I think it goes without saying that life in Karakol is quite a bit different from life back in the good ole’ U.S.A. We do most of our shopping in an open air bazaar rather than in a grocery store. We eat far more made-from-scratch foods than processed foods. As with most of the world, the metric system reigns supreme and the American Standard system is virtually unknown here. Sometimes, though, the differences come in some less than expected ways.
Stateside, when I needed gas I stopped at virtually any major intersection and there would be at least 3 gas stations there, sometimes even four or more! I bought my regular unleaded using pay at the pump and moved on my merry way with little thought. I remember seeing full service stations as a kid but those are now mostly long gone.
In Karakol, while there are gas stations all around town, most of them you don’t want to use unless you have no choice. There are two major Russian chains, mostly on the outskirts of town, which we try to stick with, though I have only used one of the two brands. And most of the stations I’ve been to here are something close to full service in that they usually have an attendant whom you pay and he or she does the pumping for you. You see, I still usually get pay at the pump, just with cash to a person instead of a card to a machine. I have seen a station or two that takes credit cards, though just in Bishkek.
The biggest difference comes from a side benefit of going to this one particular gas station. It is on the northern road out of town and it takes several minutes to get there. It is definitely not the closest one to me, but I think you’ll agree, the view is worth the drive anytime.