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Published: September 29th 2014
The Roof of the World includes Tajikistan's Pamir Mountains located in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province (GBAO) as well as other significant mountain ranges of South-Central Asia: the Himalayas, Tien Shan, Karakorum, and Hindu Kush. After Dushanbe, I spent almost 3 weeks traveling around the Pamir region on the way back to Kyrgyzstan. There were huge numbers of tourists, not as many as in Uzbekistan which was absolutely mobbed, but more than any other region in Central Asia. It's easy to understand why - the scenery is spectacular and the Pamiris are very friendly.
Currently in Saint Petersburg, Russia after a very long flight from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to Moscow via already freezing Siberia then an overnight train. Nice to be back here but it's way colder than my 2 previous visits in July, 2011 and June, 2012 but it is Russia after all so to be expected, I guess.
$US ≈ 5 Tajik somoni
(TJS) ≈ 54 Kyrgyz som
(c.) September 2, Day 1 Dushanbe → Khorog
As has frequently been the case at this stage of the trip, I could not drag myself out of bed at o'dark thirty for the long trip to the Badakhshan ostanovka
Rokhi Safed - Bon Voyage!
Russian alphabet imposed on Tajik language
for GBAO) out near the airport where the jeeps, SUVs in reality, congregate for the interminably horrid journey to Khorog. Many people had told me that it's best to be there at 7:00 in order to be assured of leaving the same day. No way that was ever going to happen. However, a fellow guest at the hostel had left for Khorog at 16:00 so that provided me a sliver of hope as I left for the cross town marshrutka
ride at 11:00. The first driver that passed me had never heard of the ostanovka
and I wondered if I would even get there let alone find a vehicle heading to Khorog at that time of the day. The second driver knew the stop but when we reached the entrance to the airport I knew he'd forgotten to let me off at the gate to the discrete jeep lot. He briefly re-routed and as I entered the subdued lot it was readily apparent that there weren't any vehicles leaving. I was told to come back 'utrom'
, or 'in the morning,' which was definitely not what I wanted to hear. But I walked a bit further and found a jeep with
one open seat. The bidding started at 350 somoni
but I wasn't going to pay more than 300. Even that was probably too much considering the condition of the vehicle, an old Hyundai Galloper II that was ready for the glue factory. My backpack secured to the roof rack, we were off but only after filling up with petrol delivered from an old tanker truck that must not have moved since the glasnost
era. It was 12:40 at this point and little did I know just how painful a trip was commencing.
There are 2 routes to Khorog, the northern and southern, that merge in Qal'ai Qum across from Afghanistan. Our driver, as all drivers do, took the longer southern route via Kulob because the road is better. I knew almost immediately that it was going to be a long trip because we were driving relatively slowly and being passed by countless Opel Astras that managed to overtake us with their gutsy 1.6L engines. It was getting uncomfortably hotter as we descended towards Kulob where we took the first meal break ~17:00 at a nice hotel's restaurant. After dinner we stopped at a farmer's market where any remaining space
in the back of the Galloper II was filled with spherical watermelons and enormously oblong cantaloupes. Being weighed down with the melons did not improve our velocity and as the road started to climb we were going even slower than at the outset. Additionally, the radiator was leaking (quite common in all Pamir vehicles) and we had to stop every 1-2 hours at roadside springs to top it off with water. Between the cigarette smoking and jostling with my fellow passenger it was, needless to say, impossible to sleep. There was another stop, possibly 22:00 or 23:00, for a nosh but I could not be bothered and had just enough energy to haul myself out of the jeep to flop down on one of the unused dining platforms (tables are rare in the Pamirs, usually just sit cross legged on the floor or in my case, semi-prone). We reached Khorog before sunrise between 5:00 and 5:30 and were invited into the house of one of the passengers for tea and bread. It was my first introduction to Pamir 'milk tea' but I'm not sure it had any actual tea in it as it appeared to be more of a milky
roux to which even more butter was added along with chunks of bread making for a serious artery clogger. Day 2-3 Khorog
After the coronary inducing milk tea for breakfast, I was dropped off at Pamir Lodge ~7:00 where I took a very basic, quiet, and comfortable room for $9. I had planned on going straight to bed but ran into someone I met in Dushanbe who asked if I wanted to head into town via the shortcut. The only downside of staying at the lodge is that it is quite far from the center. I went along so I could find the tourist office in the shady Khorog City Park to get help planning a self-guided trip through the Wakhan Valley starting with the Afghan border market normally held on Saturdays in Ishkashim. Overloaded with info, I headed back to the lodge and collapsed on my floor mattress until 18:00. The lodge has a great shower and after scrubbing down I headed back to town to Delhi Darbar, an authentic Indian restaurant where dal, basmati rice, naan, and a lassi went for a bit more than $6. My second day in Khorog was spent lazing around surfing the
