Have you every tried to travel spontaneously? I mean very spontaneous? Without any plan, without any itinerary and the only thing you want to, is getting away from your usual routine and be out of your comfort zone for a little while?
This just happened to me last Eid Holiday. You see, originally, in our company we were only given one day-Eid break (while the rest of the UAE will be planning for a week-long break, we will be planning on what to accomplish at work for the whole week). Good thing, my boss realized that we cannot set any project meetings and no one was actually working in Dubai during this time. While expecting to continue working for the rest of the week, my boss announced the sweetest announcement ever—-> “let us all take the rest of the week off”
Eureeeeka!! GOLD MINE! You see, I have been dreaming, I was actually thinking of going to Turkey, Sri Lanka or India (to see the Taj Mahal), but because I thought we never will get a break (but still I have faith), I was not able to apply for a Turkey Visa, all Sri Lanka flights were all full and flights to Delhi became very expensive.
I thought to myself, where should I go then? I then remember that I have a Kyrgyz friend who was actually in Kyrgyzstan that time. I immediately messaged him in ‘watsapp’ (thank God for watsapp right?) and while waiting I searched for flights going there. I saw a Fly Dubai flight which was PERFECT!——-when my friend replied, I immediately packed my trusty Terra 45 North Face backpack and I was ready to fly!…whew that was quick!
Believe it or not, Kyrgyzstan was actually not that foreign to me as to others, I have friends who already went there for a short trip and as mentioned before, I have a local Kyrgyz friend who’s working here in Dubai.—-Trying to convince myself more that my decision was right, I consulted a number of travel bloggers and read what they can say about this country. To my delight (and surprise-yes I was surprised), they are all saying that Kyrgyzstan is one of the best place that they have ever visited.
And now is my time to find out!
I arrived in Manas Airport on board Fly Dubai on a cold cold (very cold) early morning. I was advised not to wear shorts. but—I want to be comfortable on the plane, so, as a consequence, I was trying my best to endure the cold weather in the city of Bishkek.
I met a local man in the airport while I was applying for my Visa and assured me that I will like Kyrgyzstan and the hospitality of the people, although he warned me that people there doesn’t really smile (that much), but inside they have the biggest smile in their hearts.
A tourist Visa fee is 70USD.
With the challenge of finding my friend in the crowd of love ones waiting at the arrival gate (believe me it was a challenge because at first glance they all looked alike—same thing for us Filipinos though), fortunately, my friend found me. I was so happy seeing him, I thought I will be staying for a long time outside the airport wearing a summer shorts on a cold morning.
He then introduced me to two of his friends, Artyk and Iskender (they are cousins). On our way to the city, my friend Askhat told me that I will be staying at his friends’ house. WHAAT? I was a bit surprised but it didn’t take that long before I accepted the terms, besides, I have stayed with strangers before, in hostels and in bnbs. (I just need to trust Askhat on this).
Arriving at the place that I will call home, I immediately felt the very famous Kyrgyzstan Hospitality that I have read in almost every travel blog about this country. I was ushered to my room, served a semi- dinner/breakfast (which we ate a plov traditionally on one plate—I love it) and offered a freshly brewed tea. Now this is HOME. ^^ … time to sleep first before we start our escapade for the day.
Today, we decided to tour the city! The view from my window was spectacular. Line of trees everywhere and mountains (hills) embracing the whole place. I think I found a place to retire hahaha.
Before heading out, we first had breakfast. We had two types of bread, the borsok, which is a small rectangular fried bread and another one is a traditional bread called lepeshka. We had two options, either to dip the bread in a bowl of homemade blackberry jam (yum right?!) or topped it with cheese and a slice of local sausages. Well, I tried both (they told me that there are really no rules).
I love how fresh the jam tasted. Artyk told me that it was made by his mom, even the breads were home made.
Aside from Artyk and Iskender, I was entertained by their nephew—I call him Ben 10. He likes Ben 10 so much that he was always in action mode. Doing all fighting stunts that of course kids love on doing. He was so adorable and very smart (and prefers candies over an apple—>oh how I love be a kid again).
Now we are ready to head to the city to meet my dear friend Askhat.
We came across a Russian man wearing a traditional Kyrgyz hat selling soviet medallions along the sidewalk. As the medallions look so valuable (or historical) I thought of getting a few, it was not that expensive, I still don’t know what I will do with them, but I am very happy with my first souvenir.
Our city walk led us to Ortosay, it is a famous local market in Bishkek. You can find a lot of local delicacies and specialties here. From the big rounded lepeshka (which I tried at home) to a very freshly squeezed pomegranate juice (a friend of mine told me to try this, and I did) . A cup of pomegranate juice costs 30 soms.
After wandering in the market and window shopped like the locals, we head on to the city center. Our next stop was the Duboviy Park, which means Oak Park. It was a small park, which means, you can really go around it and not take most of your time (if you are in a hurry), but if you don’t need to rush, it is a beautiful place to just sit down and enjoy the beautiful autumn weather.
Unlike some of the mega cities that I have visited, the center of Bishkek really means that it is ‘the center’. From the famous park, everything seems to be a few minutes walk away, government offices, universities and the National Historical Museum which was our next stop.
I cannot say that this is the best museum that I have seen, it is actually very small, but very helpful in understanding this nation’s history. Thanks to my tour guides (*wink*) for really explaining me every historical period shown in the museum.
One advice I can give, if you don’t have a local friend to assist you, you should get a museum tour guide (I am not sure if they have an audio guide available, but I didn’t see anyone who was using it).
As expected, night time brought a very cold breeze from the mountains, so before wrapping up our city tour, we met our friend Tina who is a Filipino living in Kyrgyzstan. It’s really unbelievable that Filipinos are everywhere! Because it was very cold, she suggested for us to grab a hot chocolate drink which perfect for the continually dropping temperature.
We went to the closest Begemot, an exclusive fast food chain that can rival McDonalds anytime. There’s actually no McDonalds, KFC and Starbucks in Kyrgyzstan, only Begemot!!!
Before we had dinner, we passed by the Kyrgyz National University, this is where two of my new friends graduated and they are very proud of it. They said that this is the prime university in Kyrgyzstan (just like my university back in the Philippines ^^ )
Now with all that walking I became really hungry and I can’t wait to taste what an authentic Kyrgyzstan cuisine tastes like.
We went to a local restaurant named Faiza. I let them be in charge of the orders and I just sat and waited.
First the waitress served chai (tea) and a juice called kampot. Kampot tasted like a peach flavored iced tea, which actually I just realized that the whole day I didn’t drink plain water, just hot tea and iced tea (I am starting to think that this is their version of drinking water ^^).
Next served was the famous lapeshka, then followed by a noodle dish called lagman. It is like a special Chinese noodles with a lot of meat and red bell peppers. I liked it! Very filling, especially if you accompany it with a bread.
Laslty, I thought we will have dessert, but what came is like a big samosa or an empanada-ish looking food. It is called samsa. As what I mentioned a while ago, it is like an empanada with beef filling.
It was very tasty, although one piece is too much fatty for me, I can feel the oil passing inside my body system.
All in all, it was a good meal and very affordable. We ended up paying 1,214 soms for a meal enough for five people.
My first day in Kyrgyzstan was a success. I must admit, deciding to go on a spontaneous trip was a bit nerve wrecking. Not knowing what are the things waiting at your destination makes it scary but still very exciting.
I thank God that I met wonderful new friends who helped me out as I fall in love with this country. Our next adventure will be a great one. It involves bikes + mountains and apples——OMG, good luck to us!