Monday, 1 October 2012

Bishkek the third: picking up the Tajik visa en route to Osh

Coming back from Jeti Oguz, I was given a ride to the main road by the store owner's nephew, who was a stockbroker from Bishkek and spoke English. Before the did that, though, they downloaded some of my pictures to their USB drive, which was a bit surprising since the guy had no idea about computers (but his children did). In China, you could go into a modest looking shop and find that the shopkeeper had a new flat-screen computer behind their shelves, and that they were amusing themselves playing Mahjong or watching videos on Baidu, but in Central Asia such a scene would be truly shocking.

It was raining at the junction, so the owner's nephew let me stay in his car until a marshrutka passed, and we talked a bit about politics and the nearby gold mines. The Kumtor mine creates something like 10% of Kyrgyzstan's GDP, but it's owned by a Canadian company which keeps more of the profits than protestors like, as they accuse the government of striking a sweetheart deal. In his opinion there wouldn't be a profitable mine at all if you tried to let locals run it, but it's easy to see why people are upset when they see foreigners profiting off of local resources.

Back in Karakol I headed straight to the bus station to catch the marshrutka back to Bishkek. I lucked out in the sense that the marshrutka was almost full, which means little waiting. It still ended up taking me about 10 hours to take the 422 km trip from Jeti Oguz to Bishkek, despite knowing exactly how to get there and what transportation to take. This is a sobering reality about transportation in Kyrgyzstan: it takes a long time, even in the best of circumstances.

I wasn't surprised to find the Sakura full when I arrived there, so it was another night at the cheap hotel. No worries.

The next day I moved over to the Sakura in the morning to secure a bed, and otherwise I had little to do other than pickup my Tajik visa. Compared to the Iranian visa, the Tajik visa was easy-peasy. I just went to the embassy, told them I had applied for a visa a couple of weeks ago, and they picked through the applications sitting in the in-box to find mine, then processed it and gave me my visa. Even though there were rumblings that the GBAO permits were being issued in Dushanbe and that the Pamirs were once again open for tourists, I was told that they still weren't issuing them in Bishkek and that I would have to apply in Dushanbe. That was a major disappointment (as well as an additional expense in Dushanbe), but there's not much you can do about it.

The Tajik Embassy in Dushanbe is now listed on Google Maps and thus pretty easy to find. One of the more interesting things you may encounter on your visit to the embassy is the strip club on the nearest major road: certainly not something I expected to see advertised so openly in what is, after all, still a somewhat conservative Muslim country.

The strip club near the Tajik Embassy.

Looking down the entrance park to the Kyrgyz State University, next to the Philharmonic.

A statue of Manas in front of the Philharmonic keeps the pigeons happy.


September 30, 2012, from Jeti Oguz to Bishkek: 958 som
  • Room at cheap hotel: 300 som
  • 2 x super snicker, pic-nic chocolate bar, M&Ms: 121
  • Van to Karakol: 30 som
  • Marshrutka to Bishkek: 300 som
  • Coke: 40 som
  • Dinner at roadstop (bifsteak): 130 som
  • Coke: 37 som
October 1, Bishkek: $65 + 670 som
  • Bed at Sakura: 350 som
  • Sandwich: 33 som
  • Bus x 2: 16 som
  • Ice cream, lemon soda: 21 som
  • Lozenges, eggs, sandwich, pepsi, tomatoes, coffee packets: 150 som

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