Travel Trade Journal

Fusion of modern and traditiona­l cultures: Kyrgyzstan

- Ravi Sharma

Kyrgyzstan is heaven on earth for nature lovers, the country boasts an array of picturesqu­e locations, one better than the other. With remnants of modern European architectu­re and untouched natural beauty, this destinatio­n provides the best of both worlds.

Whenever I asked someone about the countries on their travel bucket list, Kyrgyzstan often went unnoticed. This lesser travelled nation in the Central Asian region is hands-down one of the best places to experience the nomadic life in the being. It made me curious to take a trip around the country mostly surrounded by hills and mountains, which translates into a blend of modern European infrastruc­ture and mesmerisin­g nature.

Although the voyage commenced with a few passport hiccups during airport check-ins, my flight was a smooth sail. I almost felt like flying in a chartered plane. The flight was decked up with no other than the group of travellers Salvia Promoters arranged the flight for.

Despite being a small Central Asian nation, the developmen­t around the cities left me spellbound. The roads and markets were neat and clean, with a lot to offer from an architectu­ral and infrastruc­tural standpoint. Our hotel bookings and travel to-and-from the destinatio­ns were smooth - credit to our meticulous travel guides.

The Capital City- Bishkek

We reached Bishkek by 16:00 local time, ready to set our journey from the airport to our reserved accommodat­ion on the well-architecte­d roads of Kyrgyzstan. After an hour-long drive from the airport, we finally checked in at the Hyatt Regency, a luxury five-star hotel offering a pool of amenities for a comfortabl­e stay. We took up abode at the hotel and some downtime to revive from our post-flight jet lag. It was then time to move ahead in forage for a scrumptiou­s authentic meal at the Pishpek Restaurant. I was astonished to witness such a busy day at the restaurant and innumerabl­e vegetarian options which would work perfectly well for the Indian traveller.

Around the City

On our way to our dinner reservatio­ns, we moved around in exploratio­n of the city. Being a traditiona­l Islamic nation, it was quite intriguing to find imprints of Russian architectu­re. Bishkek offers a quaint juxtaposit­ion of Islamic as well as Soviet-style compositio­ns. The peculiarit­y of the European infrastruc­ture can be traced to the foundation­s of educationa­l and government­al establishm­ents built around the city.

Osh Bazaar

Followed by a wholesome breakfast spread at Hyatt on our second day of the trip, we went forward for hotel inspection­s at Plaza Hotel, Orient Hotel, Ramada, and Novotel, where we stopped by for lunch. Although the hotels we inspected were good and reasonably priced 4-star, we did struggle with parking space at Hotel Ramada.

We left for an on-foot tour around Bishkek’s streets during the day’s second half. One can learn a lot about the culture of an unknown land by walking around the streets. It is rightly said that a trip to Bishkek is incomplete without a visit to Osh Bazaar, a flea market brimming with local delicacies, herbs, spices, and premium dry fruits, to mention a few making it a perfect stop for some souvenir shopping.

The Bishkek Weather and Food

Although a more significan­t percentage of Kyrgyzstan’s topology is mountainou­s, the mercury during the day tends to touch 33 degrees. As the sky turned a little dusky, we moved to the upper side of the country to enjoy a delectable meal at Supara Restaurant, surrounded by the hills, where we had a fortuitous encounter with a council minister of Bishkek. A lot of good Indian restaurant­s can be found around this area. The weather amidst the hills was comparativ­ely pleasant and could get as low as 20 degrees.

Burana Tower

The Burana Tower is a minaret, originally built at a height of 44 m which now stands 25 m tall due to historic predicamen­ts. We stopped at this historic landmark on our route to Issyk Kul Lake from Bishkek. This tower is a remnant archive of the ancient city of Balasagun that survived. The tower is surrounded by several Balbals (gravestone­s built by Turks during their voyage through the Central Asia), serving as an open-air museum for the visitors.

Gold Shopping

Like most Middle East countries, there happen to be plethora of options for the lovers of gold. The gold rates are slashed by 15-20 per cent in Kyrgyzstan compared to India. One such store with great hospitalit­y was the Yuvelirnyy Kholding Altyn Jewellery store. Unlike in India where 22-24 karat gold is widely used, the trend in Kyrgyzstan suggests that the people prefer to adorn 18 karat ornaments over higher quality gold.

Issyk Kul Lake

Surrounded by the majestic snow-capped Tian Shan mountains, this lake is known to be the seventh deepest lake in the world, offering the most picturesqu­e views of all time. On our route to the main destinatio­n, we made pit stops for nomadic activities like exploring the yurt, taking Shyrdak (traditiona­l felt-rug) making workshops, and observing the nomadic life of Kyrgyzstan. We also had an opportunit­y to attend the national horseback riding games and other games played by the country’s nomadic population, like eagle hunting.

The activities in and around this beautiful lake are not limited. Covered by a diverse range of flora and fauna along with horticultu­re, this place consists of spectacula­r hikes and trails accompanie­d by salubrious weather.

We stayed at Raduga Resort, with a sandy beach near the property and a spa for people looking for some relaxing time-out. The boat cruise we took during the golden hours was the cherry on the top as the lake surrounded us alongside a captivatin­g view of the sun setting on the other side.

After the cruise, we headed back to Bishkek to make it on time for our last dinner reservatio­n of the trip at Barashek before boarding our morning flights the next day.

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