Banya (bath)

After days of lush alpine scenery, I left Karakol for Bishkek. Originally I had intended to leave Bishkek as the last stop before I return to Almaty. Alas to catch a transfer to Arslanbob  I must go to the capital.

The mashrutka (minibus) from Karakol took a whopping 6 hours with a change of spare tire. Along the way the road meanders along a bit of the northern shore of lake Issyk-Kol. Issyk-Kol is 170km long and 70km across – so that’s probably about 8 times the size of Singapore. It’s the second largest alpine lake after Lago Titicaca of Peru and Bolivia.

After arranging for the shared taxi to Arslanbob  (which will be a gruelling 12 hours ride) tomorrow, I decided to check out the banya that’s across the hotel.


Like most public baths I have been to in other countries, this bath is a place for people to unwind and socialise. Despite the amusing exterior, I’d consider it a good bath place and it’s very clean.  Under the big domes are cold pools – the women section’s pool is gorgeous. Fresh out of the baking hot sauna, I walked to the pool ready to dunk in. After all, a few days ago I had been strengthened by kymis – the traditional fermented mare’s milk that bred centuries of fearless nomadic horsemen in the great steppes.

Alas, I lasted a mere five seconds in the cold water.

In the pool, a lady in her 60s was doing laps.


Optional are some twigs for self flogging.


Wall decor of the waiting area.

I paid a bit more for a massage and it was heavenly.


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