Central Asia: Kyrgyzstan - Leaving Bishkek

By Cubie - December 07, 2015

The calm after the chaos
Because Paul asked, here's a very long winded version of what happened at Manas Airport...

This picture was nothing indicating of the chaotic, stressful checked in we endured before getting to this waiting area.

It started out as we waiting for the taxi to come and pick us up from the hostel. Our flight from Bishkek to Tashkent was at 7.00 am. Taking into consideration of checking in time and travelling time to the airport, we requested for the taxi to come at 4:30 am. The taxi came late, not overly late but late enough to make us a little uneasy but we were still ok.

Then, he did what most drivers in Bishkek did (except the driver we went to Ala Archa with) - asking us for payment for him to get some petrol for his taxi. Really, this was at 4ish in the morning. His car needed some petrol. We paid up and he stopped by the petrol station to fuel up. Then he decided that it was a good idea to get some air into the tyres. By this time we are getting really worried and asked him how long it would take. The few more minutes he took felt ages.

After it was all done, he probably get the hint that we were worried of running late. He picked up the speed, I glanced at the speedometer, it went at least 140 km/hr (~gulp). Then on off he would slow all the way down and I caught the speed limitation sign board at the side. This cycle went on for a while till we reached the airport. By this time we had less than 2 hours and we have not yet checked in.

When we sighted the airport building, there was a traffic jam all the way to the departure entrance because there was a car park on the same route. Even if we were willing to carry our heavy backpack and attempt a dash to the entrance, there was not really an option because it was gated all the way. If there was a panic button to make things move faster, we would've hit that many a times already.

Good news was there was a still looong queue at the check in counter and it was still open for check in. Super bad news was there wasn't a proper queue, everybody was squeezing and pushing to the front of the queue. I totally did not expect that in an airport though since then I have heard that it was a norm for certain airports. Ahem. Then I saw one of the airport staff took out his mobile phone and took photo of the crowd, i.e. us... = =""

We were in the crowd for a good one hour before we got to the front. To be exact, sis next in "queue" at one of the check in counter and there was a rather big sized man in between us. He was actually queuing for a different counter to our right though he stood much closer to the counter on the left which we were going for. He was actually taking up a lot of space, with his hand on a trolley with luggage bags which he placed a little further away from himself on purpose, likely to "safe guard" his and his travel mates' space. So the trolley was on his right side. As we were queuing to a different counter, there wasn't any conflict even if he let me passed and to be behind sis. Also, we booked our flight tickets together, so there was only one ticket itinerary and we would need to check in together. Actually, even if he didn't let me pass, I would just need to pass my 13 kg backpack and passport to sis, also show my face to the check in staff.

Anyway, I tapped on his shoulder and asked if he could let me passed, at the same time pointed to the left where sis stood. He said something in a foreign language to me (sounds like Russian) and stood still. It was not "No" because I at least understand нет but definitely along the lines of no. So I continued to stand on my spot behind him. At one point he left a little too much space between himself and the trolley of luggage bags so I inched in between. Just trying to be cheeky :P

Ha! This was when all three of his travel mates and him started saying something to me loudly, probably making a point that I was trying to cut queue. I got a little annoyed because we were not even going for the same counter and I hardly had any space to stand since he was hogging more and more space. Mind you, I had a 13 kg backpack on my back this whole time due to lack of space (and one wonders why I am so short.. ok, lame joke). At this time, I told them I wasn't even going to the same line as them and he (referring to the big man) was hogging both lines, including the one he wasn't queuing for. I was speaking in English and they in Russian probably. LOL but apparently now they understood me and even looked a little apologetic, also the big man moved to let me pass.

Sis also had issues where the check in staff would let anyone who speaks Kyrgyz language or Russian to cut queue even though sis was right in front of her!

For some reason this reminded me of Calvin & Hobbes comic which said, "If you can’t win by reason …go for volume." = ="

Of course, with me able to document this and complete our 3 weeks holidays, we were successful in getting ourselves checked in albeit it was very stressful. So if you ever going to fly out of Manas International Airport, please allocate a huge time buffer!

Side note: 
Source: http://thecuriousbrain.com/?p=20313

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  1. Oh dear. Plenty of drama.

    I am feeling the stress just reading them!

  2. Wow I feel so honored to have your story revealed in full just for my curiosity.

    Your ordeal sounds so stressful to me even while I sit in my comfy chair ... being in such a chaotic, lawless airport and negotiating with language you don't understand and people you can't reason with. I had one previous experience at London Gatwick where I was minutes away from missing our return flight to Canada ... but yours is just a whole new level that I hope I'll never need to face!

    1. It was stressful at that time... but now it make a good story ;)