internet (WiFi at the lodge is hit or miss, mostly miss), then a short hike, and a return trip to the Indian restaurant where I mistakenly deviated from the dal and rice. All the food there is good, they're just really small portions except for the dal. Cheap breakfasts at the café on the corner of the covered market at the bazaar. The closest place to the lodge is Varka at the bottom of the road but I could only eat there once as there was a nasty argument over a billing error. Day 4 Khorog → Ishkashim
Waking up late once again, I headed to the parking lot behind the bazaar on the opposite side of the river to catch a marshrutka
to Ishkashim. I got there at 11:30 and we took off 20 minutes later. As long as it's fairly early in the day, it doesn't take long for transport to fill up and go in this region as there is usually only room for 7 passengers. After 30 minutes we stopped at a chaikhana
for lunch and arrived in Ishkashim a pleasantly uneventful ~3½ hours after departure. Paid 40 TJS to the driver who assured me
Tajik-Afghan Border Post At Ishkashim
A significant percentage of all the world's heroin is trafficked across this seemingly minimally controlled border.
there would be plenty of transport to Bibi Fatima hot springs after Saturday's Afghan market. Walked back down the road to Hotel Hasin which was full with tourists crashing for the night before the market. I took an overflow room in the old part of the house, initially asking $20 for half board (that's the price in the actual hotel) but I got it for $15. Food was good and plentiful, last running water and hot shower til Langar. Day 5 Ishkashim → Bibi Fatima
The market started at 9:00 and several of us were there ~8:30 just in time to witness a horrific car accident yet somehow all the passengers managed to avoid serious injury. Just after 9:00 we headed through the gate towards the Afghan border crossing. Not sure why, but tourists have to leave their passports with the Tajik border guards even though not technically leaving Tajikistan. The market was pretty cool, mostly local goods, and buzzing. Before the Afghan market was over I caught a lift back to the hotel to gather up my belongings and headed up the hill to what passed for the share taxi stop. It didn't take long to negotiate a
Looking Across to Afghanistan
View from Bib Fatima hot springs.
ride to Vichkut, the village supposedly at Bibi Fatima, for 30 TJS but the driver did not seem too keen on leaving until he had eaten lunch even though his preferred restaurant was padlocked shut. Instead, we drove around town presumably to rustle up more passengers, unsuccessfully, then went back to the still closed restaurant. By that time I could see where this was going (i.e., nowhere) so I grabbed my backpack off the roof and walked back to the transport staging area.
Once again, it did not take long to find a ride to the hot springs for the same 30 TJS and this time the driver was not going to dawdle in town on a lunch quest or looking for more passengers. It must've been just after 13:00 at that point when we left town and maybe 1½ hours later we reached the turn off for Bibi Fatima where the driver tried to dump me on the side of the road claiming it was Vichkut. Even the other passengers, all locals, knew this was bogus so he drove to Bibi Fatima 8 kms up the steep spur road passing Vichkut and the Yamchun Fortress ruins on the
way. At the hot springs he claimed he never said the fare was 30 TJS so I gave him an extra 5 figuring I'd thankfully never see him again. There are 4 unnamed hotels at Bibi Fatima and I took the one furthest from the hot springs where a room was 25 TJS and each meal 10 TJS but food was limited to potatoes, eggs, hot dogs, bread, tea, and the Pamir 'milk tea.' Fortunately for my diet's sake, I would only stay one night. There was satellite TV with a couple of English language movie channels and Yamchun is a ~20 minute walk back down the road where there are great views across the valley to Afghanistan. When I checked out, Lola, the English speaking manager, refused to accept any money from me until I insisted which I think is part of the culture. Day 6 Bibi Fatima → Vrang
After arriving at the hot springs I met Hakim, the Ishkashim driver, who was headed to Langar at 7:00 the following morning. That was brutally early and since it was Sunday I was hoping there would be locals heading to the hot springs so I could try to
cadge a lift down to anywhere at a reasonable hour. There were hardly any people there even at the bath house (10 TJS entrance but good for 2 visits in a day, locals pay 1 TJS) which alternates every 30 minutes between men's and women's bathing times. There is also a natural pool about 10 minutes walk behind the bath house - no charge. After a bath I hung out at the hotel drinking tea and periodically walking back to the hot springs to see if any cars had arrived. I mostly passed the time watching the positively putrid "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous" which it most definitely was not. I don't think I'll watch another Sandra Bullock movie for a long time much like when I saw Kevin Costner's 1990 flop "Revenge" while I was bored to tears in Suva, Fiji then refused to see "Dances With Wolves" until this millennium.
