Category: Kyrgyzstan

Dec 21 2009

Finally China, Irkeshtam to Kashgar, China

The weather was very cold up at Irkeshtam, around -10C.

Goodbye to the truck that brought me up

The border only opens at 9am. Walked to the border at 9am and saw the Osh-Kashgar bus waiting behind the trucks.

The bus

After getting my passport stamped at the Krygyz side, got on another truck driven by a friendly Uygur guy to Chinese passport control area 1km away.
Crossing the border

There were a few young Chinese border guards, they were quite friendly and chatted with me. A guard spot checked my bag, looked over the photos on my camera and asked about the type of books I have with me. Security is still tight at the border.

Got back on a truck and traveled around 3km to the Chinese immigration checkpoint. Road on the Chinese side is better and buildings look nicer. When I got to the hall, I heard a familiar Chinese pop song and felt a sense of familiarity with the country after visiting a few non English speaking countries for the passed months. The Chinese border guards told me that I am the first Malaysian who is crossing the pass this year and maybe the last one for the year.

Finally China, this will be my 6th time in China and my first backpacking trip.

I was pretty impressed with the efficiency of the guards. At the counter, there was even a machine with 5 buttons to rate the quality of work of the immigration officer, there are options such as if the officeris too slow or rude… This was so much different from Central Asian countries where border guards were looking for ways to get bribes.

Got through the Chinese border at 10am which is considered quite smooth fast for crossing Irkeshtam pass.
Irkeshtam Pass at the Chinese side

Got on a small truck at 10.30am towards Kashgar (80 yuan~USD$11.5).
Small truck to Kashgar

Snow capped mountain

Mountain goats

Wild horse

Horse carrying hay

Stopped at a small town for lunch and there were only Uygur people at the cafe. I remembered an advice from someone saying not to sound Han Chinese so I spoke some broken Russian I learned from the passed weeks with the owner instead.

The truck driver then told me he was not going to Kashgar, so he put me on another taxi to AhTuShi then got on another taxi to Kashgar. Finally, arrived at Kashgar around 4pm after a 48 hours journey on multiple vehicles from Almaty.

Stayed at Hotel Tuman (30 yuan~USD$7.4 for a room with shared bathroom). 4 out of the passed 5 nights, I had been sleeping on different kinds of vehicles. 2 nights on an overnight bus, an overnight taxi ride and a cold night on a truck so I am looking forward to a sleep on a real bed.

My 30 Yuan room

Good to know that the place I am staying is able to resist bacteria..lol

Kashgar is one of the reason I thought about going through the silk road. I thought it’s an old, traditional caravan town but how wrong was I. The city of around 500,000 people is quite modern and well organized. Most of the buildings in the city looked new and even in Western China I can feel that Kashgar is a very enterprising and capitalist city. There were all kinds of shops, restaurants, many hotels and internet cafes everywhere. People in China are very entrepreneurial and China is sort of a capitalist country under a communist government. However I didn’t expect Kashgar to be the same way before I got here. It’s like if you are planning to open a business, someone might have already thought about it before.

There are many internet cafes in Kashgar but the whole Xinjiang provice can’t get on the internet since the riot in Urumqi in July. Only XinJiang’s internal websites are accessible. Some people might be horrified at the censorship and thought that communist China is violating people’s right to obtain information. However, I don’t think it’s that bad and controlling information is one way to prevent people from spreading rumours and inciting violence. Internet is an double edged sword and it’s easy for even an individual to spread wrong information and to create havoc. It’s also not possible to send sms using cell phone.

China has only 1 time zone but Xinjiang has sort of their own unofficial time which is 2 hours earlier. Even though most signs are in Chinese but not all Uygur understand Mandarin and Uygur speaks Mandarin with a foreigner accent.

Uygur meat seller

Id Kah Mosque

Uygur fast food

City View

Fried noddles for dinner (9 Yuan~USD$1.3)

Being adventurous and tried some lamb internal organs, I didn’t even know which part did I eat

Uygur family

hmm..the logo is a little similar to McDonalds

Didn’t expect Kashgar having a playboy store

Outdoor dancing at 8pm Xinjiang time, 10pm Beijing time. It’s around -5C but still many outdoor activities going on.

