers and visitors open space and fresh air without much hassle. We weren't sure how to get there, so we consulted a number of sources: three Russian-language teachers, two Kyrgyz-language teachers, one Bishkek expat Facebook group, and one travel agent. We figured it out, eventually, and I'll summarize our findings at the end of the post, but the real story here is how we…continue reading →
To Naryn We’ll Go!

To Naryn We’ll Go!

It looks like we'll be spending a good chunk of time in Naryn Oblast (province) over the next several months! What originally brought Joe and me to Kyrgyzstan is my involvement in a pilot project aimed at introducing low-cost environmental field courses in mountain schools in Kyrgyzstan. Click here for more details about the project. In April I'll be heading to Naryn Oblast with the Krygyz Public Foundation Camp Alatoo to visit 30 village schools. Hopefully Joe can come with to document the experience both for CAMP Alatoo and for Pedaling Pictures. If he can't go, he's going…continue reading →
Defender of the Fatherland Day Party

Defender of the Fatherland Day Party

I’ve only been in Bishkek for three weeks, but I’m already feeding men hot dogs dangled from a suspended string. This Monday will be a working holiday for most Kyrgyz in honor of Defender of the Fatherland Day—and on Friday my office had a party. Defender of the Fatherland Day is a truly Soviet creation. It was first observed to mark the date of the creation of the Red (Soviet) Army in 1918. After changing names a few times between Red Army Day, Day of the Red Army and the Navy, and Soviet Army…continue reading →
Moving to Kyrgyzstan is Easy: Part One

Moving to Kyrgyzstan is Easy: Part One

Just a week into our adventure in Kyrgyzstan, it's already apparent that this transition is going to be far easier than expected. First, there's a near absence of the bureaucracy--all too common in the overdeveloped world--that puts hours of waiting rooms and stacks of paper between visiting a place and living in it. Then there's a fully integrated system devoted to making it easy to pay for pretty much anything, from cell phones to gambling debts, at any of hundreds of ATM-like machines around the city. Not least, there's an easy visa system that welcomes foreign visitors rather than…continue reading →