Monday, June 20, 2016

Thoughts and Notes about Kyrgyzstan

I like this country, especially the capital, Bishkek.

General feelings:
-The statues are really cool. Badass warriors on horses. Not the lovey-dovey junk that's littered all over Paris. Similar to some areas of prague. (applies more-so to bishkek than to osh, since Osh doesn't have much of anything)

-Children play on the streets and in playgrounds, even if only on dirt or cement fields. They play, they yell, they laugh, and I hear them from my 4th story soviet style apartment hostel. BMX bikers and skate boarders do tricks and jump off the staircases of national monuments and opera houses. Seeing these things gives me hope. Freedom of expression exists.

-The women are the most beautiful I've seen in the world
There are very few overweight women. They all look fit and in shape. They range from appearing as completely caucasian (like blond hair, blue eyes, German), to completely eastern asian (like chinese/japanese/korean), and everything in between (but more asian looking ones than caucasian looking ones). Despite 90% of the population being muslim, people are dressed in a very western fashion. Women here reveal as much skins as women in the US.
I'm sure the guys are beautiful too, but I haven't been paying too much attention to them. A lot of them are like taller, manlier, buffer versions of east asians. They do pullups and dips on the old USSR styled children playgrounds that have a lot of monkey bars with worn out paint.

-There aren't hawkers everywhere asking you if you need a taxi ride. There are taxis, but they don't all rush up to you 5 people at once, asking you where you want to go next (Maybe only when you get off the airport, but not all over the city like the Siem Reap or Phnom Penh)
-There's very little littering on the ground. Unlike western china (Where everyone, from the buddhist monks to the taxi drivers, will litter. The monk was sitting on the ground and reading scripture and praying under a statue while it was raining, and I ducked under the statue near him in order to shelter from the rain. We smiled at each other and nodded. After a while, he finished reading, pulled out what looked like a twizzler sort of candy bar, ate it, and threw the wrapper on the ground, on the grass, and walked on. As for taxi drivers, they just roll down the window and throw out trash. But here in Kyrgyzstan, I have not seen such behavior.)
-Cars actually stop for you when you cross the street, almost like the United States. Nowhere in China does this occur
-The internet is good enough for stream youtube at 720p, and google and facebook are not blocked like it is in China.

-Perhaps it's because of Ramadan that things are open late (since many restaurants are closed during the day since many people are fasting), but at night, there are people on the streets and stores and shops are open, even at midnight. I read from online numerous warnings about how it's unsafe for tourists and foreigners to go out at night, due to pickpockets. But I felt it was alright... China has a weird unspoken curfew system, where it gets very dark and deserted late at night, even in cities like shanghai.

Authorities and corruption
-Though I haven't experienced this yet, the cops are crooked, similar to many other countries. I sort of experienced this in Cambodia, where I was overcharged an extra $5 for a visa from the immigration officer. And I kept arguing with him about why. It's funny, because in any developed nation, I would not be arguing with an officer.

-Kyrgyzstan place is poor and GDP is low. A taxi from Osh to Bishkek, a 12 hour ride, only costs around 1000SOM per person. (Around $15). This is ridiculous, because the gas costs about 2500SOM to 3000SOM (about $45 USD). So the taxi driver only made $15 to $20 that day for 12 hours of driving. And that's not even considering the cost of maintenance or cost of the car.
When I look at the GDP per capita though, it almost makes sense. Kyrgyzstan has a GDP per capita of $1200. That is really low. (The US's is around $50,000). So if this driver in Kyrgyzstan makes $15 per day and works 300 days per year... that's about it that's like $4500, then minus the cost of maintenance and the car... he might even be making more that the national average of $1200.
-A low GDP also means things are quite affordable for foreigners. A burger is usually $1 (65 SOM). Veal was $8.

The cars are also from all over the world, like as if this country has no emission policy of its own, and it just imports cars from anywhere that is cheap. Because there are cars with steering wheels on the right side, even though the country drives on the right side of the road. I wonder if that is a sign of how poor this place is. That they'll take cars from any country, regardless of whether they're left or right handed steering wheel. This scares me in terms of safety and visibility while driving. But people seem to be able to live with it.
Public transportation seems to be lacking. There are no subways and not many real "buses". There are marshrutkas (shared taxi minivans that travel specific routes and have bus stops).
Bus taxis are cheap. 1km seems to negotiable for 40 to 50 SOM (e.g. around $0.75). So it'd be about $1 per mile.

The city of Osh
-Not much to do. There are like 5 touristy things to do: 1 mountain, 2 museums, and a yurt. Can all be done in 6 hours.

The city of Bishkek
-Lots of cool squares, parks, monuments, and museums. Can be seen in 10 or 12 hours.

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