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Spaniard Ricard Tomas tells why he does not like corrida and corruption

Ricard Tomas, a citizen of Spain, has been living in Kyrgyzstan for the past two years and is engaged in tourism business. During this time he has visited every part of our country and shared his impressions with 24.kg news agency.

— When did you hear about our country for the first time?

— It is a very interesting story. It happened four years ago. Then I lived in China, in Shanghai city. I have lived 23 years there.

I was tired and decided to move to Hong Kong. But before, I thought of doing something special. I got the idea to make a trip by a motorcycle from China to Lisbon (Portugal). I decided to take water from the Pacific Ocean in a bottle and bring it to the Atlantic Ocean.

My way ran through Kyrgyzstan, where I had never been before. I crossed the border at Torugart, and it was snowing there in June, that was a kind of «hospitable» welcome.

This was my first surprise. I thought: «Wow, what kind of country is it, why have I not been here before?» I traveled through it and was really amazed by the mountains and the people.

Then I traveled through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Georgia, Turkey and so on.

But the thoughts of ​​Kyrgyzstan did not leave me for some reason, I did not experience such vivid feelings for other countries.

When I arrived in Lisbon, I still thought about Kyrgyzstan and told myself that I wanted to know more about this country. Then I turned my motorcycle around and went to Bishkek.

I stayed here for more than a month. I got acquainted with the city, thought what I could do here and decided not to return to Hong Kong, but to settle here.

I did not know then what I would do, but I already knew that I wanted to live here.

— Did you immediately start with tourism?

— Yes, we opened a travel agency and other types of business here. I like to travel with our guests. There are places which I have visited many times.

Last week we had a tour and the guests said that I would not be impressed by the trip, as I have seen these places repeatedly. I objected. For example, I find something new every my visit to Son-Kul Lake.

My friends were amazed at my decision. But having visited the country, they said: «Ricard, now we understand why you moved. Congratulations.»

— You have lived in China for many years, do you like our cuisine?

— It is generally good. Meat is simply magnificent — one of the best in the world.

-You’re from Barcelona. Do you miss seafood?

— I really miss the fish. Not the cuisine, but the fish. I love the national cuisine of Kyrgyzstan, except for a few dishes. For example, my stomach did not like kumys, but I like all the rest very much. None of the guests from Europe complained about the food — it is really delicious.

— And what in Kyrgyzstan attracted you as a businessman?

— This is a small country, but it should be regarded as the heart of Central Asia. And this is the only democratic country in the region that is very significant.

Moreover, you should value Kyrgyzstan as a good place to live.

As for business, there are low tax rates, loyal policy for new enterprises, free exchange of currencies that is all prerequisites for investment. You have many challenges, but they also open up new opportunities.

The people of Kyrgyzstan still have much to do — schools, hospitals, roads and railways.

— And what can be developed in our country?

— There are two important points that can be developed more than in the neighboring countries. The first is power industry (I am also involved in this sector).

The growth of hydropower industry will be large-scale. Kyrgyzstan can become the only and the first country that uses and exports green energy, because in the future it will bring good incomes.

The second point is tourism.

Kyrgyzstan is an amazing country for tourism. But its infrastructure is not ready yet. Many organizations want to promote Issyk-Kul Lake, but Kyrgyzstan is not only Issyk-Kul. There are a lot of places you can visit, for example, Batken region, where you can visit many places. Foreigners like Son-Kul, Sary-Chelek Lakes — infrastructure in all these places is not developed so far, it is difficult to get there, at the same time these places attract the Europeans. This is both a challenge and new opportunities.

— You wanted to tell a parable on this subject...

— Two businessmen went to the North Pole to sell slippers and at the same time to study the market. After some time, one of the entrepreneurs calls their partners and says there is nothing to do and he should leave. And the second one also calls the partners, but at the same time says that as there is nothing there, then he can do everything.

You can do many things in Kyrgyzstan. I can compare your country with China or with other Asian countries, here people want to help and appreciate what you are doing, so I say to friends and acquaintances: «Come to Kyrgyzstan, invest».

— You have a lot of positive impressions about Kyrgyzstan, but you probably saw the reverse side of the coin?

