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May 30th 2014
Published: April 17th 2018
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It seems unlikely that the standard citizen would be able to name the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, so with that in mind, just how does the Kyrgyz capital city of Bishkek measure up when it comes to fulfilling the senses when such a 'dip-into-the-ether' episode is experienced? The answer is, as with nearby Almaty, incredibly well, that is providing that the city's set of credentials are to your liking. So, what might be these credentials which characterize such a low-profile city? Well, first and foremost, space, greenery, Soviet-era relics, parks, monuments, bazaars and top-flight scenery within easy reach. If most or all of the above sound appealing, then allow the charms of Bishkek to seep into your soul and unravel their multiple threads. A good place to start a tourist itinerary is at the Osh bazaar, located west of centre, which is a commercial area with a constant buzz, at a reasonable price tag, and a good companion piece to the Alamedin bazaar, located east of centre, but similarly sizeable, and equally colourful. The city's main thoroughfare is known as Chuy Avenue, and runs hoizontally through the city, the centrepiece of which being the fountain-laden spacious zone known as Ala-Too Square, which is a great place to linger and take in the Kyrgyz vibes, especially when the fountains are gushing forth. Located a short walk due east of this is the long-established Tsum department store, which is a great place to pick up souvenirs if that is a must-do part of your travel package. The Russian Orthodox church located just north of the centre is an attractive-looking place of worship, and adds colour and depth to the city's fabric. The choice of hotel for this trip was a highly strategic one, and it seems as if this traveller's choice of the Hotel Rich was one which, for all the splendour of decor, spacious room and standout features it offered, seemed to be a piece of foresight so favourable that I was left wondering if any other property in the nation can topple it for the price versus facilities ratio. The city has a few quirks which even the guide books may not allude at, and one standout feature, and a discovery process of sorts, was the seemingly spray-painted interior wall murals inside the 'Star Club', in itself a haven for kids and adults alike, due to the variety of shopping and leisure options contained therein. Despite all the above, I am happy to report that Bishkek isn't for everyone, and in this context, that is actually a plus, as I am convinced that there are one or two elements to the city which are in need of some kind of makeover, especially if this place is to eventually promote itself as some kind of tourist destination beyond the regional context which it currently nestles in. Minor quibbles aside though, 'pleasantly surprised' is the phrase which springs to my mind when confronting all of the city's aspects, and if those tree-coated pathways don't appeal, then be sure to seek out other more esoteric facets of the city, such as the monument of a Mig fighter jet on display in a central area, almost as if it had crash-landed there, and refused to be disposed of. The final challenge I concede, once you've got around the entire city proper on foot, is to come up with a country name containing a longer unbroken stream of consonants than Kyrgyzstan......

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