Unexpected Encounters – Moscow to Bishkek part 2

This is a re-post of an article that was written by Jiddu Alexander for traliving.com. The original can be found here.

It’s dark and cold. The Kyrgyzstan officers at this remote railway border crossing wear thick furry jackets and hats. Four of us non Ex-USSR nationals have been guided off the train and we are seated onto a plastic row of four chairs in a shed for visa purposes. When I read online three months ago that Kyrgyzstan now issues visa on arrival this is not what I had in mind.
Several officers hover around the Chief. He is the only one seated and holds our passports. No one talks, laughs or even smiles. The cold is slowly creeping into my bones. I dislike borders. You have to completely let go of all control and simply obey, that just for a simple drop of ink to be stamped into your passport. I start shivering. He goes through the documents and looks at us as he reaches the stamp. ‘Click, bang.’One. ‘Click, bang.’ Two. ‘Click, bang.’  That’s mine. ‘Click, bang.’ All four of us are heading for Bishkek.

Just a few hours train journey ahead and I am reading up on Bishkek in my Lonely Planet.

Bishkek smiles during the day but is neither safe nor well lit after dark. At this time, all the normal Central Asian security rules apply. If you’re out after dark, stick to the main streets, avoid the parks and steer clear of the area around the train station.
Lonely Planet

I am about to arrive in Bishkek in three hours. My arrival will be at approximately 2 am, at the train station, of course.

I’ve got my self-drawn map; my hotel is near the station. The station will be busy for our arrival. I reassure myself. I’ll stick with the crowds for safety. I know I look calm, but these “Lonely” words are nagging me.

The train arrives. I swing my backpack on and confidently head out of the station. Turn right and follow the road. I get to the first side road. Is it Tynystanov St.? No street sign. I head on and pass the second side road. Yusup Abdrahmanov St.? Again, no street signs. This happens twice more and I have no clue whether I am where I think I am. Then I cross the large trident shaped road with the middle one heading under the railway track. That’s on my map, check. Perfect, I should be near the hotel. Now do I take the shortcut or go the long way around? This is where Google maps wasn’t so clear when I drew my map. I really just want to get to my hotel quick. I risk the shortcut and end up in a children’s playground between apartment blocks. It should be somewhere here. I can’t find it. I’m lost, maybe I should get a cab? A man walks out of a gated block. Ask him? Aargh, what to do?

“Salaam, Asia Mountain Hotel?” Let’s hope he’s nice.
“Uhm.” He seems friendly, but confused.
“Asia Mountain Hotel?” I ask again but he doesn’t seem to understand. “You know, Hotel Asia Mountain?”
“Hotel? Asia?” He looks around, as lost as I am. He starts talking though and his English is basic but clear. After a minute or two we are still getting nowhere.
“My friend, good English.” He points to the gated block.
“Okay, can we go your friend?”
“Yes, yes.” He is not making a move.
“Yes. First we get beer. Now shop for beer.”
“Where?” I didn’t expect any shops to be open at this time, the streets look deserted.
“Five minutes.” He points the other direction.
Do I go with him or do I search this place in the dark on my own, in hope to stumble onto my hotel. “Okay, let’s go. What’s your name?”

Four hours later, a new day is just breaking. “Thanks for the sim-card. See you tomorrow.” I say to Abdurahman. Nazar walks me to my hotel that was literally next door to their apartment, but thanks to some fences an 8 minute round walk. Our bellies are full of smoked cheese and beer. With big smiles on our faces we look back on four fun hours and I look forward to the next few days we will spent together.

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