Some impressions from Bishkek, Kyrgyzystan

I spent the last 3 days in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and it's a really positive surprise. I did not know much abut the place before departing.

While it's just 1000 miles from new Delhi, India and less than 500 miles from Urumqi, China it does not feel like Asia at all. True it has the same time zone and people here have some Asian looks but that's about as much Asia as you get.

Bishkek still looks much like former Soviet Union and modern Russia instead. May buildings are still from the Soviet era and form a cool nostalgic foreground to the (year round) snow capped Tian Shan mountains.

It's a city with a rather perfect grid system with many parks and trees. It also sports an enormous amount of restaurants, pubs, bars, coffee shops. It almost feels like Koh Samui without a beach and much fewer tourists around.

The (official) economy hasn't done so well since the early 90's and official GDP growth has trailed any other place in the former FSU. But going through the streets of Bishkek you wouldn't notice given the amount of luxury cars. As usual in the former Soviet Union countries the unofficial economy is a huge deal.

Just 20 miles outside the city center lies a national park that gives you access to a mountain range that goes up to 15,000 feet. Access is easy but for extended tours mountaineering equipment is needed to withstand the freezing night time temperatures and daily snow fall.

Kyrgyzstan only has 5 million people. It's a bit forgotten by the world it seems. It should not be. Cost of living is low, living standards are rather high, internet speeds very good and the people have a warm hospitality that will make you feel very welcome.