Outdoor badminton

Outdoor gym

Outdoor Ball room dancing

Square

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Dec 20 2009

Osh to Irkeshtam Pass, Kyrgyzstan

Krygyzstan is still a poor country,
A typical house in the village

there aren’t any big industry in the country. On the road, I saw just animals husbandary but people here loves Mercedes and Audis, those cars were everywhere.

The taxi dropped some people off at Jalal Abad and the driver put me in another taxi to Osh.
View on the way from Jalal Abad

Arrived at Osh around 12pm and altogether, the ride from Bishkek to Osh took 13 hours.

There are a few options going from Osh to Kashgar. To Irkeshtam pass it’s around 240 km from Osh and another 250 kms from the border to Kashgar. Asked around for buses from Osh to Kashgar but no one seems to know about it. Later, I found out that there is another new bus station at the north part of town.
New Long Distance bus station in Osh

Took a cab there since I am rushing for time, paid the driver slightly more since he seemed like a good guy. Found out that the bus from Osh to Kashgar

runs only twice a week, Sunday and Thursday 8pm. The bus ticket cost USD$70+100Som.

There are also travel agencies that will arrange transporation from Osh till Irkeshtam pass for USD$180 per car. Usually they will leave in the day, stay overnight at Sary Tash then head to the border the next day. The road to Irkeshtam is very bad so I guess that’s why it’s so expensive.

Finally, decided to take a shared taxi to Sary Tash at 2.30pm,

managed to get a price of 400 Som~USD$9 after some haggling.

Along the way up the mountains, there were all kinds of animals on the road
Lambs

Cows

Horses

Scenary

Got to a cafe in the mountain

at 6.30pm for dinner, had lamp soup (100 Som~USD$2), this is my first meal for the day.

There were some truck drivers and the taxi driver helped me communicate to them that I need to get to the border. One driver allowed me to get on his truck.
Krygyz’s truck drivers

Tajiks and Krygyz drivers rest stop.

Tajiks look like people from Iran and Krygyzs look a little like Mongol and they sat separately from each other.

The road up the mountain is very bad and bumpy. Normal cars will have problem getting to the pass. Finally, got to Irkeshtam pass at 11.30pm. The driver slept in a guesthouse and I paid him my leftover Krygyz money to sleep in the truck.

It was so cold sleeping in the truck up in the mountain and I almost froze.

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Dec 19 2009

Back to Osh, Krygyzstan

Took bus 120 back to Balaholka

to ask about buses to Urumqi. The bus to Urumqi will only leave Sunday night and not many seats left. Decided to take the route to Kashgar intead of going to Urumqi first. Mainly because I am curious about crossing the Irkeshtam pass from Kyrgyzstan to China. Irkeshtam border crossing is up in the mountains and it’s more challenging to cross the pass than to take an overnight bus to Urumqi. If I do that, I can probably get to both Kashgar and Urumqi a day earlier and don’t have to fly from Urumqi to Kashgar.

Took bus 141 back to Ulitsa Dostyk. As a reminder for me, bus 120 and 141 go to Balkaholka.

Visited KIMEP University. I was planning to visit the finance faculty and asked about teaching opportunities but the university was closed for holiday.

Why Teach at KIMEP?

Started my long journey to Kashgar at 4pm. Took bus 65 to Sayram bus station and waited an hour for the minibus to Bishkek to be full before heading out. It’s a 4 hours bus ride to Bishkek and got there at 10pm. (1200 Tenge~$USD8)

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Took a taxi to the shared taxi stand for Osh (100 Som). I only take the cab because it’s late and I am rushing for time. Again, a taxi driver tried to scam me by wanting more money. I have been in Bishkek just last week so I know how much does a short ride cost. It’s kind of funny that I had to hold tight to my 200 Som, grabbed his 100 Som before letting go my money.

