Boarding a marshrutka from Bishkek, I took the 6 hour journey to check out Lake Issyk-Kul. While many people choose to make a clockwise or counter-clockwise journey around the massive lake, checking out different perspectives from different towns (with the aim of passing through Karakol, east of the lake, a favorite launching-off point for hikes in the beautiful surrounding region), I picked the town of Cholpon-Ata to stick around for a few days.
I read that Cholpon-Ata is popular with Russian tourists during the summers. The town itself is quite small. There were several small restaurants to eat at, where at one, I had some borscht, since I was, after all, in a Russian-favored resort town. There was also one main all-purpose store in town so naturally, it was always packed by people needing to re-up on snacks, drinks, toiletries etc.
While it was technically summer time, it was surprisingly chilly as it had been raining off and on, so one day, me and a fellow hostel-mate, a visitor from Kazakhstan, decided to have some coffee and conversation indoors, just by the lake-side. I couldn’t imagine people actually going to swim in the lake or lounging by the lake-side but they did.
I think the best part about my stay in Cholpon-Ata was actually spending time in my hostel. When I first arrived, I was greeted by a 12 year old girl who showed me in and collected payment from me. I then met a Japanese guy who told me he was taking care of the place for the week (in exchange for free lodging) while the owners, the girl’s parents, were in Bishkek. I later met a Danish guy in the kitchen who was also staying there for at least a week. We had some good times just sitting in the outdoor covered areas, cross-legged on cushions, either playing card games, chatting, reading or in my case, planning my next few weeks of travel.