As I sit in our hotel looking out at the mountains covered in snow, I can’t help but identify with the nomadic way of life here in Kyrgyzstan. We’ve been on the road for two months now and in that time have been to four countries and stayed in ten homes. We have become so accustomed to packing up our lives and moving now that it feels like second nature, and we are so glad that our nomadic way of life has brought us to this beautiful country.
We spent our first few days here in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. We stayed in an amazing apartment, which you can see here. While it was small and simple, it was probably the best Airbnb was have encountered thus far. Our host Jyldyz was so kind and we had everything we needed.
On our first day we were met by an old friend of Sami’s and his wife. Karim and Stephanie are lovely people and they were so kind to take the time to show us around their hometown. We first went to an amazing Kyrgyz restaurant where we sampled many, many local dishes and ate until we were stuffed, and then headed back to their home to relax and have coffee.
From the first moment I met Stephanie I could tell that she was the kind of person that just has a way with children. Nu was instantly taken with her and within only two minutes of meeting her wanted to be carried by her rather than me. She carried him around the whole afternoon, showing him all of the animals and fruits and vegetables on their property. Their place was really like a little farm with ducks, chickens, cats, dogs and rabbits. He collected eggs and picked raspberries, and just loved every moment of it. We also learned how to make a Kyrgyz porridge, which seems to have cured Nu’s dislike of food and he is now eating like crazy! For anyone who has a difficult eater, this porridge is a must and I can’t thank Stephanie enough for showing me!
The next day we went to the Osh Bazaar, which is one of the largest markets in all of Central Asia. Here we saw all of the beautiful traditional bread medallions, colorful pastries, piles of dried fruits and wool handicrafts. We also found ourselves in one pavillion selling gun powder – and not the kind of tea – like real gun powder. We got out of that one pretty quickly.
One of our favourite things about Kyrgyzstan was the food, and in particular one restaurant right across from our apartment called Bukhara. This was actually an Uzbek restaurant, and as much as we love the local cuisine we couldn’t stop going back this place. It was a really fancy spot but for ten dollars you could have tons of amazing meat and the best pilaf! And to top things off they had a playground, which was a big hit with Nu. One of the amazing things about Central Asia is that everything is catered to kids. Tons of restaurants have these play areas and you can always find a highchair no matter the place.
Another thing we really liked here was the tea culture. People drink so much tea that when you ask for a bottle of water at a restaurant half the time they won’t have it and instead offer you tea. They drink their tea black without sugar but it is always accompanied by sweets and jams, which you eat with a spoon. Whenever we ordered tea they would always bring a cup for Nu too, which I found hilarious because caffeine is probably the last thing we need to help us with our sleeping troubles.
We spent lots of time wandering our neighbourhood. We found a BFC – Bishkek Fried Chicken – which we loved, visited Alo Too square and got a great view of the State Museum, which is a very impressive soviet-style cement cube. Unfortunately, it was under renovation and closed but we did get to see the giant Lenin statue behind it. Apparently, this museum used to be the Lenin Museum and it hasn’t really changed much since it was renamed. It is still very much a tribute to him, filled with communist propaganda with only a few exhibits being added about traditional Kyrgyz culture.
After four days in Bishkek, we made our way to the Eco Resort Kara Bulak in the mountains near Ala Archa National Park. The place was beautiful and the food was great but unfortunately we were welcomed by a huge snowstorm, which left very little for us to do because we weren’t really prepared for this kind of weather. We decided that we wouldn’t be able to spend the next three days hauled up in our small eco-hut and so we did some research and found a health resort and spa only a few kilometers away called the Jannat Resort.
We got an all-inclusive package, which included our meals as well as 15 spa treatments. The selection of treatments was interesting to say the least and the experience itself was even more unique. On our first day at the resort it was my birthday, and because I was sick with a cold, I decided to indulge in a few treatments. I started off with a hydro massage bath and then was led for my first ‘sharko shower’ and ‘circular shower’. The sharko shower was basically like one of those high pressure car washes and a woman just stands there and hoses you down. Strangely, it felt good though and Sami and I both agreed we enjoyed it. I was also given some strange medical treatment which involved a green laser up my nose which was supposed to help with my cold. I am not sure if it was this or the steam room, but I have to say I did feel slightly better.
Nu loved this hotel because they had a big playground, indoor playroom, heated pool and the best of all, a yurt! He spent hours pretending to be cooking some kind of Kyrgyz dish in the yurt and running around making me try it. Nu made friends with all the staff and it felt like they all knew us personally – which possibly was true – because we were literally the only people staying there on our second night.
But what we truly loved most about our time in Kyrgyzstan were the magnificent mountains.