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Bishkek Is The Real City That Never Sleeps

Want to eat dinner at 5am? Want to start drinking at eight in the morning? Want to stay up all night long in a cafe? In Bishkek this can be done.

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I arrived in Bishkek at night but that didn’t matter. Kyrgyzstan’s capital is open 24 hours.

While we seem to like the sound of New York being the city that never sleeps, it simply isn’t true. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wandered around that place at 3am with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Bishkek, on the other hand, really never sleeps. You don’t have to bother inquiring about the hours of most bars, cafes, supermarkets, and restaurants because they never close. They have florescent signs out front that say they’re open 24 hours, and they really are.

In my week in Bishkek I was not able to get a satisfactory explanation about what the city’s service sector has against closing.

“Everywhere else in the world places close at night, why don’t they here?”

“Maybe we just like to go be able to go to bars at any time we want,” one guy told me. “We just like to be able to sit at talk in cafes until 4am.”

They seemed amused that I found this aspect of their country to be so novel, but it kind of is. In 78 countries I have yet to find a city with such a high prevalence of businesses that never close.

This fact alone makes Bishkek the ideal city for the writer. You can show up at a cafe at 2am, write through the early morning hours, eat breakfast, and then go home to bed. You can show up at a bar at 7am and drink until lunch. If you get hungry at five in the morning you can just go to the nearest supermarket.

The writing life generally frees you from having a steady schedule. The only thing hemming you in are the opening and closing times to the places you’d like to frequent. In Bishkek, this is no obstacle. There is no regular wake up time, no logical bed time. I can play out any cycle of the day at any time, I can exist on any time zone I choose. Bishkek provides a unique sense of temporal freedom. There is something about this that I like.


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Filed under: Kyrgyzstan, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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