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Arrival in Kyrgyzstan, Stan Number 2

View Central Asia 2019 on Bob Brink's travel map.

May 6

I had asked Po for a wake up call. I had assumed that I would already be up since I usually have trouble sleeping when I have an early flight, waking up every hour or so to check the time. I also had my phone alarm set. But I had a great sleep, and Po phoned just before my alarm was to go off. It took me several seconds to even figure out how to answer the phone. I then had what seemed to be half of Pouch Cove talking to me. I doubt that I said anything that made sense.

That got me up. I finished my packing. When I got down to the lobby, I found most of our group already there. The hotel had made breakfast boxes for us, big boxes which everyone held in their laps.

I had to do something about my feet. Yesterday I had talked to Michael about my blisters, and he had given me a piece of moleskin. He said to just put it on top and leave it alone. But I think the piece that he gave me was too old and likely not big enough, so the now two pieces did not stay on. I mentioned the problem to Gaukhar so that I might be able to get something in Bishkek. Of course, I had been reading about blisters on various websites. The consensus there seemed to be to leave them alone, not to drain them. I was beginning to question that. (Sorry, this topic could get graphic.)

We arrived really early at the airport. I did not check my suitcase, which afterwards seemed a bit silly, since I was the only one with only a carry on, so it certainly would not save any time at the other end. We went to airport café where Gaukhar bought us all coffee to go with our box breakfasts. I called Po and put it on video so that I could show Bella to everyone. I doubt that they cared all that much, but I missed her (and Po).


I sat next to Rita on the plane. She is the traveller and travel planner in her family. She had travelled extensively over the years before she met Silvio. Now Silvio is a willing travel partner. She just tells him to be packed and ready to go. He has no idea where they are going. He appears to be the most laid-back traveller in history, not saying much and always smiling, as long as he can grab a smoke break now and again.

I took this photo as we left Astana, the very flat steppe.

We could see mountains as we approached Bishkek. We had left the steppe. It looked very beautiful, very green as well.


After clearing immigration, I was the first out the door, but Michael went left and met Begaim first, our guide for Kyrgyzstan and now tour leader. She will be with us to the end of the trip.

I looked over and saw that Thomas had a beer. It seems that beer is his normal breakfast.

Begaim had been told about my problems. We stopped at the little pharmacy in the airport where she bought me some tape and gauze.

Bishkek is very green. It is not like Astana at all (of course few places in the world are). There are many older buildings, dating back to “Soviet Times” as Begaim and Gaukhar call it. The mountains make for a beautiful backdrop.

We went straight to the Hotel Plaza. It was another great place. My room is big with a sitting area and a view of the mountains.

I had understood that we were eating in the hotel so appeared downstairs without my pack or even my camera. I was wrong. The restaurant was not far, but it was a short walk and from there we would do a walk in the town. It was obvious to everyone that I was not ready for the afternoon walk. I dutifully retreated to my room to get my pack. My feet were really hurting on the walk to restaurant.

The lunch was being hosted by Luca and Aijan, the owners of Kalpak Travel. They provided us with another amazing meal, great food and tons of it. They live in Switzerland during the winter and Bishkek the rest of the time. Luca is Swiss; Aijan is from here. We heard all about how they started the business, which started with arranging for his family to come to their wedding.

I think we are all overwhelmed with the service that has been provided by Kalpak. It all started with Luca replying to all our emails very promptly. He arranged our visas and put together customized trip itineraries with all the contact information. So far, our hotels and guides have been outstanding. Then there was the nice touch of a gift waiting for us in Astana.

After lunch we headed out for a walk in the centre of Bishkek. Aijan came along. One of my first photographs was of two men wearing Kalpak hats. We had all seen Luca in his hat. He, like all Westerners, look a bit silly in the hat, but the locals look great. (No offense, Luca, I have already posted a FB photo of me wearing the hat and holding an eagle. The hat got more comments.)


Ala Too Square was built in 1984 and originally had a large statue of Lenin and was known as Lenin Square. That was changed at independence in 1991. Lenin was moved in 2003.


The replacement statue was itself replaced by a statue of Manas. Manas is a heroic figure who fought to end the oppression of Kyrgyz and established their homeland.