Eventually I got a ride to Vrang, stuffed in the back of an overloaded jeep, for 10 TJS departing at 16:15 and arriving 45 minutes later. I didn't really want to stay there so waited in the center for a ride to Langar. It was late
On the Drive From Langar to Alichor
Somewhere between Langar and the M-41.
on a Sunday and the chances were slim so I walked out of town to Jahonbegim Zevarova homestay, recommended in Lonely Planet, where half board was $15 or 75 TJS (can pay in either in the Pamirs) which was too much but it was too far to walk back to the center. Better to stay at Rano's closer to the center although there is hardly anything there save for beer and possibly an ATM-less bank. Day 7 Vrang → Langar
I was at the side of the road by 9:00 but there was minimal traffic heading up the valley. I should have known my driver to Bibi Fatima would pass by saying he would take me to Langar for 15 TJS. So we drove back to the town's gas station where I was asked to buy 5 liters of petrol for 35 TJS and he would give me 20 later. Yeah, right. Left him and his attempted, though not terribly clever, ruse there, walked back to the center of town, and waited til ~11:00 when I caught a ride to Langar for 15 TJS. I think it took almost 2 hours to go ~30 kms because we stopped and
Still somewhere between Langar and the M-41.
waited too many times to count for no apparent reason. The driver also had to purchase one for the road and I was none too pleased when he started drinking behind the wheel. There was even a cop in the back seat who could not have cared less.
I spent the first night at Yogdor homestay down the right fork of the road headed east out of town. Full board was 75 TJS although the Ramen noodles for lunch were uninspiring. There's also a halfway decent shower. I walked through town looking for other tourists with whom I might be able to catch a lift to the M-41, a.k.a., the Pamir Highway. There were no other tourists to be found except for an Austrian girl on a bicycle. One of the jeep drivers was also staying at the homestay and we shared a massive plate of plov
over a half liter of vodka.
I started to feel a bit ill this morning and in hindsight I can attribute it to drinking water from the public fountains in Khorog and Ishkashim. I wrongly assumed that it was clean groundwater but I later learned to my dismay that it was
Shepard's Outpost Way Up the Wakhan Valley
And yet still somewhere between Langar and the M-41. It was a long drive...
merely surface water piped down from the mountains, probably initially pristine snowmelt but eventually contaminated. Locals seemed to be able to tolerate it but I filtered everything from this day forward. It was my first GI issue since India nearly 1½ years ago. Day 8 Langar
In the morning Yogdor received a phone call from a driver who was taking tourists to Murgab and offered to take me for 100 something. I didn't know if it was dollars (certainly outrageous but not out of the realm of possibilities) or somoni
as I had tuned him out as soon as he began talking about charging me. His tourists were already paying him a flat rate regardless of the number of passengers and it wasn't his place to drum up more business for himself. At least this was how it worked when I was in Kyrgyzstan but that driver was Russian. Anyway, I headed to the fork and while I was waiting for a ride a man whom I'd met the day before told me there were 2 cars with tourists up the hill. Turned out I'd met them in Dushanbe the week before and they offered to take me to
Yaks Near Karakol
Don't pass up a chance to dine on some yak meat... seriously good grub.
