After visiting the Communist theme park of Bishkek, we caught a flight back to Osh, the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan.
Before catching the flight, we went to see the the parliament building, one of the capital’s more impressive sights. We snooped around the parking lot looking at all the expensive cars (in a country where dilapidated Russian Ladas are the norm, anything fancy stands out). That’s when we spotted this suspicious vehicle. Licence plates “101-AA0”? Must be the president’s we quipped.
We booked a flight on Air Manas, the national airline. If you book this well in advance, it’s only about $30 one-way. In the booking process, I noticed that seat selection was extra but that for $5 I could reserve seat 1A. How could I not?
But when I got to the airport and checked in, I’d been moved to the exit row.
The exit row is great and I know that all the seats on this plane are identical, but I’d selected 1A and that’s where I wanted to sit.
It took getting the manager involved and an endless amount of typing into the computer but eventually I received a boarding pass with the magic number 1A.
Sitting next to the very first window, I could see everyone walk up the boarding ramp and enter the plane. We all arrived crammed onto big buses.
Then a VIP bus pulled up and four very well dressed men emerged, purposefully strode up the ramp, and sat themselves in the remaining first row seats. Sitting next to me, seat 1B, was a large imposing man, the best dressed of the bunch.
I watched with fascination as every passenger entering the plane noticed him with surprise, stuck out their hand, and exchanged a hearty handshake. This must be someone important.
After everyone took their seats this gentleman started flipping through his phone. I couldn’t help but snoop. He was reading the national website and what did I see but an article with his own face staring back at him.
Turns out it was the president of Kyrgystan! I’m not usually one to intrude on someone else’s privacy but I really should have gotten a photo together. In what other country do you get to sit next to the president (and he’s the one stuck in the middle seat!) for just $5?