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Holidays in Laos

Understanding Laos


The ancient Scyths inhabited much of present day Kyrgyzstan With their disappearance the Kyrgyz people moved from Siberia The Kyrgyz are descendants of tribes from the Tuvan region of Russia, which migrated to the area now known as Kyrgyzstan in the 13th century, during the rise of the Mongol empire In 1876 the area was incorporated into the Russian empire and later the Soviet Union With the tsarist annexation came numerous Slavic immigrants that displaced many of the Kyrgyz and planted crops on their pasture lands During World War I, many Kyrgyz refused to support the tsarist troops and many were massacred

Following the creation of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan changed dramatically as industrialization took over and brought factories, mines, and universities The Soviet influence on Kyrgyzstan was strongly felt and many of the pre-Soviet traditions and cultures were lost and are only being recently rediscovered In addition, ethnic minorities were deported to Kyrgyzstan, including Germans, Kurds, Chechens, Poles, and Jews In addition, Ouighur and Dungan Chinese Muslims settled in Kyrgyzstan This mix of populations makes Kyrgyzstan one of the most ethnically diverse populations in Asia

August 31st, 1991 marked a major event in the history of Kyrgyzstan After unrest in various regions throughout the Soviet Union, a coup in Moscow against the regime of Mikhail Gorbachev failed This move against the central government motivated the Kyrgyz power structure to declare independence from the USSR Kyrgyzstan also saw during that time the election of the only non-communist party backed president in the Central Asian region, a physicist named Askar Akayev

As for President Akayev, it became evident that non-party affiliation did not guarantee honesty The executive branch’s power increased through suppression of opposition and the President secured immunity from prosecution for himself and his family After several years of questionable elections, in March 2005, massive groups of protesters from around the country converged on the capitol, causing Akayev to flee into exile in Russia

The leader of the Tulip Revolution, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, formed an interim government and served as president and prime minister until later that July when emergency elections were held Bakiyev ran for the office of President and won, but was unable to gain parliamentary approval of his cabinet until five months later After several attempts to resolve a constitution, Bakiyev declared in 2007, that all previous versions of the constitution were illegal and instituted a modified constitution from the Akayev era He then dissolved parliament and called for an early election to reform the parliamentary structure The President’s own party gained the majority and the US State Department expressed deep concern about the conduct of the elections, citing several issues including widespread vote count irregularities and exaggerations in voter turnout Some of the current problems that Kyrgyzstan faces today are universal throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States, namely lack of political freedom, widespread corruption, and negative influences on democracy


Dry continental to polar in high Tien Shan; subtropical in southwest Fergana Valley; temperate in northern foothill zone


Entirely mountainous, dominated by the Tien Shan range; many tall peaks, glaciers, and high-altitude lakes Highest point: Jengish Chokusu Pik Pobedy 7,439 m The mountains are beautiful for hiking

Talking in Laos

Arabic official Although in schools the classical version of Arabic is taught; and just like everywhere in the Arab world, Kuwaiti’s use the Kuwaiti dialect in everyday conversation English is widely used and spoken Most of the traffic signs in Kuwait are bilingual English is taught as a second language in schools in Kuwait beginning at the first grade Many Kuwaiti's speak English fluently as there are lots of private English and American schools and universities where all subject are taught in English and Arabic is taken as a subject A lot of Kuwaitis are enrolling their children in these schools

What to do in Laos

  • Wander around Osh Bazaar - Traditional Eastern market in Bishkek selling everything from spices to dishwashers
  • Buy cheap Chinese goods in Dordoi Bazaar - The largest market in Central Asia, situated 20 minutes north of Bishkek
  • Swim, sail and sunbathe in Issyk Kul - The world's second biggest high altitude mountain lake
  • Stay in a yurt near Tash Rabat - Ruins of a Caravansarai in Naryn Oblast
  • Live like a nomad in Son Kul - High altitude mountain lake less visited than Issyk Kul and ideal for seeing traditional semi-nomadic Kyrgyz life in action
  • Hike or climb in Altyn Arashan - a secluded valley a 2 hour jeep ride from Karakol

Buying stuff in Laos


The official currency in Kyrgyzstan is the som written as 'сом' or abbreviated as 'с' in Cyrillic, divided into 100 tyin Notes are available in 10 tyin, 50 tyin, 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, and 5000 som denominations Coins are available in 10 tyin, 50 tyin, 1 som, 3 som, and 5 som denominations

Changing money is relatively straightforward Banks will accept a variety of major currencies, while the money-changing booths that are ubiquitous in urban areas will typically only deal with US Dollars, Pounds, Euros, Roubles, and Kazakh tenges Note that neither banks nor money changers will accept any foreign currency that is torn, marked, excessively crumpled, or defaced in any way, so be sure to carefully check any notes you intend to bring into the country for defects

Credit Cards & ATMs

Like other countries in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is overwhelmingly a cash economy Credit cards are rarely used

ATMs are common in Bishkek, but many more accept Visa than Maestro/Cirrus you can withdraw US Dollars or Kyrgyz som at many ATMs