the M-41 on their way to Kyrgyzstan. They were driving in the Mongol Rally (long over at this point) and one of their cars, an ancient but still kicking pride of Soviet Russia Lada Niva, had suffered yet another breakdown, fortunately for me, in Langar. Local mechanics worked on the engine all day but the fix turned out to be a simpe tightening of the hose clamps on the weathered tubing around the fuel filter. Early on I had actually suggested duct taping all the fuel lines since duct tape tends to fix many problems. It was too late to leave once the car was operating normally so I stayed with them in their unmarked homestay for 50 TJS for full board including many bowls of apricots from the owner's fruit trees. Day 9 Langar → Alichor
It was during this day that it became patently obvious why these 2 Mongol Rally teams never stood a snowball's chance of finishing the race. For some inexplicable reason several of them decided to go for a hike at 5:30 before setting out on the ride to Murgab a long 230 kms away on a bad road. By 10:00 all but one
Last day in Tajikistan while waiting for the blue ZIL dump truck and my ride to Kyrgyzstan.
had returned and he had still not returned a couple of hours later. Three of us took one of the cars to where they started the hike and 3 others stayed at the house. At the 'trailhead' the other 2 took off to look for their presumed lost friend and left me at the car. Of course ~30 minutes later the lone hiker returned to the car but there was no way to contact either of the other parties so he had to walk back to the house several kms down the road. It wasn't until 16:00 that we were all together then left a half hour later. This was definitely not what I had envisioned as there is a short hike at Khargush Pass (~4,300 meters) which is supposed to have great views into Afghanistan and beyond to Pakistan's Hindu Kush region. I thought that was the plan otherwise I may not have gone with them except for the fact that there was no other transport leaving Langar for the M-41. I was truly shocked and chagrined that this group had avoided a major calamity during their road rally. There was a checkpoint at Khargush then the pass after which we arrived at Alichor ~20:00. We stayed at the гостиница/столовая/HOTEL at the far western end of town where it was 20 TJS/person to bed down and 12 TJS each for dinner and breakfast, both times eggs, bread, hot dogs, and tea, typical Pamir food - cheap, filling, unhealthy. It was cold and windy at Alichor (~3,800 meters) but the room was warm and there were plenty of thick comforters. Day 10 Alichor → Khorog
After breakfast I talked to a Tajik truck driver who was headed to Dushanbe as soon as repairs were made to his rig. I didn't want to wait so I canvassed the drivers milling around the hotel and found a minivan also headed to Dushanbe who would drop me in Khorog for 80 TJS. I probably could have gotten it for a bit less. We left ~8:50 and stopped in Jelondy ~10:30, I thought for a meal break but it was actually for a hot tub break, a first for me. I did not bathe and we left ~11:30 reaching the outskirts of Khorog ~13:45 where I was passed off to a local marshrutka
for the final trip into town. Walked up to the Pamir Lodge where I stayed again for a few more nights. I had planned to take an overnight trip to Jizeu but after talking with another backpacker realized it was not worth the transport expense and hassle. Plus, I would have had to leave the next day if I did not want to try to return on a Sunday when transport is virtually non-existent. I had left a lot of stuff at the lodge while in the Wakhan but it may have been better to take it all with me as I probably could have gotten a ride with the Mongol Rally crews all the way back to Bishkek. But no regrets, Khorog was nice and it was good to spend a few days eating healthy food to aid in recovering from my stomach problems. Day 11-13 Khorog
Much like days 2 and 3 with the added bonus of a bazaar-bought 13 TJS gigantic cantaloupe lasting 4 days and helping make up the vitamin and nutrient deficit from the Wakhan diet. Ate at the Indian restaurant 3 nights. Fourth night was Sunday and Delhi Darbar was closed so grabbed a rotisserie chicken for 25 TJS from one of the Kwiki Marts near the lodge. Mostly rested up for the final push on the Pamir Highway to Kyrgyzstan. Tried to no avail to stream the New England Patriots match-up at the Minnesota Vikings whose QB was former Patriot Matt Cassel who threw 4 INTs in a Patriots' 30-7 rout. Day 14 Khorog → Jelandy
The M-41 from Khorog to Osh, Kyrgyzstan is a very long 739 kms. When I finally decided to head out for the home stretch back to Kyrgyzstan, I planned on spending a night in Jelandy mostly to make it easier to catch a lift from truckers plying the Pamir Highway. There are marshrutkas
