Cholpon Ata + Karakol – almost repeats from the previous year

5. + 6. August 2023



We started early from Chon Kemin because a festival was to take place in Tamchy on the Issyk Kul. We drove back to the main road and then along the Issyk Kul, the huge lake 182 km long and 60 km wide at 1,600 metres. It is the second largest mountain lake in the world (after Titicaca).








In Tamchy we looked here and there: nowhere did it look like a big festival. Even the driver looked confused and talked to people. In the end he said that the festival had been the previous three days. I looked again on the internet. The link we had gave the programme, but not the date. But other links spoke of 6 August, the following day. Anyway, it was clear: no festival…. It had been suggested by the agency and we were actually quite looking forward to it.


So we had to have an alternative programme, i.e. we went to Cholpon Ata to see ancient rock paintings and Rukh Ordo.








I like to look at old petroglyphs when they are scattered over a larger area like here and you can look for and discover them. However, it was still hot. Most people were lying on the beach in Cholpon Ata – but that seemed too busy for us.




Instead, I wanted to know from Ute what she thinks of Rukh Ordo. I’m a bit confused. Her too. It’s a strange complex with various statues, religious houses, culture, mini-museums – read more on Wikipedia. What puzzled me most then, and still does, was this empty swimming pool:


Rukh Ordo


Our destination for the day was Karakol. We visited the old wooden church (where there was some kind of mass or something) and the Dungan mosque, where you are no longer allowed to enter but only to look from the outside.




If you want to know more about Karakol and what I experienced back then, check out my previous blog Kyrgyzstan 2022. What was new was that I went to the hairdresser (3.50 Euros):




But we were a bit lucky – without having planned it exactly and it was not on the tour plan, we found out that the following day was Sunday and therefore a cattle market – one of the biggest in Asia. I had liked it last year and it didn’t disappoint me this time either. I took too many pictures again – here are some of them:
































I learned that bulls can weigh more than 800 kg. The proportion of women in the market is about 5%. The share of tourists as well. And there are hardly any goats. There are many different breeds of sheep. It is impossible for me to stroll through the market without coming into contact with cow dung. Open questions: how much is not sold and how often do they come back until they are successful and from where did the farthest ones come?


Afterwards we visited the Przwalski Museum, which I already knew, but where this sign caught my eye again:






In the evening we went to see the dungans, because I liked it so much last year. Almost everything worth knowing is here. What was new was that, unfortunately, the active and sympathetic Luke Lee had died – now his brother ran the museum. I added this legend to the story of how the Dungans came to be in China: At that time, someone important in China dreamed of meeting a dragon and almost being defeated in battle. But a man in green clothing came and spoke religious verses, and the dragon felt defeated and disappeared. People investigated who it might have been and came up with Mohammed, the Prophet. The great ruler invited him, but Mohammed could not and sent 3 of his good men along with 3,000 Arab soldiers. Two of the people and 1,000 of the soldiers died on the arduous journey full of enemies, but the others were received happily and rejoiced in the new religion and the strong soldiers. But then the people got homesick. The Chinese, however, wanted to keep them there. They found out that the Koran allowed 4 wives and searched for the most attractive marriage candidates. These were found, the soldiers were happy, the children were called Dungans and multiplied rapidly.


In 1877, however, they all had to flee.


Here are a few more pictures:




Arabman with 1 chinese wife


village mosque


Ashlan Fu




Another new feature was that you could try on the traditional dungan clothing – which I did, of course:












In any case, it was again very interesting and beautiful. Our interpreter was the niece of the hostess. Usually, the Dungans get married early and the wife stays at home. The niece didn’t really intend to do that. She was 23 or 24, had previously worked for Destination Karakol (which arranges these Dungan visits, among other things) and now worked in a travel agency for Kyrgyz in Bishkek. When she visited her home, people were already chasing her a bit because of marriage – but she definitely still feels too young for that. We found her very sympathetic and nice and hope that she will find a good way between tradition and modernity.


From the next day on, there was only 1 place I already knew and after that everything would be new to me too. That can only be exciting!