Through the Ala-Too

Ala-Too mountain range, from Bishkek to Jaichy (near Lake Issyk-Köl), Kyrgyzstan, on Tuesday, October 14, 2014.

The sun rises over the mountains as my driver Azamat (coincidentally the name of Borat’s driver/producer) takes us out of Bishkek and into the countryside in a Honda Fit. “Almaty is more European. Bishkek is not so much. When you’re here, you go to the mountains,” he tells me.


A video posted by Erik (@theglobaltrip) on

As we drive through the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range of the Tian Shan Mountains on the way to Lake Issyk-Köl, we lose radio reception so Azamat puts on a mix CD. Sade starts playing and I laugh because Mürat in Alamaty also had #Sade on his playlist. (I will forever associate her with driving through the K-stans now.)

The CD playlist continued — with Busta Rhymes and Destiny’s Child —until we got radio reception back once we were near the first lake town of Balykchy.

Gas and coffee stop with Azamat (who looks nothing like the character from “Borat”).

“Does Kyrgyzstan have oil like Kazakhstan?” I ask Azamat.

“No, it’s hard to dig for oil when 80% of the country is mountains,” he answers. (The big Kyrgyz industry is gold mining.)

I think they’re beautiful, but he’s not as enthused since he grew up with them.

The north side of Lake Issyk-Köl is developed with beaches, bars, and clubs frequented by local and Russian tourists. The south side, where most other tourists go, is more rural. Away from the city, the people here still speak Kyrgyz — but the sheep still go “baaaah.”

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Next entry: Meet Baha

Previous entry: Kyrgyz Food

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This dispatch is one of over 70 travel dispatches from the trip grouped and titled, "The Global Trip: 'Stan By Me." It's an archived compilation of Instagram and Facebook posts which chronicled a trip through three countries in Central Asia: Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

Next entry:
Meet Baha

Previous entry:
Kyrgyz Food


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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