Let's be honest about this guys...
As strange as it looks, at one point you should encounter an article about this topic in order for you to be prepared. If you come from a more developed country you might be shocked in the beginning, but don’t forget that billions of people are used to different conditions than you and they still lead a happy and healthy life.
The Kyrgyz cuisine consists of overwhelmingly meat, which is usually prepared in a way, where no fat is removed. So for a stomach that is used to a healthier diet the first week can be challenging, but you might have unpleasant experiences after even one very heavy meal. Let’s look at the positive side of the coin; you have the chance to meet traditional Kyrgyz medicine! It has been soaring here since the collapse of the Soviet Union and their organized structures. According to a 2013 research a quarter of Kyrgyz people rely on alternative medicine to cure the most common illnesses, such as diarrhea.
The usual black tea- dry bread combination is of course not the most interesting. Stomach diseases can be cured with:
- Stone method – you only need a huge stone and a fireplace, or a kind host family with them. The stone is heated up to almost unbearable temperature and then you have to sit on it for at least 30 minutes. Personally guaranteed method.
- Vodka method – maybe not the most traditional, but rather widely-used. Either drink some shots after every meal, or you can even scrub it into your tummy!
If you happen to have a cold and your nose is blocked just buy some potatoes and put your head in the pot while you are boiling them in hot water, and they say it will go away! If it comes with sore throat scrub warm mutton fat there and you solved that too. Of course if you wouldn’t like to try these methods just make sure to bring some coal, painkillers and nose spray.
The question of toilets always comes up in the preparation process, so here is the answer; once you leave Bishkek you will rarely come across sitting (English) toilets. With few exceptions all of them are built for squatting, but their quality differ and depends on whether there is a sewer system or not. The latter are usually cleaner, but when travelling in the countryside you will mostly see holes in the ground with some metal-plastic structure built above them. Make sure to have some wet wipes and hand-sanitizer in your survival kit!
Families and catering facilities either have some metal pots and bowls to wash your hands, or a special hand-washing structure made of plastic or metal with water containers and a tap on top.
The possibilities to shower also depend on the existence of a sewer-system. On the countryside, where there is usually none, your options are washing yourself in creeks and lakes or the popular public –or family-run- baths, or as they are called here, banyas. In these facilities they have hot and cold water separately, then you can mix them in big buckets and just pour it on your body. They usually charge around 50 soms, but after a long day of travelling they really are a refreshing experience, when you have no other choice.
Altough it might seem scary in the beginning, but believe me, at one point you will have to let go of your needs and expectations and just go with what you have, keeping in mind that students, businessmen and politicians also live like this in Kyrgyzstan and… well, most of the developing countries.