Day 01 – Still in the USSR …

Thursday 28 August

9 hours in Moscow Airport, overnight, on a seat not wide enough and with a back that’s too short for me. This was not the most comfortable way to spend a night, as you can well imagine. Fortunately the airport itself was quite nice and, at that time of night, quiet too. From my plane from Latvia, I think only about 3 or 4 other people were transferring to another flight, and there was virtually no-one else in the transfer area at all.

Frustratingly, I lost the bar of chocolate that I bought a few hours earlier from a stall in Riga. The two small pastries were fine, but the chocolate mysteriously disappeared. It wasn’t the only thing to vanish either, as somewhere between the aeroplane and the hostel un Bishkek, the green fleece I bought in Australia and which was tied around my waist also disappeared; this one confuses me more as, although I have a history of losing clothes, that’s usually because I take them off and forget to pick them back up. That this was around my waist the whole time suggests some great International conspiracy to rid me of my outer layers. Or something.

Now, there have been a couple of flights where I’ve been the only British Citizen on board – one Internal flight in the USA I was the only non-American, but that’s because no-one really wants to go to Hancock/Houghton on Michigan’s UP. As far as I know there’s only one International flight I’ve taken where I was the only third-party citizen – the one from Moldova to Kiev.
I did expect this flight to be the same, but there were a surprising number of ‘Westerners’ on board – evidently Kyrgyzstan isn’t as obscure a destination as I may have expected. It was noticeable though even in the queue that I was flying into the central Asian heartland – Turkic/Mongol faces were as common as Slavic/Russian faces in the queue to board.

The flight to Bishkek was smooth, and to be honest I was sleeping most of the way. I was flying with Aeroflot, and although now a well-recognised and Internationally-renowned airline, it was still disconcerting to have the whole plane applaud when we touched down in Bishkek. The only other airline I regularly come across that sort of thing is Ryanair…

Immigration pretty easy, and the airport itself was reasonably small but comfortable. My research had noted that there was an airport shuttle bus – a marshrutka (minibus) that left regularly and cost 40som (less than 50 pence) which made it a much better option than the alternative of US$13 taxis.
Oddly, the marshrutka was populated with Westerners, the majority being American Peace Corps volunteers who’d just arrived on a flight from the Southern Kyrgyz town of Osh. They pointed me in the right direction for a connecting marshrutka to my hostel – turns out that there’s a website and an app that plots the routes of every single one, which will be incredibly useful.

The hostel I’m in is quite a way East, and it’s on the4th floor of a 9-storey Soviet apartment block. It also stands directly over a small shopping complex, including a 24 hour supermarket. It definitely feels like an apartment more than a hostel – there’s three bedrooms (two private, one dorm), a kitchen, and a separate toilet/bathroom. The neighbouring apartment appears to be also part of the hostel and one assumes it’s structured the same way. Anyway it’s pretty cosy and the staff seem nice and helpful.

One slight snag has come to light – there’s a suggestion from one of the others in the dorm, a chap from France, that there might be an issue getting into Tajikistan. The French Foreign Office are saying that they’re closing the land borders in early September due to some kind of regional conference. This needs more research …

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