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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Journey to Bishkek #3: Weekend in Chong-Kemin

Over the weekend, I had a chance to go on an overnight trip to visit Chong-Kemin (big valley), a national park in the north of the country. It was a 3 hour trip outside of Bishkek, and it provided a decent opportunity to shoot some pictures and videos. Most travellers who come to Kyrgyzstan do so in order to get a taste of the mountains and the traditional nomadic lifestyle.

To get to Chong-Kemin, you drive up the Chu Valley, the largest segment of flat agricultural land in the country. Along the way, you pass a few villages and former kolkhozy which were once peopled by ethnicities forcibly trucked-in from around the USSR when the ever-paranoid Stalin decided they were state security risks. In the late '30s Koreans in the far east were thought to be a hotbed of spies; in '41 the Volga Germans were perceived as pro-Nazi fifth columnists; in '44 the Chechens seemed suspiciously unenthusiastic about fighting the Wehrmacht... and so on like that. The unluckiest were sent to Siberia, the remainder were dumped in Central Asia and nobody knows how many millions perished-- hey, mountains!

The guesthouse in Chong-Kemin was in a little village and was more comfortable than you'd imagine. There, we had a chance to do a bit of hiking, try the sauna and occasionally peer-over the border into southern Kazakstan. It's hard to see on the vid, but in the northeast there's a teeny bit of snow on some of the mountains.

Then, on the way back the next day, we happened-by a livestock market. I thought this bit was pretty cool to watch, so turn-up the volume and full-size the screen:

I suppose that's it for Kyrgyzstan stuff. This upcoming weekend, I'm off to Seoul (again) for a conference.


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