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.