The square was the site of protests in 2005 which forced Askar Akayev, Kyrgyzstan's first president, to flee the country and later resign from office. Kyrgyzstan’s history with presidents is totally unlike the other countries of Central Asia. In my Kazakhstan posts I had mentioned that Nursultan Nazarbayev had been the president since independence, only resigning a few months ago. Kyrgyzstan’s previous president, Atambaev, followed the constitution and left office due to a single six-year term limitation.

We will see that the Kazakhstan history is the model for the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia.

We found Lenin.

We walked through Oak Park. I found that my feet hurt less when walking on the grass, so kept taking shortcuts to catch up to the group.


We reached Victory Square. There was an old Soviet truck beside the memorial. At first glance I thought the truck was part of the display.


We now had the option to keep walking or be taken back to the hotel. Lynley and I opted for the return, she to swim and go for a coffee. I just could not walk anymore. I went back to my room and took a short nap, reviewed my photos and called Po. I tried to go out and walk on my own but had to return. I was beyond frustrated.

Warning – Graphic Description I decided to go for surgery, which is what I said to Begaim when we met in the lobby before dinner. I planned to drain my blisters. Thomas was there when I told her. He offered his extra needle. He was surprised that I had not already done it. Begaim had bought some new band aids, better than the ones from the airport. I will still need those.

Luckily it was a short walk to the restaurant. Luca and Aijan hosted this meal as well. We were in a back room. Bread and salads were already on the table. We have learned that they are part of every meal. I really love the Boorsok, the deep fried bread. We ate our bread and salads and then lentil soup before our entertainment came in.


We had been expected our seventh member, Evonne. She arrived with an American couple she had been visiting. She was introduced. Her friends are living in Bishkek and are the parents of her son-in-law. Evonne is also Swiss from the German speaking part.

After the great music we were served lots of great food, spicy beef and chicken. We learned that the Kyrgyz custom is to have food on your plate at end of the meal. It shows that the host fed you well. There is also a tea preparation routine with tea poured into a cup and then back into the pot several times.

At the end we said goodbye to Luca. Aijan will come with us for the Kyrgyzstan portion.

When we got back to the hotel, Thomas went up to his room to get the needle. Begaim was really worried about my plans. She wanted to get me a lighter or matches for sterilization. The hotel had alcohol, which I already had. There were no matches or lighter, which I had no intention to use anyway.

I talked to Po, took a shower and then went to work. I had immediate relief. I was optimistic that walking would be better in the morning.

I debated whether to put any of the things about my feet in my blog. But, as I have all along, I included them, since it shows what was happening, the great and the mundane (and the pain) are all part of the travel experience.

Posted by Bob Brink 07:46 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Tagged kyrgyzstan bishkek

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Really enjoying following your adventures and sore feet on this trip! Although the tour sounds like a good way to get around do you ever think you could have gone and travelled independantly? Keep the post coming!

by katieshevlin62

Katie, The only place where independent travel would be really difficult or maybe impossible was Turkmenistan since they are reluctant to give visas. The tour got us to some out of the way places which would have been hard on your own. But many of the places could be done independently. You would not see as much but would have more interaction with the people, which I know is your way of travelling.

by Bob Brink

Katie, We met a Dutch couple in Tajikistan who had rented a car good for all 5 countries. They were waiting on their Turkmenistan visa for which he had even shaved his beard. Supposedly they do not like beards on younger men. They were fine with us old guys having beards.

by Bob Brink

Kalpak sounds like an excellent option for a tour in this region - I will remember the name should we decide to visit (although as You know, we have already been to Uzbekistan). I await the next installment of your blisters story with interest - my guess is that you will have been proved right to have drained them. I would have done the same, and even sooner than you did!

by ToonSarah

Sarah, Kalpak is fantastic.You may have been to Uzbekistan, but the other Stans are quite different. I might be giving away my ending, but Uzbekistan was not my favorite.

by Bob Brink

Interesting! We may have to consider a 'Stans minus Uzbekistan' trip one day ;)

by ToonSarah

Sarah, I highly recommend it!

by Bob Brink

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