5 Things I Did in Bishkek that I Probably Shouldn’t Have.

By Posted in - Bishkek & Featured Post & Kyrgyzstan & Travel Resources on August 3rd, 2011

[google1] Today’s guest post is from one of my favorite all time travel bloggers – Brooke Schoenman from BrookeVsTheWorld.com. Brooke will be returning to Bishkek this November where she will start work on a Bishkek Travel Guide and a Guide to Learning Russian in Kyrgyzstan. Stay tuned!

Maybe four years ago, I got the idea in my head that I wanted to trek over to the middle of nowhere to hang out in a country that doesn’t exist to about 95% of people in America.  About 3 years ago, I made the trip happen.

Bishkek Central Plaza - courtesy of Brooke.

My destination was Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, or the lesser known Stan when compared to our now well-known Kazakstan (thanks, Borat).  I spent the majority of my time in that country in Bishkek taking Russian language lessons and contemplating when, or if, I would move on.  Suddenly, one day, I did move on.  It was a delirious, heat-induced decision to fly home for a month, which also resulted in me getting a job teaching English in Ukraine.

So, I haven’t been in Bishkek since late 2008, but now that I have a plane ticket back to my beloved non-existent place this October, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past – both the good and the bad.  These are the things I now realize I did in Bishkek that I probably shouldn’t have!

I drank the water.

More specifically, I drank the water straight from the tap.  Oh yeah, I’m a no-limits type of traveler like that!  Okay, not really.  I was drinking bottled water and using a tea kettle for every bit of H20 that entered my body until I signed up for the homestay.  It only took one day of drinking juice made with tap water by my host mom to get my body in order for the months that were yet to come.

Actually, I had been told by many people in Bishkek that the water was quite clean since it came down from the mountains that surround the city.  With the idea that I would be spending a significant amount of time there, I decided to just go for it.

Lost In Bishkek - Courtesy of Brooke


I got into cars playing taxi.

When you travel, you really want to do as the locals do, and there, the locals that own a car also play taxi.  To get around, if you want to bypass the marshrutkas (that’s another blog post altogether), you simply stand on the side of the road and point your hand down to any passing car.  When they stop, which most of the time they do, you say where you’re going and negotiate a price.

There’s a reason I didn’t put this post on MY blog; my mom would be freaking out to know that I got into random car taxis.  But, it is considered normal there – and I also prefered to do this when someone else was with me.  I probably shouldn’t have though, hey?

I danced with Turkish guys.

This one is up to debate I guess.  There was a huge difference between Kyrgyz and Turkish men in Bishkek, especially with their straightforward-ness with women.  I may have entered the dance floor at the Golden Bull one night and immediately found myself surrounded by a group of Turkish men.  Whoa, too much, get me out!

I argued with my teachers.

My teachers at the Russian language school were awesome, young and educated women, both of Kyrgyz and Russian decent.  Still, I found at times that they had some of that old “wisdom” instilled in them, and this led to a bit of frustration on my end.  How, I thought, could these educated women still think these old wive’s tales or weird remedies were valid?  I may have found myself in several little scuffles as the disbelief overcame me, and I really feel bad about that.  We come from two extremely different cultures; I can’t expect them to have the same knowledge and experiences.  I blame hours of language lessons a day for my scuffles.

Bishkek At Night - Courtesy of Brooke

I left without seeing everything.

Do you ever arrive somewhere for an extended period and think, “Oh, don’t rush! We’ll get around to it eventually.”  That was my exact mindset while in Bishkek, and when push came to shove (when I got a plane ticket home), it turned out that I didn’t get around to doing nearly as much as I had hoped!

I guess this is the same as telling yourself that you’ll take a trip later on in life, or that you’ll start a new project tomorrow.  The chances are that time will pass and you will not have done nearly as much as you could have in life.

Obviously, I’m doing what I can to make sure this won’t happen on my upcoming return visit.

Brooke vs. the World is a thrifty traveler and experience collector with a love for language learning, history and cannoli. She is the creator of the female travel focused FTU Newsletter and Her Packing List website. Follow her upcoming adventures to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on her blog, Facebook or Twitter.

*All photos courtesy of Brooke Schoenman


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*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website, Nariko’ s Nest Weddings & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!

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(17) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Mack Reynolds -

    August 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    thanks for the post. i’ve never heard of Kyrgyzstan. yes, i had to copy paste it because i’m an ignorant american. sounds like a really great place to go. i really like the civilian taxi thing too.

    • Bethany -

      August 3, 2011 at 8:24 pm

      Oh you’re not alone! I think this place is off the radar for most people. That’s what makes Brooke such a great resource on this off-beat travel spot. I want to go to. I’ve been hearing her tales for a while now and I am def. intrigued. 🙂 @Mack Reynolds,

  • Brooke vs. the World -

    August 3, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Thanks for letting me share this post with your readers, Beth! 🙂

  • Kirstin -

    August 4, 2011 at 3:03 am

    Welcome back! I’ve been living in Bishkek for a year now, an updated guidebook sounds like a good idea. I’m sure we’ll bump into each other at some point, this place has such a small-town feel sometimes.

    • Brooke vs. the World -

      August 8, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      @Kirstin, Yes, we’ll have to hang out. This trip is going to be short, but I will hopefully come back in the Spring for a longer run… with boyfriend in tow 🙂

  • Tours Of The Vatican -

    August 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Aside from the last one (which I would regret too) it sounds like you did okay!! And even the last one can be remedied because you can always go back some day, right? 🙂


  • Chianti Villas -

    August 5, 2011 at 5:01 am

    I too have never been to Kyrgyzstan. You seem to have a very different kinda trip, right! Sounds Good! Thanks for sharing.

  • Sailor -

    August 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Sounds like an exiting trip. I like the taxi playing part and I do that when ever I can.

  • Maggie from Destination Exploration -

    August 6, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Wow! What an interesting place to live and explore! I love reading about places off the beaten track. Thanks for the post.

  • Kirk -

    August 9, 2011 at 5:23 am

    Wow Brooke I can certainly understand why you did post this on your blog. Drinking the water and random car rides as pretend taxi doesnt seem safe. Since you are able to make the post I guess we can assume everything worked out for the best.

  • Cailin -

    August 13, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Turkish men are harmless!
    It couldn’t of been that bad! 🙂

  • Audrey -

    August 15, 2011 at 4:06 am

    I’ve been learning so much about Bishkek with all these posts! I must admit, the city was not on my radar prior to this… I hope you get to visit the places you missed the first time around! 😀

  • Learn About Bishkek via My Guest Posts -

    May 6, 2012 at 4:03 am

    […] 5 Things I Did in Bishkek that I Probably Shouldn’t Have – Written for Beers and Beans, this post discusses some of the things you would normally consider taboo yet I still did when living in the Kek. […]

  • Hassan -

    January 29, 2014 at 2:36 am

    This may be a little late to comment on this post, but I spent two months (Aug-Sept. 2008) with a friend at a place off Moskovskaya and we both drank the water copiously. By the time we left both of our teeth were hurting though. I also thought the coke tasted strange.