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Kashgar Made Bishkek Feel Western


I have visited Bishkek 4 times in the past 5 years, which sounds crazy once I actually put those words on the screen. The truth is that Bishkek is a fairly modern and comfortable capital city in the middle of a country that is anything but.

bishkek fountain

Bishkek fountain moment.

You may have noticed the comments made on my initial post about my return visit in November 2011 that I couldn’t quite grasp how much the city had changed, grown, and evolved in the span of 3 years. Where a coffee shop was once hard to find, I now have several options (Foyer, Vanilla Sky, Coffee Time, etc.). Where American style barbecue was once a dream, I can now sit and enjoy pulled pork on any night of the week (Smokies). If you’re lucky, you just might be served up with an English menu, too!

Bishkek is a changed place, and I’m happy for it to be doing well.

But that doesn’t mean that trying to live there won’t leave a person desperately pining for certain luxuries and normalcies. It doesn’t mean that things make sense.

boy carrying bag on streets of Kashgar

The Kashgar Old Town streets.

After our visit back in May, Pat and I took the Torugart Pass through the mountains to China. Our final destination: Kashgar.

When we arrived in Kashgar, it was weird and busy and exciting to our senses. Instead of arriving in China, I felt that we had magically got spun around on our all-day adventure and went west to Uzbekistan. Kashgar was Muslim, and Uyghur — a far cry from what one might consider to be China!

Shopping in Kashgar

Shopping in Kashgar.

The streets near our hostel were overrun with locals — locals on silent electric motorbikes grazing past too close for comfort, locals selling produce and market goods, or just walking on their merry way. The language barrier hit us like a brick wall as we didn’t know either Uyghur or Chinese, and the only meat on the menu at many locations was mutton. Let’s not forget about the day we stepped back in time at the Sunday animal market.

animal market

Stepping back in time at Kashgar’s Sunday Animal Market.

When we left several restaurants feeling defeated and got into too many awkward situations involving taxis, we found solace in the one place that made a little sense to us: our accommodation, the Kashgar Old Town Youth Hostel.

kashgar hostel

Our hostel with the awesome chill-out courtyard.

I never once considered Bishkek to be a Western city, but after a couple of days in Kashgar, yes… yes it is.

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My stay at the Kashgar Old Town Youth Hostel was provided free of charge through a partnership with Hostelworld. More to come about the hostel itself.


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6 Responses to Kashgar Made Bishkek Feel Western

  1. Stephen August 16, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    BBQ whhaaaaaaaat? I’ll be looking for this tomorrow!

    Also, if you get back, check out Sierra Cafe on Manas just south of Chuy. Good coffee, but more importantly they roast their own beans!

    • Brooke August 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

      Yeah, we went the day after 4th of July and it was dead there, but… the food wasn’t bad. Hope it’s not like that all the time. Get the hush puppies, too!

  2. Elle of Solo Female Nomad August 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Wow, It really seems like a fascinating area! I will have to look further into visiting this area in the future.

    • Brooke August 16, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

      I hope you make it there someday, and be sure to report back!

  3. Rebecca August 29, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Such an interesting part of the world – definitely need to make time to explore. I bet you didn’t bump into to many travellers there?


  1. A Good Hostel Can Be a Refuge | Brooke vs. the World - September 11, 2012

    […] already mentioned before how crazy exciting Kashgar was for Pat and I, and also how much we loved our hostel because it acted as a little refuge from […]

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