A Looonngg Break…
I spent the last 4 months taking a long break from traveling, back in Central Asia, a small beautiful country locked by ranges of mountains, Kyrgyzstan. I lived the normal life, thousands of kilometres away from my bicycle, but only a few inches away from my family. I left my bicycle and my other stuffs in Scotland, traveling light back to the realm of Asia. It feels good to be back to the loved ones. It took me a few days to get adjusted to my sleeping time after I travelled crossing 8 hours of time zone.
Even though it is not my homesoil in Malaysia, but being with my Kyrgyz family, it feels like home. I slept under a roof on a proper bed, get all my clothes washed every few days and ate proper food… I basically live in a comfort again. But there was a problem with that. After a while, I started to become so comfortable and started to become lazy! I started to take things lightly, took unnecessary rest and stopped taking care of my body. I stopped working out or doing any exercise. I became demotivated in almost everything. I felt that I attracted all the negative aura and I even started to feel that Im growing old. It took me quite a while to overcome this laziness.
Being here in Kyrgyzstan for a few months, this time I had the chance to see much more of the life of the locals here during winter. For the second time, I witnessed the Eidul Adha celebration here, it was so massive! Thousands of Muslims gathered in the open in the middle of the city, standing side by side to perform the prayer. Whenever I perform a prayer in a mosque in Malaysia, I see mostly Malays and Indonesians praying side by side, with some Bangladeshi and Pakistani. But here in Bishkek, I saw so many varieties, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Uighurs, Tatars and many more praying in the vast open space. I then experienced the Kyrgyz way of celebrating Eidul Adha. Almost similar to us, they have family gathering in a long table where they have more food than they can consume.
I also had the chance to travel to some villages that I didn’t go 2 years ago when I was riding around this country. And here, I often experience the best hospitality from the Kyrgyz, the people of the mountain. Sometimes, I even felt uncomfortable because they’re too nice to me and I’m not used to it! I realize that these people are still stick to the ancient tradition of hospitality. From my observation, they serve the guests the best food in the house, the best seat and the best place to sleep. Their hospitality is far more superior to any of us. I then remember, I had almost the same experience even in Northern China, where I got the best treatment from the Chinese. I then began to think and came to a conclusion, that they became very hospitable because they live in part of the ancient Silk Road. They are used to meet travellers from all over the world. For centuries, travellers… merchants travelled from Xi’an, China all the way to Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) and vice versa to trade goods, mostly silk and spices. They travelled slowly with caravans and stopped at these places. So the Chinese & Uighurs in Xinjiang, and the Kyrgyz in the Tian Shan often hosted these caravans for many centuries. So being hospitable to travellers is in their blood. They are nomads themselves anyway, so they value travellers who are far away from their home. And they still keep this value until today in the 21st century…. and I felt so lucky to experience it.
When I went to the village, I was so amazed to experience the local life. It’s a big contrast. In Kuala Lumpur for example, it’s normal to see a 10 years old boy walking around holding an iPad and know how to use it well. But here in the village under the shadow of the Tian Shan mountains, it’s normal to see a 10 years old boy riding a horse and know how to control it well. Instead of holding a smartphone, the boy is holding the stick to beat the horse! It is fun to witness both worlds. I grew up in KL, and like any other people, I measure time by looking at the watch. The sun will always set between 7-7.30… and im so used to it. I know that when its 5pm, the sun will roughly set in 2 hours time. But here, these kids measure time by the distance of the sun to the horizon. While your hand is straight in front of you, put your fingers between the sun and the horizon. Each fingers represents roughly about 15 minutes. So if you can fit 4 fingers between the sun and the horizon, it means the sun will set in roughly 1 hour. I find it really interesting to learn about all these. One day I wish to learn how to navigate by seeing the pattern of the stars without using compass. Who knows one day, once I’m done travel all the land, I might wanna sail and travel the sea crossing the ocean, looking for the Fountain of Youth… :)
I realized that so many things happened to me since I started my journey traveling on bicycle. I realized that I experienced more things in my 2 years traveling on bicycle compared to my nearly 30 years living my life in KL. Since these 2 years of my journey on bicycle, I gained more contacts and make more friends compared to my nearly 30 years living in KL. More than half my contacts inside my phone were found when I was traveling. I now have friends from all over the world, in all the continents. At this point, I can’t imagine my life if I never done the first trip crossing half of Asia on a bike solo! Probably working hard… shining the shoes of my boss to stay out of competition from the rest of my colleagues. Hehehe…
Spending the winter here in Kyrgyzstan, I now know the reason why the people here, like any other people who live in the extreme cold climate… have cold characteristic. They look serious most of the time and I can say that, a little more aggressive than people who live in the hot climate. The winter here is quite harsh actually. Temperature can go down to -25c, even worst in the high mountains. Luckily here in Kyrgyzstan, the winter isn’t so long compared to Siberia or Alaska. It is true that our behaviour can be shaped by the environment, including the weather. But this climate is a good training for me. I shouldn’t complain about the cold, yet I see it as opportunity, to train my body to get used to it. I will soon ride in one of the most harsh and coldest place on earth… the Arctic Tundra! On top of that, I will be doing it in the middle of winter! From my research, the temperature dropped to the lowest point at -41celcius six days ago in the place that I’ll be riding soon. 2 years ago, I was so worried of altitude sickness when I was riding in the mountain ranges in the Lower Himalaya. Now, Im so worried about hypothermia, which is now my biggest enemy. Im more worried about strong Arctic wind, blizzards and extreme climate rather than wolves and polar bears. I don’t know how fast I can ride in the deep snow! I hope this Arctic wind will not be against me, but instead will be my ally and blow me forward! :) Finally now, my blog will be active again. Who knows, I can get internet connection in the Arctic Wasteland, so stay tuned :)