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At-Bashy

At-Bashy is an attractive small town set in a highly dramatic landscape 40km from Naryn, a few kilometres south of the main Naryn-Torugart Pass highway. With the near- 5,000m peaks of the At-Bashy range looming large to the south and a large evocative Kyrgyz cemetery standing on a ridge above the town, At-Bashy's location is quite spectacular, and the town is a good choice for an overnight stay en route to the Chinese border, or as a base for day excursions to Koshoy Korgon and Tash Rabat.

The town is a thoroughly provincial sort of place and, as the last settlement of any size before the Chinese frontier, it does have a certain edge-of-the world feel about it. As the administrative headquarters of the At-Bashy rayon, which extends along the valley, it has all the basic ingredients you might expect: a few civic buildings, a park, a small bazaar and odd fragments here and there of a Soviet past.

The town developed on the foundations of a much older settlement that dates from between the 8th-14th centuries, of which no trace remains today. Formerly there were a number of collective farms in the vicinity, but these were abandoned along with communism, and the town is a markedly poorer place today, with high unemployment.

The town's main street stretches east to west, with the bus station at the far eastern end by an equestrian statue, and some concrete yurts selling booze. Close to this stands a very traditional chaikhana and a new mosque. Walking west towards the centre is an enclosure where the weekly animal market is held, and a large government building with busts of prominent Kyrgyz leaders in its grounds. The centre, such as it is, is marked by an abandoned cinema and the Kyrgyz telecom building; a sign here points north towards the Shepherd's Life guesthouse.

Immediately west of here is a dusty park with a war memorial and gold-painted busts, the Ak Bank and the bazaar. The road that leads north from the Shepherd's Life sign, Aity Suleymanov, is home to the post office and the combined Ak-Say store, cafe and gostinitsa. To reach the Shepherd's Life homestay, walk down here for four blocks and then turn left at the second sign; the homestay is at the end of this road, a large rambling house that is taller than those surrounding it.

Getting there There are three buses a day between Naryn and At-Bashy, an occasional marshrutka and share taxis for. There are also share taxis and minibuses to Bishkek. There is no public transport to Tash Rabat. Buses and minibuses leave from the bus station, although minibuses will also pick up at the bazaar if they are not already full. Most taxis congregate outside the bazaar, although there may be one or two at the bus station.

What to see and do At-Bashy's splendour is its location and the landscape that surrounds it. Apart from remnants of the Soviet era that survive on the main street - a park with a war memorial, a Lenin bust, a police building that still has red stars decorating the wall - the town's most impressive sight is the large Kyrgyz cemetery that stands on a ridge just north of the town. There are actually two separate graveyards with a tiny Christian cemetery standing in between the two. The views over the town, valley and the At-Bashy range here are superb in the late afternoon or early evening. Another worthwhile walk is down to the At-Bashy River just south of the town.


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