Red Corner: Roughing it in Kyrgyzstan

One of the most remote places I’ve ever been, where I felt I slipped back hundreds of years in time, was Kyrgyzstan. Although my trip was ten years ago, I was happy to discover in a recent article in The Times (UK) that not much has changed.

Journalist Tony Kelly ventured into this remote region on a direct flight from London and quickly left civilization behind. He headed into the Tien Shan Mountains, popular with trekkers and horseback riders, where he easily accomplished his goal of staying in a traditional yurt-a large round tent made of felt. He also visited the pride of Kyrgyzstan, Lake Issyk-Kul (which I found rather disappointing after all the hoopla buildup I had heard during my own travels through the country).

What’s most appealing about Kelly’s travels was his manner of doing so. He took advantage of the Community Based Tourism (CBT) organization to arrange home stays throughout the country for a little less than $10 a night. While you certainly can’t beat the cost of such organizations, far more rewarding is the wonderful experience gained by staying with a family, eating their food, and living their daily lives, that you simply can’t gain from a hotel stay-if in fact the Tien Shan Mountains actually had any hotels.