Food and eating in Laos

Kyrgyz food is the product of a long history of pastoral nomadism and is overwhelmingly meat-based And if we are saying overwhelmingly, it means really overwhelmingly Those with vegetarian fixations may wish to revise their habits, purchase their own fresh fruits, vegetables, and fresh bread from one of the many small stands or food bazaars that are ubiquitous in every city, eat in Chinese restaurants or stay at bread and tea only While people from the West are programmed to think of large vegetables as desirable, small and flavourful is the rule here Same is valid for pistachios, almonds as well Washing vegetables before consumption is recommended

Besh barmak “five fingers” is the national soupy dish of Kyrgyzstan Kazakhs would probably disagree For preparation, a sheep or horse is slaughtered and boiled in a large pot The resulting broth is served as a first course The meat is then divided up between those at the table Each person in attendance receives the piece of meat appropriate to their social status The head and eyes are reserved for guests of honor The remaining meat is mixed in with noodles and, sometimes with onions, and is traditionally eaten from a large common dish with the hands, although nowadays more often with a fork or spoon Kyrgyz people like soupy food in general, those food that are served as kind of pasta in Russia pelmene, they prefer it as soup

Most other dishes encountered in Kyrgyzstan are common to the other countries of Central Asia as well Plov or osh is a pilaf dish that at a minimum includes julienne carrots, onion, beef or mutton, and plenty of oil, sometimes rosins Manti are steamed dumplings that normally contain either mutton or beef, but occasionally pumpkin Samsa are meat although sometimes vegetable or cheese pies that come in two varieties: flakey and tandoori Flakey somsa are made with a phyllo dough while tandoori somsa have a tougher crust, the bottom of which is meant to be cut off and discarded, not eaten Lagman is a noodle dish associated with Uyghur cuisine, but you can find everywhere from Crimea to Ujgurs Most of the time it is served as soup, sometimes as pasta The basic ingredients of lagman plain noodles and spiced vegetables mixed with mutton or beef can be fried together, served one on top of the other, or served separately Shashlik shish kebabs can be made of beef, mutton, or pork and are normally served with fresh onions, vinegar and bread

Almost all Kyrgyz meals are accompanied by tea either green or black and a circular loaf of bread known as a lepeshka The bread is traditionally torn apart for everyone by one person at the table In the south of Kyrgyzstan, this duty is reserved for men, but in the north it is more frequently performed by women Similarly, tea in the north is usually poured by women, while in the south it is usually poured by men

At the end of a meal, Kyrgyz will in some cases perform a prayer Sometimes some words are said, but more often the prayer takes the form of a perfunctory swipe of the hands over the face Follow the lead of your host or hostess to avoid making any cultural missteps

Drinking in Laos

Drinking is one of the great Kyrgyz social traditions No matter if you are served tea, kymys, or vodka, if you have been invited to a Kyrgyz person's table to drink, you have been shown warm and friendly hospitality Plan to sit awhile and drink your fill as you and your host attempt to learn about each other

Drinking tea

When offered tea, you might be asked how strong you want it Traditionally, Kyrgyz tea is brewed strong in a small pot and mixed with boiling hot water to your desired taste If you want light tea, say 'jengil chai' If you want your tea strong and red, 'kyzyl chai' You might notice that they don't fill the tea cup all the way This is so that they can be hospitable and serve you lots of tea To ask for more tea, 'Daga chai, beringizchi' Please give tea again Your host will happily serve you tea until you burst So once you've truly had your fill and don't want to drink any more, cover your tea cup and say, 'Ichtym' I've drunk Your host will offer a few more times and sometimes will pout if you say no, this is to make sure that you are truly satisfied Once everyone at table has finished drinking tea, it is time to say, 'Omen', and hold your hands out palms up and then brush the open palms down your face


When entering a local store, you might goggle at the amount of vodka on display Introduced by the Russians, vodka has brought much joy and sorrow to the Kyrgyz over the years Most vodka you will find for sale was made in Kyrgyzstan and can provide travellers with one of the worst hangovers known, mainly if you are stupid and buy one of cheaper ones But for aprox €2 you can have good kyrgyz vodka, ex Ak-sai Some professional vodka drinkers say that this is because foreigners don't know how to properly drink vodka To drink vodka in the right way, you need to have zakushkas Russian for the meal you eat with vodka This can consist of anything from simple loaves of bread to full spreads of delicious appetizers Quite common are sour or fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and of course meat

First, find someone to drink with Only alcoholics drink alone Second, choose your vodka, the more you spend the less painful your hangover Third, choose your zakuska, something salty, dried, or fatty This is so that the vodka is either absorbed by the food or repelled by the fat Fourth, open your bottle but be careful, once you open it you must drink it all a good vodka bottle doesn't have a cap that can be replaced, now pour your shots Fifth, you will toast! You must toast! Toast your friends, toast their futures, toast their sheep, toast their cars Sixth, drink! Drink it all! Now chase it with a zakuska and repeat until you can't see the bottle or it is empty

If you are drinking with locals its not problem to skip round They would just pour you a symbolic drop and when they are clinking glasses you have to use your right hand and slap sparingpartners glasses slightly instead of your glass

