Looking inside the containers at the new bazaar

One of the major streets in Osh

Locals playing chess and ping pong

This ride has seen better days

Carnival rides in the park

Leafy walkway in the park

Ferris wheel and an old Aeroflot plane

Artwork along the street

Circular rainbow in the sky

Park by the mountain

The city of Osh

The view from inside the "Cult Cave"

Artwork in the "Cult Cave"

Museum cut into the mountainside

The edge of the old bazaar near the river

Bread for sale at the bazaar

Assortment of sweets at the bazaar

Osh, Kyrgyzstan

An Upgrade from China

May 9, 2012

Crossroads seem to come and go

The gypsy flies from coast to coast

Knowing many, loving none

Bearing sorrow having fun

- Allman Brothers Band

Just a short distance away, on the other side of the mountains, it is a completely different world in Kyrgyzstan. The hustle and bustle of life in China seems to have faded away and Osh is a spread out peaceful city with a much less aggressive pace of life. The complete disarray that is so typical of China has been replaced by just that extra level of order that makes life in the societies that we are accustomed to more familiar and bearable.

Walking around the city, the second largest in Kyrgyzstan, I was surprised at how peaceful it was with traffic lights and a lack of the incessant honking that had annoyed me in China. There is also that extra bit of politeness where people don’t bump into you or aren’t constantly spitting on the street. In the center of the city there is a river that cuts through a leafy park. Under the shade of the trees there were carnival rides, and locals strolling and playing chess and ping pong. Randomly there is an old Russian Aeroflot plane parked at the base of Ferris wheel.

Looming over the city is a rock mountain with trails leading up to the top which you can hike for 5 Som (11 cents). Supposedly the Prophet Mohammed prayed here once, making it a holy place. From the viewing platform you can see clear across the city to where it ends and the countryside fades in. A taller peak behind has a large opening of a cave at the top where the locals must hang out, as evidenced by the art work and broken glass beer bottles littered everywhere. On the side of the mountain there is a museum that has been strangely blasted into the rock of this supposedly sacred mountain.

Other than climbing the mountain and a handful of museums, which did not look very inspiring, there isn’t a whole lot to do in Osh. What it lacks in attractions the massive ancient bazaar that sprawls along the riverside north of the park makes up for in shopping options. There is about 1km of fruit and vegetable vendors along the street and other goods located inside the market. Everything is also amazingly cheap, certainly on par with China, if not a little cheaper in some cases. Chopsticks have been replaced by fork and spoon while noodle soups remain along with kebabs and other more western fare like salads and french fries. I hope that Bishkek, my next stop and the nation’s capital, will share the same appealing characteristics of Osh.