Miriam - schnee! And lots of it.
It has been below freezing for two days here in Bishkek, plummeting to a painful -13 yesterday morning.
The post office is very old fashioned. A giant map of the world adorns the main wall and it even had a sewing machine behind the wooden counter. Parcels are wrapped in brown paper and then tied with string. The address is then written on by hand.
Iranian visa collected this afternoon. Only took three months to arrange...Read more
Let's play a game - spot the Lada! They are everywhere and seem to be the automotive brand of choice for the police force. So USSR. Today it started snowing and tomorrow the "high" is -6. I intend to spend the day at the Iranian embassy; I do hope it's centrally heated.
Staying with a Kyrgyz family. It's a guesthouse and I am the only guest (staying true to the name) and their hospitality is quite unbelievable. They invite me in for dinner, make me tea and Guiliya the grandmother has been sharing her many stories with me. We think she should write a book. I am glad to be staying for a few days here.
Kyrgyzstan is a fun country. Please take a moment to look at the hat below. No lie, this is what the men wear about the town. It's like something out of Noddy. However, they are made of felt and fur-lined so incredibly warm in this cold weather.
Ruth - I found a vanilla latte. Unfortunately, you weren't with it.Read more
Here's a story about how to get from one ex-communist country to another.
First, get on a sleeper bus with thirty odd chinese men. Warning: you will be required to squeeze on to a bed the size of a match box (three rows, each two story).
Drive through beautiful mountainous scenery and arrive at Chinese border. At this point your passport will be taken from you with no indication of when you will be reunited.
Proceed through customs and immigration; perservere with the argument you will have with chinese immigration that, as a British citizen, you do not require a Kyrgyz visa.
Drive 150km to Kyrgyz border. Wave at the camels and donkeys on the way.
Arrive at Kyrgyz border. Wrap up warm as it's cold and there's snow on the ground.
Enter Kyrgyz immigration hut. Don't be put off by the 7-foot tall Kyrgyz policeman dressed in full army attire with a Russian fur hat. Just smile, and when he smiles back, admire his full set of gold crowns on his upper teeth.
When asked by immigration (in Russian accent) 'do you speak Rrrrussian?', reply in your best home counties accent, 'I'm so sorry, I don't' and look innocent.
Hop back on the bus. As the bus climbs higher into the mountains and the depths of the snow drifts exceed 2 metres, don't be alarmed, and hope that snow chains will soon appear.
Snow chains don't appear and ice and snow cover the road. Panic. Bus swerves a lot. Panic a lot.
Night falls and the bus goes very slowly. At this point you will stop for dinner in a small conrete building where one man feeds the masses with scrambled eggs and bread. It will be the best scrambled eggs you've had.
Sleep until your arrival at Osh at 2am. If you have made the mistake of trusting lonely planet and are expecting to arrive in the cold light of day the next morning, feel free to panic again as you figure out what you will do for accomodation.
Finally, enjoy your stay.
Disclaimer: all of the above is truthful and factual information based on the experiences of one young traveller who thought she could get across the world with no foreign language skills.Read more
After a long overnight train I arrived in the incredible city of Kashgar. Here, the majority of people are Uighur and of Islamic faith. The food and architecture a very middle eastern inflenced. Walking through the old town gives you a fascinating glimpse of a time gone by with people cooking bread, welding door knockers, turning wood and chopping up sheep... As for the latter, I can tell you that they place the sheeps heads on the pavement...
Along the street you can also sample pomegranate juice and freshly churned vanilla ice cream. They have got the right idea these people.Read more
Turpan - death valley of China. At night it is freezing cold but by day the weather rivals that of a hot British August afternoon. I arrived at the train station after another overnight train to a mob of men shouting aggressively 'Tulufana, Tulafana!', which in is the local word for Turpan. The province of xinjiang (where the rest of my time in China will be spent) is home to a minority called Uyghur, part of the Turkic ethnic group. They speak Turkic based language and they write in Arabic script. They are very conservative muslims so the women wear headscarfs and the men muslim hats. They don't look Chinese; more Turkish or middle eastern. It is a strange sight.
I picked a taxi driver from the crowd and waited 45 minutes for the car to fill with other passengers... This involved doing some mainies of the station road shouting 'Tulufana!' out of the window. The landscape is grey and desolate. It is nearly 9am and the sun is only just rising; the whole of China works officially to Beijing time but over here they have 'local time', two hours behind to account for the discrepancy with the sun's movements. It makes organising events a tad confusing.
I hired a bike from the hostel (where I was the only guest) and set off to explore the old parts of town. Due to the arrid climate of Turpan, houses are made of mud and ancient ruins can be found all over. The streets are lined with people baking naan bread, frying samsas (meat dumplings) and carving up animal meat which hangs off racks. Mosques are everywhere. The best part of cycling round the town, however, was admiring the ornate gates of peoples' houses, hiding a secret world of courtyards. They were fascinating; bright colours, intricate patterns and floral carvings.
Late afternoon I went to the Emin Minaret. I was a little peeved at the $9 entry fee but when I went in there was a festival taking place. Turpan is known for growing lots of grapes and during winter they bury them underground. Today was the day they dug them up and it was heralded with traditional music and dance. I was in my element as I absorbed the thunderous drumming and shrill cry of the shawm-like instrument. One of the dancers dragged me up to join in. I guess that's what happens when you're the only white person in town...Read more