Traditional drinks

The Kyrgyz for generations have made their own variety of beverages At first, these drinks might seem a bit strange, but after a few tries they become quite tasty Most are mildly alcoholic, but this is just a by-product from their fermentation processes

In the winter, Kyrgyz wives brew up bozo, a brew made of millet Best served at room temperature, this drink has a taste somewhere between yogurt and beer On cold winter days, when you are snowed in, five or six cups gives you a warm fuzzy feeling

In the spring, it is time to make either jarma or maxim Jarma, a wheat based brew, has a yeasty beerlike quality but with a gritty finish it is made from whole grains after all Maxim, a combination of corn and wheat, has a very sharp and zesty taste It is best served ice cold and is a great pick me up on hot days

Summer sees yurts lining the main street selling kymys, fermented mares milk Ladled out of barrels brought down from the mountains, this traditional drink is one of more difficult to get used to It has a very strong and pungent foretaste and a smoky finish Kymys starts off as fresh horses milk known as samal, the samal is then mixed with a starter made from last year's kymys and heated in a pot The mixture is brought to just before boiling and then poured into a horse's stomach to ferment for a period A local grass called 'chi' is then roasted over a fire and cut into small pieces Once the milk is finished fermenting, the roasted chi and milk are mixed in a barrel and will keep for the summer if kept cool

Tang is another drink thought to be useful for the health and good for hangovers It is made from gassed spring water that is mixed with a salted creamy yogurt called souzmu

Other drinks

Kyrgyz have their own cognac distiller, which produces excellent, albeit highly sweet cognac, with the preferred brand being "Kyrgyzstan Cognac", which the locals sometimes call Nashe Cognac, meaning "our cognac"

You can also find an excellent selection of not so excellent local and imported beers as many Kyrgyz have been taking to drinking beer versus harder spirits Locally produced beers include Arpa, Nashe Pivo, and Karabalta Arpa is highly recommended by beer connoisseurs While being considered a common person's beer, its style is somewhat similar to an American Pale Ale less hoppy than its Indian counter-part Due to the fact that Kyrgizes prefer more vodka than beer actually, half litre of both costs the same, beer is staying in tubes for longer time Regular cleaning service is not common Bottled beers are better, except their strange habit to pour all the beer into the glass at once

There are also a multitude of bottled waters carbonated or still from various regions of the country Especially popular with southerners is the slightly saline "Jalalabad Water"

Accommodation in Laos

Many private citizens rent out their flats to foreigners and a fairly luxurious flat could be agreed for quite low price a week Noting that the average salary was $44 in 2004, now it could twice as big, you may think you are paying excessively Look for cable, toilet and bath, and clean quarters More adventurous visitors may wish to stay in a "yurta," for example in Bishkek it costs from 3 dollar a night in "yurtadorm" These are boiled wool tents used by nomads Some tourist agencies in Bishkek will arrange this sort of stay, but be prepared to truly live the lifestyle of the nomad which includes culinary delicacies which may seem foreign to the western palette

Working in Laos

Kyrgyzstan's greatest export is its people departing for Russia, Kazakhstan, and even Europe for better opportunities There are few opportunities for foreigners, except with development organizations, that generally hire off-shore There are also few opportunities to teach European languages, as many Kyrgyz that studied abroad have returned with near fluency and will charge much less than you

If you wish to volunteer, there is a very active and diverse NGO community that would appreciate your assistance

If you come to Kyrgyzstan on a 30 day tourist visa, you will not be able to extend your visa If you come to work or volunteer you should apply for a longer term visa Also, Americans and Europeans on long term visas must register with OVIR Information on this process is available on the websites of the US Embassy It is an easy, inexpensive, straight-forward process not fraught with corruption or delays in most cases

Cities in Laos

What do you think about Laos?

How expensive is Laos?
Meal in inexpensive restaurant1.92 USD
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)24.08 USD
McDonalds meal5.52 USD
Local beer (0.5 draft)1.24 USD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 2.02 USD
Cappuccino2.07 USD
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)0.83 USD
Water (0.33 bottle)0.45 USD
Milk (1l)1.62 USD
Fresh bread (500g)2.17 USD
White Rice (1kg)1.11 USD
Eggs (12) 2.04 USD
Local Cheese (1kg) 27.56 USD
Chicken Breast (1kg) 4.85 USD
Apples (1kg) 1.97 USD
Oranges (1kg) 2.28 USD
Tomato (1kg) 1.12 USD
Potato (1kg) 0.87 USD
Lettuce (1 head) 0.8 USD
Water (1.5l)0.52 USD
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 10.92 USD
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)1.21 USD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 1.59 USD
Cigarettes2.2 USD
One way local bus ticket0.72 USD
Monthly pass for bus13.65 USD
Taxi start1.84 USD
Taxi 1km1.05 USD
Taxi 1hour waiting5.51 USD
Gasoline (1 liter) 1.3 USD
Utilities for a "normal" apartment105.89 USD
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 4.27 USD
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 399.11 USD
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 175.18 USD
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 546.29 USD, your travel companion

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