TWC'S Odyssey
Tan Wee Cheng's Travels in the Central Asian Republics of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan

8 Jul   Karakol  & Altyn Arashan
We got up early today to visit the Dungan Mosque (Dungans are Muslim ethnic Chinese who fled here after their rebellion was crushed by the Manchus in western China in the 19th century; their mosque looked like a typical Chinese temple building) , the beautiful Russian Orthodox Church and the exotic bazaar.  We had Dungan ashlyamfu (cold noodles, jelly and eggs, plus a generous helping of chili) for 5 som (US$0.40) and bought lots of bread for less than $1 for the hiking trip.  Not used to cold noodles.  Hadn't heard of this Muslim dish on China trips.
Dungan lady selling ashlyamfu.  I heard that they still speak Mandarin and use chopsticks.  I didn't know this was a Dungan and would have tried speaking to her if I had known. Dungan Mosque in Karakol Lenin's statue is still standing in the main government square of Karakol.
First stamp of the Kyrgyz Republic: An Eagle Hiking on the Tianshan Kyrgyz 10 Tyn banknote: Equivalent to half US cent
We set off for Altyn Arashan at around 11 am with Sergey, a young ethnic Russian guide, and Askhat, his Tatar friend.  The scenery was greatůvery Alpine.  Lofty peaks and green meadows.  It's hard to imagine that China is just at the other side of these mountains.  Certain stretches were pretty tough upslopes - very strenuous for someone like me, who hadn't done much hiking before.  There's a track in the valley with its treacherous turns.  Indeed there were remains of a wrecked truck at the bottom of one such turn, and a lonely tomb above it.  I was relieved when we finally reached the Altyn Arashan hot spings four hours later.  Set in a lovely green meadow, this looked like a Shangri-La in the Tianshan.  Exhausted, I fell asleep immediately after our tents were set upů
Altyn Arashan: Golden Spa The formidable but endangered snow leopard Arashan: Tents & tourists
Kyrgyz students The Animals of Tianshan: Eagle & Marco Polo Goats  Ethnic Russian students
I woke up an hour later and soon bumped into other visitors - a group of young ethnic Kyrgyz students, and a group of young American students together with their Kyrgyzstani hosts, who were mainly ethnic Russian students learning English from these Americans under a Kyrgyzstan Fund Sports Camp programme.  They were all very friendly people and we were invited to their little parties at night.  We had a great time chatting with them that night.

Click to here to go to next page: Altyn Arashan - Karakol

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