from Khorog to Jelandy from the bazaar for 25 TJS leaving when full til early afternoon. Mine left just after 13:00 and after countless stops we arrived in Jelandy almost 3 hours later but not after I went off the deep end on the retarded driver when he cracked open a 1.5L bottle of beer. Upon arrival, I was pointed to the 'hotel' which was a Soviet era sanitarium, really just a spa with rooms and a cafeteria as I'm not sure there are any health treatments taking place. A room went for 40 TJS/person, including the scalding hot sulfurous bath with incredible shower pressure, and the stolovaya
was good and dirt cheap. Except for the foul outhouse and brushing my teeth in the dining room where there was the only functioning sink, I really liked the place. Can do the Khorog-Murgab ride (~7 hours, 311 kms) in one go by jeep from the bazaar for 100-120 TJS (depends on which seat). Day 15 Jelandy → truck stop near Murgab
After a 4 TJS breakfast consisting of 2 eggs and bread, I lounged in the bath, packed up, and waited by the side of the road starting just before 9:00. Lonely Planet is grossly mistaken claiming it is possible to catch lifts with Chinese truck drivers. I don't know how many passed me but it was at least a dozen, several drivers shaking their heads 'no' or wagging a finger, also 'no,' at me. It wasn't until 14:00 that the 3rd
Tajik truck driver stopped and offered to take me to Alichor. That was fine by me and we got there just after 16:00 where I caught the second lift at 17:00 from another Tajik trucker heading to Murgab. It was very dark and the road very rough when we pulled into a yurt camp at 19:30 - end of the line some 15 kms short of Murgab - but I could go to Murgab in the morning with one of the trucks. All the Tajik truck drivers seemed to stop here for dinner and to sleep in their cabs before continuing to China or the reverse direction to Dushanbe. There were 12 drivers plus me. I paid 10 TJS to sleep in the yurt by myself and 15 TJS for a lousy bowl of soup, bread, and tea. One of the drivers was from Kulob and had brought one of the mutant, giant cantaloupes along for the trip which was delicious. Eventually the first driver also showed up claiming it was too cold to sleep in Alichor. Day 16 Murgab
No way to oversleep at the yurt camp with all the trucks starting their engines between 4:00 and 6:00. My driver left at 6:00 and we soon got to the checkpoint entering Murgab. I saw him slip a 1 TJS note to the official then later he told me they never check any paperwork as they should, only care for the bribe. Nice. I got dropped off in front of Mansur Tulfabek (son and father's names) Guesthouse across from Agroinvestbank (good rates to buy somoni
with dollars but no ATM). A bed was 20 TJS, shower 10 TJS, and a breakfast of a couple of eggs with bread 5 TJS. It was immediately evident that there's not a whole heck of a lot to do in unattractive Murgab so before I checked in I tried to flag a lift heading north. All the vehicles were heading directly to Osh and tourists were being overcharged to the tune of 200 TJS, normal price according to Tulfabek was 150 TJS, so I stayed one night in my own room. During the day I searched in vain for the META office (Murgab Eco-Tourism Association) where they purportedly had internet access but I think that is a myth. Aside from guesthouses, the only place to really get a meal is the Pamir Hotel (rooms $15/person, non-functioning WiFi) where large groups of Japanese tourists tend not to eat all their food, particularly a lot of watermelon, making prime pickings for thrifty backpackers. Day 17 Murgab → Karakol
Karakol would be the first objective on my 3 stage trip to Osh breaking the journey into ~3 hour segments (assuming I could catch rides) instead of one long 10-12 hour trip as most travelers do. Around 9:30 (may have been 8:30 as the Murgab region operates on Kyrgyz time, 1 hour ahead, but don't tell that to the Tajiks living there as they use Tajikistan time) I was waiting in front of Tulfabek's for only a few minutes when a local pulled up and asked where I was going. I said Karakol which is where he was headed 'chas' which literally means 'an hour' but is what Russian speakers in Central Asia like to say when they mean soon... but not real soon. He asked for 100 TJS to which I balked, then 50, and finally 40 which was very reasonable for the ~120 km ride. My bad Russian once again got me into a situation that I did not completely understand as the driver did not show up for another 3 hours but it did not matter as there were no other cars going my way. He told me he'd pick up his wife at work, have lunch, then we'd leave 'chas.' I did not expect to go with him but he told me to get in and we drove to the pharmacy at the hospital, then the market, then his house where I was invited to lunch much to his family's mild shock and chagrin. Lunch over ~14:30, mi amigo
