Despite only spending 2 days at this idyllic village at Arslanbob, it was definitely one of our most memorable travel experiences of Footprints Across Asia. The people here were so amicable and helpful, our host was amazing and the village was so picturesque with jagged ridges of snowy alpine mountains surrounding it and a gorgeous partially frozen river cutting right through the village. Oh and not forgetting the cute dopey donkeys that were awkwardly standing around, adding a humorous touch to this quaint village.
On a sad note, these donkeys were in a really pitiful plight though. At the point of writing, there were around 249 of them homeless and living off scraps on the streets. Due to the influx of cheap affordable cars made in Korea, most locals now own a car and it’s obviously more efficient to transport goods using the car rather than to use the slow and cumbersome donkey, hence deeming donkeys irrelevant in this village 🙁
The journey to Arslanbob itself was an interesting one. We had to cross 2 high passes (3500m) and some parts of the roads were really slippery due to the refrozen snow. Lorries that did not bother using snow chains ended up hindering traffic. There was this particular slope where even cars have problems going up and the passengers had to get down to help push the car up. But during the day, the view was spectacular and time passed quickly despite it being a 10 hours long journey.
Not many tourists travel to Arslanbob during winter as they think that there’s not much that they can do during winter. Well, they’re wrong! We travelled to Arslanbob during winter and had a great time! Here are some suggestions on things to do in Arslanbob during winter.
Over here at Arslanbob, there are no fancy hotels or guesthouses, only simple homestays where local families open up their house for tourists to stay at. So forget about booking.com when finding accommodation at Arslanbob. We stayed at Guesthouse 1, arranged by Hyat from Community Based Tourism (CBT). Our hospitable host, Nazeera, was a cute and cheerful lady who cooked really delicious traditional local food! Her house was definitely not what we expected of a homestay though as it felt way too luxurious! The second floor which was dedicated for guests has been beautifully adorned with large colourful carpets and there were even plants of all sorts lining the stairwell creating a cozy atmosphere. Hot shower was even available upon request!
Cost per pax: 600som/night inclusive of breakfast, additional 180som for dinner. (We heard that the prices would be adjusted from 2015 onwards)
2. Visit the local school
We were interested to get an insight on how a local school was being run in the village and asked Hyat (CBT) if we could visit the school. We were delighted when he offered to ask his 12 years old son, Demir (hopefully I spelt his name correctly) to bring us to his school! Demir was such a cool kid! He actually skied to school! It was as though skiing is the equivalent of their rollerblading. We ended up attending 4 classes together him, namely Russian, Uzbekistan, Maths and PE (volleyball). His classmates and teachers were all really friendly and curious about us and tried conversing with us in the limited English that they know. We felt really welcomed when we were at school with him.
3. Sign up for a tour with Community Based Tourism (CBT)
For us, we decided to sign up for a 1 day horse trekking and snowboarding tour with CBT. Yes, it’s still possible to do horse back trekking even in winter at Arslanbob! This tour was such an amazing one where we got to ride the horses up the mountains to around 2,500m and snowboard after that. We were also pampered with a sumptuous feast for lunch! CBT offers a wide array of bespoke tours from trekking, skiing, walnut harvesting, horse riding and many more. Just speak to Hyat and you’ll be spoilt for choice after that 😉
Cost for 2 pax: 5,500 som (4700som for rental of horses, guide and lunch, 800 som for rental of snowboard) S$123.43
4. Visit the animal bazaar
This was our first time visiting an animal bazaar and we honestly didn’t know what to expect. When we first arrived at the bazaar enthusiastically, we were confused as it was empty and there wasn’t a single animal in sight. We almost thought we were at the wrong location. After trying to ask around, we realised that during winter the bazaar starts later. When we came back later, we were stunned by the sight of sooooo many people (almost more men than animals actually)! Sheep and goats were lined up at the right wall, cows on the opposite side and horses roaming around in the middle. It was quite cool seeing the locals haggle over the cost of the animal and then finally coming to an agreement. It somewhat reminded us of a stock market!
When: Every Wednesday, around 9-10am during winter
Contact information: Hyat, Community Based Tourism, 077-834 2476/077-334 2476