Monday, April 20, 2015

On The Way Back to Bishkek.

Even heavy clouds can't take away the beauty of the landscape here.

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fter visiting the petroglyphs, which comprise the *open air* exhibit of the  Issyk Kul State Historical and Cultural Museum, we drove to the town of Cholpon-Ata to see the museum proper.  Cholpon-Ata is a popular lakeside resort, located on the northern shore of Issyk Kul.


Although we're in Kyrgyzsgtan, Cholpon-Ata looked and felt like a resort town in coastal USA.  We drove down the main street which was lined with small hotels, restaurants, and shops.  As you might expect the stores were selling all things needed to enjoy a day on the water.

I know I only got a quick glance of everything as we drove by but the sense that I got was that life seemed to be very relaxed here - the traffic was light, there were no crowds of people, no honking cars.  It's also obvious that money comes here -  buildings were not rundown, green spaces were well manicured.


Bahkryt parked the van and all four of us got out.  Lilya told us that despite all the trips he has made to Cholpon-Ata, bringing tourists to see the museum, Bahkryt himself has never been to the place.  About time he did and what better time than today as there are only 4 of us - we're not exactly going to pack the place. 

Issyk Kul State Historical and Cultural Museum is a small regional museum displaying mainly artifacts from the area and Kyrgyz applied arts.  Lilya guided us on a short walk through the place.  It was quite an interesting little museum.  The things that caught my attention where the displays on house hold implements, the Kyrgyz musical instruments and the wool felt rugs. 

Historic rulers of the region.

Bahkryt at the museum.  The descriptions were in Kyrgyz so he could read them but not I :-(





This display caught my attention because of the Chinese hotpot on the right.  I think my mom has a similar looking one!

Wool felt wall hanging.  Very pretty.

Examples of Kyrgyz instruments.

Memorabilia related to World War II.

Traditional Kyrgyz women's dress.

Old photo showing Krygyz women in traditional dress.  Very feminine looking outfit!


Examples of Kyrgyz textiles.

The wool felt blankets rugs were particularly interesting.  There were no signs saying not to touch and I'm sure I broke a de facto rule regarding touching but I couldn't help myself, I had to feel them.  Surprisingly, they were much thicker than I had expected - it's no wonder you can use the material to serve as the walls of a yurt!




It was a very short visit to the museum. From Cholpon-Ata, we retraced our steps, so to speak.  We're on the way back to Bishkek.

Last views of Issyk Kul.

Heading back to the mountains.

Lilya mentioned that there is a train that runs from Bishkek to Issky Kul.  The scenic train ride takes about 5-6 hours which isn't bad considering that's about how long it took us to drive.


As we made our way along the mountain pass, I got to enjoy one last view of the peaks of Kyrgyzstan.  This is the scenic beauty of Kyrgyzstan.

Too bad that the two days we've been here have been cloudy.  The mountains would have looked stunning in the sun!

Soon the mountains lost their snow capped peaks but not their beauty.



Then, views of the small villages and farmland filled the frame of my window.  This is Kyrgyzstan.




Despite all the animals we've seen grazing in the fields, we've rarely had to stop the van to wait for them to cross the road.  For Pat and I, this was such a different experience from Ethiopia where it felt like we were stopping every other kilometer to let a flock or herd make their way across the road we were on.


It was almost 2p when we arrived into the outskirts of Tokmok.  It was time to stop for lunch.  It was also a very odd place where we stopped for lunch.  It was sort of like a weird theme restaurant. 

As we drove towards the parking lot, we passed by a cluster of plastic, life sized palm trees, around a large pond.  Lilya told us the place was called Restaurant Hawaii so even though they looked out of place, I wasn't surprised to see the palms.


From the parking lot, all four of us walked to the main dining pavilion - there are several on the property.  It was large dining room, empty of people except for the servers and us four.  We ordered our meal and since mine was sashlyk, I had at least a 20 minute wait.  So, I decided to wander about the grounds of this place.  It's a very, very odd place.

Restaurant Hawaii was first opened in 2005 by a Uiyhur businessman. In the last eight years it has skyrocketed to Tokmok (and Bishkek) fame for being a unique complex that offers an indoor and outdoor restaurant; a petting zoo that includes camels, eagles, snakes, and reindeer; a beach and artificial lake that you can swim in; a photogenic water-fountain-lined park to take engagement and wedding photos; and the opportunity to dine on floating huts on the lake, where waiters deliver your orders by boat.  It's a mish mash of things.

Let's start with the plastic alligator/crocodile??  It sits near the palm trees.  I don't think there are any crocodiles in Hawaii.


From the music blaring out from this place, my guess is this is the restaurant's bar.

There is a small lake on the property.

Floating pavilions.  Not sure what you do on these.  Eat and drink?

There was also a display of plastic Chinese zodiac symbols.   Here I give you snake and horse.

And to celebrate 2015, here is the goat....a Kyrgyz mountain goat!

There is small petting zoo.  The camel looked a bit thin and well, the other animals were not in much better shape.

Last but not least, I give you the complex's pièce de résistance - it looks like something from the Predator movie series.  I don't think you'll find this creature in Hawaii either.  If you do see on, RUN!


After gawking at the sights, displayed outside, I decided I needed to return to reality.  I found the restaurant's grill and was glad to see my skewer of shashlyk cooking away.


After lunch, it was back on the road.  We were just a short distance away from the hotel - we were returning to Asia Mountains 2.


It was mid afternoon when we arrived back at the hotel.  Lilya got us checked in - we got the same room so we knew exactly where to go. It was nice to be back.

Since we had had such a late lunch, neither one of us was hungry for dinner which was a bit of a shame as I know both of was were looking forward to another meal of Chinese food.  Oh well.  So, we just opted to relax the rest of the day and night away.

For the most part our ride back to Bishkek was a very quiet one - there was very little conversation.   Even Lilya noticed it, commenting that the laughter had died.  I think I was quiet because I wanted to focus on taking in the views; part of me was sad to be leaving the spectacular scenery of Kyrgyzstan behind.  I know I complain about the endless farmland but truthfully, I really do enjoy seeing it.  Where I live, I am surrounded by concrete, brick, stone, glass and steel - everything is man made.  To be immersed in nature and be surrounded by greenery is a real treat for me and even though Issyk Kul was not what I had expected, I still enjoyed the past two days of getting there, being there and coming back.

Tomorrow we are leaving Kyrgystan and heading to Kazakhstan.  I cannot believe how far we've come and I don't want to think about this part but how few days left we have before we return home.  It's really true that time flies when you're having fun!

Goodnight from Bishkek.