Got on a shared taxi to Osh around 11pm (1200 Som ~USD$25). It’s a little more than I paid from Osh to Bishkek the last time. The driver drove so slow and he looked so sleepy. I wanted to shake him so bad since I wanted to get to Osh before 10am in the morning.

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Dec 10 2009

Bishkek to Almaty, Kazakhstan

Dec 10th

Went to the Kazakhstan embassy in the morning to get back my passport. Took 4 marshrutkas to the embassy because I got on a wrong marshrutka. It’s funny that the guy in the embassy still remembered me since he didn’t give me receipt when I submited my passport.

Bishkek

Met Farizat, a friend I met few days ago at the American University in Central Asia and she brought me a restaurant which has one of the best laghman called Faiza (take bus 35 towards the north west part of the city, on Jibek Jolu).

Went to Tsum (meaning central department store in Russia), a big department store to find someone who can fix my camera but unfortunately that person was not there.

I planned to go to Almaty the same day after getting my passport, so took bus 35 to the bus station at 2.30pm and waited for 2 hours for the minibus to be full before leaving for Almaty (4 hours, 200km, 300 Som~USD$7).

After an hour on the minibus, we reached the border of Krygyzstan and Kazakhstan. Crossing the land border of Krygyzstan-Kazakhstan wasn’t that difficult and was quite fast. Arrived at Almaty Sayran bus station at 9pm. I didn’t realized that it was Sayran bus station until later. Since the public transportation system in Almaty shut down after 9pm, I took a taxi to the 3rd Dormitory which was listed as the cheapest option under lonely planet. It’s actually a university dorm which is open for travellers.

I made a silly mistake and paid the driver 4000 tenge~USD$26 (1USD~150 Tenge) instead of 400 tenge that was agreed upon. He didn’t say anything and I even thanked that guy for the ride. I realized my mistake when the dormitory receptionist told me to pay her 1000 tenge~USD$6.70 for the first night. I immediately rushed out but the driver was gone. This reminded me of a Japanese trader who bought stocks for the wrong price, with more zeros than the correct price.

Met some Chinese students at the hostel. They are not Han Chinese, but Chinese Kazakhs who live in China. In Chinese, they are called Ha.
Chinese Kazakh family
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There was an uprising against Russia in 1916 when Russia tried to mobilized Kazakhs for World War I. Many Kazakhs moved to China in around 1916 after Russia violently surpressed the Kazakhs uprising and killed hundread thousand people.

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Dec 09 2009

Arashan to Bishkek, Krygyzstan

Dec 9th

It was snowing the whole day today. Started the journey down from Arashan at 10am. However, the van broke down half way and had to hike 3 hours down to the village.

Car Broke down

Hike down

In normal circumstances, I should able to get a small refund if the car broke down but the hostel owner blamed the driver. A lesson I learned was if possible, always pay later.

Got to the bus station at around 4pm and took a shared taxi back to Bishkek (450 Som~USD$10). After spending around a week in Kyrgyzstan, I would say most people here are not that friendly. However, met a friendly lady on the taxi who can speak English with her son. She even taught me a few Russian words.

Arrived in Bishkek around 11.30pm. Went to Hotel Semetei but it’s full, so I walked to Sabrek guesthouse. No one answered the door so I had to took a taxi to Hotel Ak Say for a 6 beds dorm at the north part of town (250 Som~USD$6). It’s low season now, so there wasn’t anyone at the dorm like most hostels I stayed at for the passed few days.

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Dec 08 2009

Karakol, Krygyzstan

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Russian Orthodox Church
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Jashilik Bazaar
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Took a bus to Pristan and visited the Przewalski museum.
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It’s around 30 minutes ride (10 Som). Przewalski is a famous Russian traveller during 1850s that made 4 expeditions around Central Asia, China and the far east.
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On the bus back to Karakol
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Karakol is considered the 3rd biggest city in Krygyzstanand is the adminstrative center for the Lake Issyk Kol region. The city has a population of less than 100,000 people. The city is quite small and it’s easy to walk around. There weren’t many tourist at this time because the weather is quite cold now.
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Stopped by the tourist information center and they mentioned that I am the first tourist that dropped by for the passed few days.

