No:50 – Kyrgyzstan – A key stop on the historic Silk Road …

About the Blog …

The blog is based on my visit to Kyrgyzstan, as a part of my 2023 Silk Road Tour.

Type of vacation …

Northern Kyrgyzstan solo tour with driver and guide.

Country Counter: Countries/territories I have visited so far …

Travel TipsTips based on my travels so far …

What I liked best …

(1) Interactions with an excellent guide

(2) Peek into the Kyrgyz nomad life

What I did not like …

Nothing. I loved the visit!

Location in the World map …


Some interesting tidbits about Kyrgyzstan …

• 83% of the people follow Islam (Did not strike me as very religious people though)
• 74% Kyrgyz (Ethnicity)
• Kyrgyzstan, under Russian and Soviet rule was known as Kirgiziya
• Kyrgyzstan is a very mountainous country
• Temperature Range: -18C (Winter) to 28C (Summer)
• “Kyrgyz” is supposed to have been derived from the Turkic word for “forty”, about the forty clans of Manas, a legendary hero who united forty clans against the Uyghurs (Turkish people). At the time, in the 9th century AD, Uyghurs dominated much of Central Asia (including Kyrgyzstan). “-stan” is a word in the Persian language meaning “place of” or “country”.
The 40-ray sun on the flag of Kyrgyzstan is a reference to those same forty tribes.
• There are around 20 million sheep/goat/Etc. in the country.
• There are more than 2,000 mosques in the country.
• There are cars with steering wheels on the left as well as cars with steering wheels on the right. They drive on the right like in the United States.

My Experiences

Would have loved to have a big, glamorous, famous and World-leading nation as my 50th (Not counting India and not counting the nations my parents took me to, as a child).


To me, Myanmar, Paraguay and Kuwait were also awesome (as a tourist). I guess I dance to a different tune when compared to 90% of the “Tourists”. My life aim is big (193!), so every nation, be it DRC or Switzerland, is precious to me.

This is my latest land border crossing after:

Sweden-Finland (Ship)
Finland-Russia (Train)
Cambodia-Vietnam (Bus, where I got stuck between the 2 nations!)
China-Mongolia (Train)
Mongolia-Russia (Train)
Serbia-Bosnia (Bus)
Bosnia-Croatia (Bus)
Croatia-Slovenia (Train)
Czech Republic – Austria (Train)*
Argentina-Uruguay (Ship)*
Brazil-Argentina (Bus)*

*And back

Some more tidbits about the nation:
• Landlocked nation with Kazakhstan to North, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to South/West and China to the East.
• Has a population of just around 6.5M people.
• Lots of Indian students study here (For lower costs, compared to India). There are apparently separate hostel buildings for Indians and Pakistanis.
• Kyrgyzstani Som is roughly equal to INR.
• Very mountainous country.
• Supposed to have 85% people identify themselves as Muslims, though they do not seem to be very strict followers. E.g. Had not seen a single Burkha. Was told that South Kyrgyzstan is more strict.

Initial impressions:
(1) Got caught at Kyrgyzstan side of the border for taking a photo of the border gate. Had to delete the photos. Nearly escaped Kyrgyz jail 🙂
(2) Kyrgyzstan is way more rural than Kazakhstan (at least the Almaty area). To give you an idea, Kyrgyzstan GDP is around 8B$ whereas Kazakhstan GDP is around 170B$.

Goodbye to my driver Andrei. A very nice Kazakh guy, with limited exposure to English.



