CBT Osh, Alay & Sary Mogol reviews

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steven
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CBT Osh, Alay & Sary Mogol reviews

Post by steven »

Please share your experiences with CBT offices in Osh, Alay and Sary Mogol. We summarize at CBT Kyrgyzstan.
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kunibald
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Re: CBT Osh, Alay & Sary Mogol reviews

Post by kunibald »

"If you have problems, we will not see you, we will not hear you, we will not answer the phone"

That's what the CBT Sary Mogul guy told us when we planned to go in the mountains without guide. You can make your own thoughts regarding this.

They wait for the marschrutka and guide all the people arriving to only one guest house (so much for "community based"), which leads to that guest house being packed with people to the point where they don't have enough food for everyone and trouble to keep the facilities working.

Worse than that, the yurt camp in Pik Lenin direction. Same problem with too much people and too little supplies, but

The drinking water they offer and use for cooking comes from a nearby puddle which is heavily frequented by cattle (I followed the hose). This led directly to everyone I kept in contact with who drank that water unboiled got very sick, some even on the spot. They even failed to stock up with bottled water, so that in the last day we had the option to drink contaminated water or stay thirsty. So, if you go there, make sure to bring chlorine tablets and a water filter (since chlorine is not working to kill giardia) or sufficient drinking water for your stay. Note, it's on 3500 meters, so you will need one or two liters more per day than usual. The water they offer is definitly not safe.
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bert
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Re: CBT Osh, Alay & Sary Mogol reviews

Post by bert »

I was looking for accomodation in Sary-Moghul end of September. At the CBT office, they directed me to their own guesthouse next door. They didn't propose any other one. The guy was not friendly, nor unfriendly. Can't comment on activities since I went to Peak Lenin Basecamp on my own.

The guesthouse could do with some cleaning in the bathroom. The lady there was friendly. Dinner was basic but OK. Shower was non-existent due to very low water pressure. The very little water was hot though. Western toilet inside. Electric heating in the room during day and night was nice.

At 1000 KGS including dinner and breakfast, it was quite expensive. Next time, I would look for better options but all in all OK.
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Christian77
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Re: CBT Osh, Alay & Sary Mogol reviews

Post by Christian77 »

I visited Sary Mogol last summer and had the deep misfortune to deal with CBT Sary Mogol. I've been coming to Kyrgyzstan since 2011 for both work and tourism, and I have a very high tolerance for unpredictable and unprofessional drivers, guides, home stays, etc... But CBT Sary Mogol goes far beyond that and into not just dishonesty, but outright theft and lying.

In my nearly 6 months as a tourist travelling around Kyrgyzstan and my 5 months of living in a tourist hostel in Bishkek, I kept hearing bad stories about CBT Sary Mogol. In fact, 90% of the bad stories I heard about CBTs were about Sary Mogol, which is remarkable given its isolation and small numbers of tourists it services. But I wanted to trek up to Peak Lenin and I wanted to explore the area, and I wasn't going to be deterred. As someone who can speak decent 'tourist' Russian and who knows Central Asia, I figured I was immune from dishonest tourism scams.

I wasn't. Certainly not considering you have to pay everything up front.

I joined forces with two very experienced backpackers in Osh and we made our way to Sary Mogol. The prices quoted for transport at the vokzal are insane, and we paid almost double the prices you see on the internet - "The only marshrutka is filling up and some other foreigners will gladly pay if you don't." So we paid. Summer time is apparently a driver's market on the route to Pik Lenin. Good for them. I know that I can't always get the local price like in Bishkek or Karakol where you buy a marshrutka ticket from a government-regulated kiosk that gives receipts.

Upon arrival we made our way to the Sary Mogol CBT and hired a driver to take us to the yurt camp at Tulpar Lake nearer to Peak Lenin (which seems to be part of the CBT operation). That was straight forward: we paid a good price for a one-way trip and the driver was a cool Kyrgyz guy, as usual. After Peak Lenin we decided to retreat back across the valley to Sary Mogul to stay one night before hiking in the mountain range that backs down to Sary Mogol. We slept the first night at a guest house that the CBT sent us to (no choosing guest houses from a photo album like at CBT Arslanbob). The stay was quite nice in all aspects, aside from a menacing sign in English threatening a 1000 Som fine for talking late at night. It made me feel like we were in soldier's barracks or a boy's school dormitory.

Before going to our homestay we arranged for a driver for the next day to pick us up at the CBT in the morning and drop us off at the trail head about 20km into the mountains. The arrangement was that he would then be waiting for us at 6pm at the trailhead when we walk back down. We confirmed this multiple times. The next morning we re-confirmed in English that the driver would pick us up later that day and bring us back to Sary Mogol. When the driver arrived I asked the CBT guy to confirm the round-trip with the driver. He did. I then reconfirmed with the driver in Russian that he would be there at the end of the day at 6pm to bring us back.

