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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.