As we approached the Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border at Korday, there was a big traffic jam of vehicles trying to cross into Kyrgyzstan. The driver Andrei (from Kazakhstan) was forced to park at an earlier point and we walked the rest of the way to the border check-post.
Walking to Kazakhstan border check-post …
Like how the “Kaz” becomes “Qaz” 🙂 Kazakhstan border check-post. At the Kyrgyzstan end I got caught for taking a similar photo 🙂
Did not see any other tourists on the way … Maybe most people fly into Kyrgyzstan.
The Victory Monument was created in 1984. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of victory over Nazis. The pillars are made of red granite. Made to look like a Yurt.
The eternal flame at Victory Monument. The Victory Monument was created in 1984. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of victory over Nazis.
National Academic Drama Theater, Bishkek. Mostly Russian dramas are performed here.
A symbol near Art Museum. At one angle, it becomes “8”.
Liked these red ones a lot …
Ah … Tulips!
One of the many sculptures in Oak Park. Oak Park is one of the oldest parks in Bishkek. The oaks were originally planted by a Russian Botanist.
Paid restroom. As mentioned earlier, Kyrgyzstan Som is roughly same value as INR. So, it is 10 INR 🙂
I especially liked those cartoonish ones. Got a scenery painting as well.
Bought some paintings from this local artist.
A 100+ years old Oak tree in Oak Park.
Flag of Kyrgyzstan. At Ala-Too Square.
Ala-Too Square, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: The red Kyrgyz flag in full glory. The flag has “40 rays of Sun” symbolizing the 40 clans who fought Uyghurs/Turks under Manas. Manas is a legendary Kyrgyz hero. The poem “Epic of Manas” which is over 500K lines is World’s longest poem. The statue of Manas can be seen in this photo.
Change of Guards at Ala-Too Square. I saw the one at 13:00. You can note the elaborate marching.
Change of Guards at Ala-Too Square. I saw the one at 13:00. Some elaborate marching was involved.
Bishkek streets are treelined and there are several beautiful parks in the city.
Bishkek streets are treelined and there are several beautiful parks in the city.
Friendship Monument, symbolizing Kyrgyz and Russian Friendship. Statues in Russian and Kyrgyz attires.
Friendship Monument, symbolizing Kyrgyz and Russian Friendship. Statues in Russian and Kyrgyz attires.
2010 Revolution Monument. It symbolizes Black/Evil being pushed away from Good/White. The revolution resulted in the ousting of the President.
2005 and 2010 revolutions happened in the vicinity. President and Security Council have offices here. It has several basement floors as well (Kitchens, Car Park Etc.)
The fermented drinks …
A century old drinking water fountain (which does not work 🙂 )
Kymyz is a fermented drink made from Mare’s milk. Maksim is made from Bsrley, Wheat, Millet and Corn. Loved both the sour drinks.
Statue of Lenin. Quite a big one. Apparently the only one in Central Asia nowadays.
Karl Marx in heavy discussion with Friedrich Engels 🙂
Laghman (Noodles), a national dish of Kyrgyzstan. This was the beef version. Also Chuchvara, meat dumplings in a soup.
Choosing the beer for the day 🙂 Always go with the local brew. Why go all the way to Kyrgyzstan to have Heineken? 🙂
Liked this installation … A construction worker. From right side, straight ahead, and from left side.
Kyrgyzstan Som!
Burana Tower Complex: UNESCO World Heritage Site. This historical complex marks the original site of Balasagun, the Karakhanid town of ancient times. Karakanids were here first, followed by Islam. The complex has been present from the 9th century and is in Northern Kyrgyzstan. It is located about 80 km east of the country’s capital Bishkek, near the town of Tok Mok. The Burana Tower itself is a large minaret. There is an external staircase, followed by a very narrow internal winding staircase to take one to the top. The original height of the tower was 45m, but the top portion got damaged in an earthquake in 15th century and now it is 25m in height. During Soviet times, it was not looked after well. Restorations were done since then to bring it to the current form. At one point it was in danger of full collapse. The complex also has Tombs, a Mosque, a Palace for Royalty, tenements for others Etc. Ancient Bal-Bals (Gravestones) can be seen here. Once Islam caught on, then gravestones were inscribed. There is a small museum with artifacts from the region.
The unassuming entry to Burana Tower Complex.
What Burana Tower Complex must have looked like in the 9th century.