So, then it all went downhill. The car started to overheat part-way to the trailhead. The driver kept pouring water from the river on the radiator and then, after a 30 minute delay, driving another 500 meters before the car again overheated and died. The problem was a jammed thermostat (it's always a jammed thermostat). So, we were there to hike, not to watch a car hissing steam out of a radiator. And we calculated that we were better off walking the last 1/3 (it would be faster). I spoke with the driver in Russian and he confirmed that either he or another driver from the CBT would be there at the end of the day to pick us up (note that we already paid in full at the CBT in Sary Mogol). Luckily a local stopped and offered us a ride. It was, coincidentally, the driver who took us to Tulparkul Lake the day before. He's a great guy and he refused to take any money from us.

The first sign that something was deeply wrong with the CBT was when we cam across a group of Israelis part way up the mountain pass. They were livid. They had paid the CBT office in Sary Mogol for horses to carry their bags through the pass, but they had no horses. They were on a one-way trip in the direction of Osh. They were not coming back to Sary Mogol. Their driver had dropped them off at the trailhead and there were no horses waiting as had been arranged. Their driver then took off. They had paid a lot for horses, and now they were carrying some heavy bags (lots of heavy meal-stuff that you wouldn't bring if you were carrying your own bag). A note here is how idiotic the CBT is. Maybe you could burn people in years past, but not anymore with social media and online ratings. Apparently there is a Whatsapp group for Israelis who are in Central Asia or who are planning on visiting Central Asia. They said they would put in the bad word when they get to Osh. If you are wondering why some hostels are packed with Israelis, it's because they have spread a good recommendation. But it works in reverse and they can persuade everyone to avoid you.

So, we went on but did not reach the pass at the half-way point of our time limit as we had lost 2 hours with car problems on the road. We were, obviously, disappointed. So we turned back and arrived back at the trail head at 6pm. There was no car. So we waited 30 minutes. Still no car. So we decided to walk down the road and meet the car as it drove up the road. That never happened. We were soon exhausted (we had done a crazy Peak Lenin hike the day before) and it was getting dark. There was no way that we were going to walk 20 km overnight. So when I saw a shepherd's yurt with a UAZ Bukhana (a 4x4 utility van) we decided to make other arrangements. I talked to the man and negotiated a 1000 Som one-way trip to Sary Mogol. Before we left we took photos with his kids and checked out the camp. The family was wonderful and the driver was great - the type of Kyrgyz that leaves you with good memories of a friendly and honest people. Note: on the way back we did not see any driver coming up the road.

So, the next morning we go to the CBT for our full refund and an apology. We expected it would be straightforward for such a colossal screw-up as this. But, no. The CBT manager said that we had only paid for a one-way trip. That's a lie. My travel partners immediately caused a big scene (which is was you need to do). And he said that since our driver had got us half-way there, we only deserved a 1/4 refund (which makes no sense whatsoever). He then lied straight to our face again and again about the agreement we had for a round-trip. The price alone indicated that it was not a one-way trip. Our numerous confirmations and re-confirmations that day and the day before contradicted him. We were shocked that someone could be such a bold-faced liar.

So then it got interesting...

He got on the phone with the driver from the day before and spoke in Kyrgyz. When he got off the phone he lied and said that the driver backs up his own version. The interesting part is that I speak Uzbek. It's not Kyrgyz, but numbers and times and many words are very, very similar. And with almost 18 months on the ground with a Kyrgyz phrasebook in my bag I have picked up some Kyrgyz, I just don't like to use it when my Russian is better. The CBT manager's conversation on the phone not just back up what we were saying, it revealed that the CBT manager knew from the beginning that we were telling the truth and that the driver on the other end confirmed that to him. He just didn't want to give our money back.

So... he gave us no choice but to make an even bigger scene. We yelled and yelled and refused to leave his office just as other tourists started to arrive at the CBT. We let him know that we would not leave his office until we got all of our money back. Seeing other tourists arrive he kept trying to go for a 25% refund before finally giving up and giving us back our money. The Israelis, of course, lost theirs.

On the way out I spotted a small stack of print paper with the 10000 Som fine threat on them. This guy had handed them out to the guesthouses.

Since this incident I talked to other tourists in Tajikistan who came via Sary-Moghul and the Pamir highway. They told further stories of rudeness, dishonesty, outright theft, etc. And like me, it was their sole bad experience in Kyrgyzstan.

To put this in context, in almost a decade of travelling in Central Asia, I have only dealt with three (non-police) people who tried to rip me off this badly: The guy at CBT Sary Mogol, and two different drivers in Tajikistan (Varzob and Panjakent) who dropped me off well before the agreed drop-off point and tehn drove away. That's three bad experiences in a decade, I had worse in one month in Vietnam and 20 minutes in Bali. So I do find Central Asia to be a very honest place, aside from airport taxi drivers, taxis waiting outside late night clubs, and CBT Sary Mogol.