Krygyz Kids playing
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At at Dinara cafe recommended by the people from the tourist info center. Had Alsyhanfu (cold noodles)
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and Ganfan (rice with vegetables and meat) for lunch (120 Som~USD$2.80, Karakol food)

Ak Tilek Bazaar
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In the evening, the owner of Yak Hostel persuaded me to join his tour to Altyn Arashan. I was not keen on going for the trip because it’ll be just me. From Uzbekistan to Krygyzstan, most places I stay, I am the only traveller and haven’t met many tourists. HOwever, later I decided to go up the mountain mainly because Altyn Arashan is sort of a must do activity in Krygyzstan which is famous for its mountain and hot spring.

He gave me a discount of around 1700 Som~USD$38 which included transportation, food and lodging for the trip.

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Dec 07 2009

Altyn Arashan, Krygyzstan

Dec 8th

Bought a used H&M flea sweater for 100 Som~USD$2.5. Valentin, the owner of the hostel brought me to his house in his motorbike,
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he has all kinds of animals in his house, Yaks, Lhamas, chickens…

Lhamas
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Closeup shot
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Ate Dongan food at a small cafe, Ashlanfu
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There are many Dongan people in Kyrgyzstan. Dongans are Chinese Muslims that moved out from China many years ago.

Got on a 4 wheel van at 12pm towards Altyn Arashan. There were 9 people together in the van, they were were Valentin’s friends and workers. He wanted me to go for the trip so I can pay for the food and gas for the trip (1000 Som for the driver and 700 Som for lodging and food). The road was pretty rough up the mountains and it took 2 hours for the 25km trip. Half way through, they had to put chain over the wheel so the van won’t slip.

My Olympus camera fell from my pocket and was broken so I wasn’t able to take many photos of the nice scenery.

Up to Arashan

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Spent time in the cottage
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and went to the hot spring later in the evening. There a guy taught me that it’s healthy to put snow over the body after spending some time in the hot water. He even suggested to jump into the cold water. I think the weather was around -5C.

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Dec 06 2009

Bishkek to Karakol, Krygyzstan

Met some travelers at a café and exchanged information.
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Took bus 48 to the bus station which is located at the north west part of the city. Then took the 3pm bus to Karakol (around 400 Km, 8 hours, 250 Som~USD$6).
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I was kind of worried on the bus because Karakol should be on the east part of Bishkek but my compass kept showing me the bus is going to the west. There is another city called Karakul on my map and I thought I got on the wrong bus. Then I thought maybe my compass might be wrong because of some other magnetic influences.
Arrived at Karakol around 11pm and took a taxi to Yak Hostel.
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Dec 05 2009

Bishkek 2nd day, Krygyzstan

Dec 5th
Visited American University in Central Asia.
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Threre is an Indiana Univeristy banner on the wall, not sure why IU.
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Wedding
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Dordoy bazaar which is the largest bazaar in Central Asia.

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Bought my cap
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They sell all kinds of stuffs here. There are many Chinese speaking people and like most wholesale market, there are Chinese wholesalers.
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Walked around and found out that there was a Ballet/Opera/Play (70 Som~USD$1.5).
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Dec 04 2009

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Dec 4th

Woke up from the taxi
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Since today is Friday, getting a Kazakhstan visa is top priority for me. Took a taxi to Kazakhstan embassy located at Mira street first thing in the morning.
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I tried to get a transit visa but the embassy won’t give out transit visa unless I have a prove of onward travel arrangement. They required photocopies of visa, passports and bank vouchers. After getting all the required documents, returned back to the consulate and the person in charged asked me to come back on Monday evening to collect my passport. The consulate doesn’t provide express service and a 30 days tourist visa cost USD$30.

The embassy is located at the south of the city so took a marshrutka to the city center and got a room at Hotel Semetei (900 Som~USD$20).
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There weren’t many options for accommodation in Bishkek, most of the places recommended in lonely planet were out of date.

City pics
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Night View
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Went to Golden Bull recommended in the guide book and met some Kyrgyz friends.

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