The small museum in Burana Tower Complex. The white statue is the personality (Famous Kyrgyz Author) we see on Som notes.
This was how Burana Tower looked, before desperate repairs wers carried out.
The Kyrgyz author and his books …
A distant view of the Burana Complex …
Hmmm … Wonder what it was used for? It has a small hole as a drain. Collect rainwater?
Stairs to climb the Burana Tower. Pretty steep stairs. This photo is with flash.
Stairs to climb the Burana Tower. Pretty steep stairs. This photo is without flash.
Horse-based Nomad Games in Don-Aryk village, Kyrgyzstan: Stage-1: Introduction lineup of players (on their horses) with Kyrgyzstan flag. There was a Red team and a Green team. Stage-2: “Coin bags pick and throw”: The player/horse will come galloping and the player has to pick a bunch of coin-filled bags from the ground and throw them in the air. The more he picks up and throw, the more points he gets for his team. Stage-3: “Goat pulling” OR “Ulak Tartysh”: A sheep carcass, with no head and the internal organs substituted for corn, weighing between 25kg-35kg, is used for this game. The purpose of the game is for one “offense” team member to pick up the heavy carcass and take it all the way to the “goal post”, which in this case is a well-like structure. Sounds easy, right? NOT! First of all, you have to balance yourself on the horse. Then you have to reach down and pick up the 25-35kg in the cold weather. Then you have to carry it all the way to the “goal post” as the “defenders” of the other team will attack you and try to steal the carcass from you. Picking up the goat is one thing. Holding on to it, while being attacked? Totally different goat-game 🙂 Extreme stamina and balance is required. Also, it is a very dangerous game since you can get kicked by a horse or can hurt your back while lifting the weight Etc. Players get injured all the time. Stage-4: Hand-to-hand combat while on a horse! The goal is to get your opponent off his horse and make him hit the ground. Stage-5: 1:1 Horse race. Red member versus Green member. Finally, the points are all added up and the team with more points win. This photo depicts stages 1 and 3.
This is Stage-2.
During the Nomad Games, this dog (used to keep the cattle in control) took a liking to me
Nomad Games! In full swing …
In the village of Don-Aryk,, this whole family is in the Tourism business. Yurt-making, food Etc. Their kids go to the local school from 7yr. The village has only 1 school. For lunch, the main dish was Kuurdak, a national dish of Kyrgyzstan. It can be prepared with either Mutton or Beef. This one was Beef. The meat is fried with onion and spices, and is served on a plate with boiled potatoes, garnished with herbs. There was also bread, salads, homemade Raspberry jam Etc. I do not normally eat jam, but this one was unbelievable and I had quite a bit of it.
The Kyrgyz Mother (our Host) and the kids … Inside the Yurt that was just built in 15-20min. Aren’t these Kyrgyz kids adorable …
Guide in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: Tatiana: Her brother has been based in Sacramento, California, for 22yr. His MIL took him and family to USA. Tatiana tried 3 times and got rejected every time. She is a 6yr-experienced guide. Was a hairdresser before. She likes to work with people. She self-taught English and has been working for 2yr as an English-speaking guide, which gets her higher pay as well. She speaks good English. She likes to chat with tourists. Her husband is in IT and works for a phone company. Her husband is half Ukranian and half Azerbaijani. She sprained her leg a few weeks back and her knee was bandaged when I met her. She has a 12yr daughter in school. She gets to choose which tours to accept. She drives a Toyota. She has been to India 3 times, including Goa in 2020, Taj Mahal and Kerala before that. She knows about the Goa-Russia connection. 🙂 She loves the word “Interesting’. She uses it pretty much in every sentence 🙂 Unfortunately, Vladimir, the driver, does not speak English and therefore could not learn much about him.
Thick/fat-tailed Sheep! They provide more meat and fat, which is useful in the cold weather.
Hmmm … This is a new one for me. A “Vertical'” note. Have not seen (or do not remember, old age 😀) one before. Kyrgyzstan 2000 Som note.
On the way to the airport … Loved the trees on the right. Very unique.
Manas International Airport, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
More Kyrgyz souvenirs. Felt is heavily used.
Kyrgyz souvenirs. Man, my bag is getting heavy already 🙂



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