My advice? Try the CBT in Osh. They can make similar arrangements and I haven't heard any complaints about them yet.
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Tengri76
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Re: CBT Osh, Alay & Sary Mogol reviews

Post by Tengri76 »

So based on these terrible reviews on CBT Sary-Moghul, is there any other organization operating in the area? Or, as we just need accommodation at Tulpar-Kol + transportation from/to Sary-Moghul, should we just book the yurt through the CBT and then rely on a local transport to reach/leave the yurt camp? Are they easy to find, at any time?
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steven
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Re: CBT Osh, Alay & Sary Mogol reviews

Post by steven »

There are also other yurt camps that are non-CBT at Tulpar Kol. Anyway, if all you need is a place to sleep and a car, they can arrange that for a similar price as the others (although if I recall correctly the non-CBT is a bit cheaper, and a bit more comfy).
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Tengri76
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Re: CBT Osh, Alay & Sary Mogol reviews

Post by Tengri76 »

Thanks Steven for the reply. Do you know the name of these organizations?
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steven
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Re: CBT Osh, Alay & Sary Mogol reviews

Post by steven »

No, last year we came with our own car and stayed with them. They had a big container last year as their dining hall.
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Christian77
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Re: CBT Osh, Alay & Sary Mogol reviews

Post by Christian77 »

I've been in Osh for a few days talking to other travellers. I'm posting this on behalf of three very angry central European backpackers: "The [Sary Mogol] CBT demanded 1400 Som per night per person for a local guesthouse. They said we had no other choice in town. It was getting late and we don't have a tent, so we had to pay." This is $20 per person for a homestay that crams 6-8 people in a single room. From their description, I'm pretty sure its a place I paid 700 or 800 Som for (but I arrived at 2pm and I was speaking Russian and acting somewhat disinterested).

And this on behalf of two Israeli travellers: "We asked [the Sary Mogol CBT] to make sure that we would be in a yurt that had electricity. We were told that this is no problem. We arrived to a place very far away with no electricity, and that has no electrical wiring at all." They had a bunch of photo battery and electronics they needed to recharge.

As for CBT Alay, a guesthouse in Sary Mughal/Mogol was asking for an insane price from a group who said they had a quote from CBT Alay. The guesthouse basically said "We don't know CBT Alay. We have nothing to do with them." So if you go to CBT Alay, make sure they make a reservation for you. Don't just rely on this for a non-committal price estimate.

From two Germans: "The CBT manager was rude and aggressive." But I didn't get their full story.

Also, nothing to do with the CBT, but the marshrutka from Osh to Sary Mughal is regularly asking for double the local price that you see mentioned online. And this story from Osh... a group of three was negotiating with a car driver (under the bridge in Osh) who was asking for a reasonable price to Sary Mughal when, suddenly, the marshrutka driver and his car driver friend came over screaming at the friendly car driver and seemed to be threatening him. They literally chased him off. Sary Mughal is wild.
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Christian77
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Re: CBT Osh, Alay & Sary Mogol reviews

Post by Christian77 »

Newest Sary Mogol CBT report, early September 2019.

One of my Pamir Highway travel mates (female solo traveller) had a terrible experience with the Sary Mogol CBT. After visiting Peak Lenin she decided to hire a driver through the CBT in Sary Mogol. She had a clear itinerary and the option to add days and change the schedule for a set price. The driver the CBT assigned was rude, sexist, racist and homophobic and made tirades along these lines in English despite her numerous attempts to get him to stop. They drove north and at Song Kol lake he complained loudly and angrily that he was bored and that he didn't want to wait an extra day at the lake while she went for a walk in the hills. He started to tell her that he would decide when and where to go. It went downhill from there and he refused to take her where she asked, and instead kicked her out in Bishkek, pocketing the money.

She contacted the CBT and angrily demanded a full refund. The reply was that they were sorry and that if she came to their office in Sary Mogol they would work everything out. They didn't expect her to actually go all the way across the country. But she joined our Pamir Highway group and we made out first stop at Peak Lenin. The CBT manager was surprised to see her, and he refused to give any refund. I watched the argument (he didn't recognize me) and he was aggressive, mean, demeaning and lying at every turn. But she held her ground and tried the tactic that was successful for us: refusing to leave. Eventually he gave her a 30% discount to get rid of her because she was causing a scene in front of other tourists.

Our driver, a super cool Kyrgyz guy from Murghab, was not surprised at how bad the CBT is. I guess the drivers know all about this CBT manager and his tactics: if he thinks he won't see you again, he'll steal, lie and cheat to the maximum. If he thinks he might see you again, he'll cheat just a little.

Anyways, when we drove across the valley to Tulparkul Lake, the driver told us that the CBT yurt camp is trash (I knew that, I had a crap experience there two years previously). The neighbouring camp (50 metres north of the CBT yurts) was a breath of fresh air. Friendly people, huge food portions, good advice, and a warm stove inside our yurt.
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