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Olivier Le Blanc: Bishkek is amazingly comfortable and decent place to live

Courtesy of Olivier Le Blanc
Photo Courtesy of Olivier Le Blanc
A Canadian of French origin Olivier Le Blanc came to Kyrgyzstan a little over a year ago — in June 2016.

He mainly works in communications and photography, and currently provides communication and information and education services to a project aimed at reducing the incidence of tuberculosis in the country. In his spare time Olivier makes portraits in his studio.

— Why did you decide to come to our country?

- Since 2006 my wife and I have lived in Tanzania, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Thailand, the United States, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. When we live in Almaty between 2009 and 2011 we made a few trips to Bishkek. During that time we really fell in love with this part of the world and always wanted to come back.

Living in Pakistan, Thailand, and the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2011 and 2016 was interesting but also quite intense.

Returning to beautiful Central Asia was the right decision for us because we wanted to have a good quality of life.

Olivier Le Blanc

— What surprises you in Kyrgyzstan?

— There are many things… The beauty of nature, the vastness of the wild terrain, the quality of fresh produces in the bazaar (especially the fruits in summer!!!), the unique culture, and how friendly people are.

Bishkek might not have the architectural beauty of Paris, but it is a surprisingly comfortable and livable place. It has everything one needs, nice cafes and restaurant, it feels safe, and it is dotted with beautiful parks.

Olivier Le Blanc

The cost of living is small, and there is something to do. The city is not as big as Bangkok (where almost 15 million people live), so there are no unbearable traffic jams, but it is large enough to provide all the services necessary for human comfort. Honestly, this is one of the most convenient places for living, which I know.

— What remind you of your hometown in Bishkek?

— I am from Montreal in Canada, which like Bishkek has a lot of parks where people like to spend time. Of course the weather, with its four seasons, is like Canada, but winter back home is much colder. 

Courtesy of Olivier Le Blanc
Photo Courtesy of Olivier Le Blanc

— What do you miss here?

— I don’t miss much to be honest. Of course I miss my friends and family, and I will miss them wherever I go.

— Surely you have a favorite place in Bishkek...

—In Bishkek itself, I love Erkindik Boulevard. It is on the most beautiful street I have ever seen. I love the tall trees, the water running in the canals, the ice cream and toy sellers, and the places where children can play. Even on a very hot day, the park is pleasant because of the shade of the trees and the cold water running in the small canals. 

— What do you like in the national cuisine, and what are you afraid to even try?

— I like pretty much everything! However once I was in Osh and at a local bazaar they were selling lungs filled with milk. I did not even know that this existed, and that is something I would be a bit afraid to try. 

— What fascinated and disappointed you with a close acquaintance with the local population?

— I can’t say I have been disappointed by people here. In general everyone is friendly, curious, helpful, and very hospitable. I feel safe here, and I have never felt like I was not welcome to spend some time here. 

Courtesy of Olivier Le Blanc
Photo Courtesy of Olivier Le Blanc

— What would you change in Bishkek?

— Bishkek is one of my favorite cities to live in the world, so to me there is not much I would change to be honest. 

I would like to see more safe places for bicycles to circulate. At the moment the paved roads where biking would be best enjoyed are very crowded with vehicles where it does not feel very safe to circulate.

Olivier Le Blanc

Beyond Bishkek, the mountains offer an extraordinary potential for hiking and multiday adventures with seemingly endless options. Unfortunately the system of trails is not well marked or maintained, making hiking sometimes confusing. There are also very few up to date hiking trail maps that would allow people to plan trips to the mountains. On the trails, a lot of the bridges have collapses or are completely gone, making crossing the many rivers in the mountains sometimes quite difficult. 

I think that if the trails were maintained, well marked, and regularly mapped then Kyrgyzstan could become a famous hiking and camping destination on the international outdoor circuits.

Olivier Le Blanc