Tashkent to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Trip Start May 14, 2009
34Trip End Jun 15, 2009
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Where I stayed
Silk Road Lodge Hotel
Our Uzbekistan Airlines flight from Tashkent to Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan crossed the lower part of Kazakhstan over massive broad acre farms before touching down at Manas airport, Bishkek. Our flight was two hours late and having come from the bureaucratic nightmares of Tashkent airport we faced with some trepidation the long queues at Manas. Once again, and because we do not have a relevant embassy in Australia, we had to purchase a visa upon arrival. And once again we were the only passengers to do so.
Not surprisingly there was no signage to direct us to the Visa Office and when we did find it there was no-one at the desk. Yes, just like Tashkent…. Some half an hour later a very helpful official on seeing our demise came to our rescue. He banged loudly on the Visa Office window and to our surprise a sleepy woman stumbled and grumbled out of the back room. She was neither friendly nor helpful but she willingly accepted our US $70 notes per visa for just a five day visit. We realised very early on in Kyrgyzstan that because acceptance of Visa card was not as widely available as we had been told, we were going to be very light on with our US dollars. Little did we know however that we were to almost run out of any sort of money in this strange little country.
Customs and immigration were no trouble for Alan, or for the husband of the Polish couple next to us. However for my Polish woman friend and me there was no end of delay. An obese and sluggish official looked at my passport for some ten minutes before conferring with a colleague but he was so far away that he had to leave and lock his desk which took another ten minutes. After what seemed forever he returned, grunted, stamped my passport and abruptly waved me on. At least I fared better than my friend who was still lined up at an unstaffed desk when I left to face a grinning Alan and the exasperated Polish husband.
Happily for us, our guide Vita and driver Slava were there to meet us. And we were very pleased to see them too. Vita, a vivacious young woman with huge rolling eyes and an infectious smile, and Slava our shy but literally bomb proof driver were to make our trip both interesting, and even in the very worst times, an awful lot of fun. Vita, like our guides in Uzbekistan was university educated and spoke perfect English and Slava was an experienced and knowledgeable driver.
As we drove out of Manas airport it was hard not to notice the lines of US air force planes. Like silent moths they sat solemnly and ominously in endless rows along the tarmac. It was a sobering reminder that the United States uses this main international hub to double as a military base to aid aerial operations in the forever war torn Afghanistan.