— Of course, unpleasant things happen. It’s like two beginnings — yin and yang, like right and left. I do not know if what I want to say is tactful.

— We would like to hear not only flattering opinion.

— One of the problems that still exists is corruption. Of course, the government is struggling with this phenomenon, but not actively enough. There is still a lot of bureaucracy. I understand that it is necessary for control, but when it is too much, it hinders the business — whether it is obtaining of a permit, processing of documents, relations with the police.

Let me tell you a story. As a foreigner and a company owner, I need to get a work visa. This is absolutely normal practice. I do this every year, and I have to take a blood test. And here’s how it happens.

You go to an institution with no place to sit down, so you have to wait outside. Winter, hundreds of people, rush hour, people in the queue argue, swear — in general, there are no conditions.

And since I have four companies, I need four permits. Officials could take a blood test once and use the data for all my four companies.

But no, I had to take blood test four times. This all tortures a person. But there are more positive sides than negative ones, that’s why I’m here.

— Our government speaks a lot about the support of investors, have our officials rendered you a support?

— What kind of support?

— Well, maybe you wanted to implement some unordinary business idea?

— Most important is that they do not interfere, this is the best assistance. Of course, when I needed help, I met with the prime minister several times, told about my problems, about obstacles, and he received me. That is very good.

They listen — it’s already good. For example, I was said «No, no, no» many times in other countries at similar meetings. And here I often hear from the officials «Yes, of course, yes, yes» There is not much support, but there are no big problems.

— Let’s move on to the positive side. Have you found places in Bishkek or Kyrgyzstan that resemble your native Barcelona?

— No (laughs).

— Are there any places that you really like?

— There are many of them, for example, Ala-Archa. I go there very often.

But the surprising is that, in spite of often visits there, I every time open new corners, which for some reason I have not seen before.

I love winter. I do not understand why there is no promotion of winter tourism in Kyrgyzstan. Now we are promoting winter tourism.

— And what sides of mindset of the Kyrgyz you have noticed? Good and bad.

— In general, the people are very open. There are many religions in the country, and Kyrgyzstan is a very tolerant country. For example, in Pakistan people are generally not tolerant to others, it is not allowed to drink, for example, beer. They will say, go out from here, people are free from it in Kyrgyzstan. Drink if you want, if you want — not.

The Kyrgyz as a whole is quite open and modern people.

— And what do not you like?

— Some people, apparently, under some influence, become aggressive, and also laziness.

There are people who say: «Yes ... I should do ...» I say: «Then do it!»

This is my personal opinion.

But, if you need help, everyone expresses a desire to help you, especially to the foreigners, everyone wants to help. People are friendly, and that’s fine.

— What would you like to change in Bishkek?

— Roads (laughs) and sidewalks. I understand that this requires a lot of money, but their condition is very bad. For example, I live ten minutes walking from the central square — below Zhibek Zholu, closer to Togolok Moldo. I love this place very much. But when it’s dry, there’s a lot of dust, when it rains — there are plenty of puddles, where you can swim. It is good only when it’s snowing — it is clean.

— Do you like kok-boru? After all, you are from Spain, the birthplace of corrida...

— You know, I’m against corrida, I do not like it. It is banned in Catalonia.

I only once watched the bullfighting, and I was very sad.

But I love the Nomad Games, except for one moment — the use of the goat carcass in the game, and I adore the game itself.

I’m a big fan of Nomad Games and I’ll try to create a team to participate in them. I want to promote it in Spain.

— Do many tourists come here from Spain?

— A lot.

— Have you attended a Kyrgyz toi (feast)?

-No, I have not. I was invited several times, but for some reason could not attend it.

— Tell us about your passion for motorcycles.

— Traveling by a motorcycle is very different from traveling by car. Of course, the movement from point A to point B by any transport sounds the same, but the process of riding a motorcycle gives you complete freedom, you become part of the world around, part of the road, part of the mountains. By car, you are inside the box and you use it only as a mean of transportation.

— What other hobbies do you have?

— Mountaineering. When I have free time, I go to the mountains — for hiking and climbing. The nature of Kyrgyzstan is my passion.

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