said he was going to get get petrol and we would leave 'chas' which in this case meant 2 hours later. It was a 3½ hour drive to Karakol where I got dropped off at Sadat Homestay, 50 TJS for half board but I got offered a pity lunch while waiting for a ride to Sary Tash the next day. Very tasty meals and warm bedroom heated from the backside of the kitchen stove. Day 18 Karakol → Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan
At 15:20, got a ride on a sky blue 1980 ZIL dump truck, a.k.a., The Bolshevik Blue Beast, with Tulfabek’s friend Misha who was very cool and funny and didn't charge me a cent for the 3 hr ride including all the border formalities, a ridiculous 3 full passport checks on the Tajik side while only a very quick one on the Kyrgyz side a long 20 kms down the road through a barren no man’s land. I knew Misha would be driving thru Karakol in the afternoon on his way to Kyrgyzstan to pick up a load of coal but that did not preclude me from trying to score a much earlier ride with the aforementioned Japanese tourists in 2 rented minivans. They would not give me a ride and it must have generated bad karma for them because when I was in the Blue Beast headed to the border I saw the Japanese headed back to Karakol many hours after they’d left me curbside. I could only assume that they’d reached the border and one of them had left a passport or other important document back in town a tortuous 63 kms away.
The affable Misha dropped me off at the turnoff for Sary Mogul so I had to walk to town, ~1 mile, but quickly caught a lift with 2 locals who were headed to Osh and offered to take me all the way there. I politely declined as I was hoping to get a view of the mountains, especially Peak Lenin, in the morning even though it was totally overcast when we arrived in Sary Tash. I was also not too keen on being in a car on the unlit roads at night. I spent the night in the guest house closest to the road, Hotel Anita, for which I was quoted 600c. for dinner, a bed, breakfast, and a shower. For a litany of reasons I paid 500c. upon departure and I would suggest staying at one of the other guesthouses. Can change excess Tajik somoni
for Kyrgyz som
at very poor rates at the nearby ‘magazin,’ same for Osh where the banks don't accept Tajik somoni
so the exchange offices stick it to anyone who is unfortunate enough to have any leftover. Osh is, however, a good place to buy Tajik somoni
. Day 19 Sary Tash → Osh
Not only did the clouds not disperse by morning but it actually snowed overnight. By 8:00 I was on the side of the road across from the guest house freezing and trying to hitch to Osh. Traffic was sparse, almost exclusively Chinese truckers whom I knew from previous experience in Tajikistan would never stop to pick me up. A share taxi driver approached me several times to offer to take me for anywhere from 350 to 500c. but he did not have any other passengers so there was no need for me to commit and I continued my futile thumbing. An Osh marshrutka
passed by but it was packed to the gills and I had no desire to stand for what could have been a 5 hour trip. Eventually I caved in to the taxi driver and settled on 350c. to Osh. We left ~9:30 and got to the center of Osh ~12:15 after a stunning ride through several mountain passes dusted with fresh snow. Took a local marshrutka
for 10c. that dropped me right in front of Biy Ordo Guesthouse (nice place, 6 person dorm bed 400c., breakfast 100c. extra but I passed as it didn't look too good, patchy WiFi) where I had my first shower in 4 days. It was not as warm in Osh as I expected but autumn is definitely on its way. Back in Bishkek
After a few days in Osh I flew back to Bishkek with Pegasus Airlines for the ridiculously low price of $23 including a 15 kg checked bag and a glass of water on board. This 50 minute flight left at 8:00 and was cheaper than the share taxis driving the route in 10-12 hours. Marshrutka
107 runs to the airport for 10c. but I didn't see one that early in the morning so I hailed a taxi for 150c. My fourth and final time in Bishkek I stayed in the center at USSR Hostel for $10 night in a 4 person dorm (through booking.com). Excellent WiFi which definitely wasn't the case in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, or elsewhere in Kyrgyzstan. A block down the street is Поварешка ('Povareshka' or 'ladle'), a Soviet style nouveau canteen serving good, cheap meals along with excellent desserts. Couple places nearby do ~200-300c. business lunches but СЕРЕ's ('Serye'), while tasty, was paltry. There's a good supermarket in the same building and a basic kitchen in the hostel.
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