The Disneyland of Bishkek

… you wait your whole Soviet childhood, and the day finally arrives when you get to glimpse a rusty Spider-Man climbing the Taj Mahal, paint faded and peeling.

“No, you can’t get close to it!”

There are 3 small facsimiles of park rides; 2 are broken, but you ride them anyway.

“You must remember to thank the men who heaved the rollercoaster off the platform! How they struggled!”

You order a stale, dry donut and a cup of cocoa from a bored teenager bundled up in a shack that promises flavors from a magical land called “Germany.” She reluctantly looks up from her phone to explain that she needs to go find someone who can operate the cocoa machine.

“She has been gone for so long. Did she run off with your money?”

No! An angry man has come to make you scalding cocoa – receive it quickly! You sip it, tongue too burnt to savor the chocolate the way the children must do in Germany, while you watch some happier children ice skate.

“Perhaps next year, there will be skates available in your size.”

Perhaps there will be. Filled with wonderment at all you have beheld today, you drive home on potholed streets under the endless grey sky.

As you tuck into bed, you thank the State for your visit to Flamingo World. But wait – do you dare to ask the question that’s been burning in your mind all day? “Papa? What’s a flamingo? Did I see one today?”

“HUSH CHILD! The gulags are filled with such insolent children!”

Spiderman, is that you I see between the mushroom hut, and the shipping crate?
Socialism 1, capitalism 0. 😤
Based on the makeup, it’s a girl, which means that’s bellybutton. WHEW!
As it goes around, the animals go higher and lower as the kiddo actuates a joystick… except, if it doesn’t. In which case, the man stops the ride, explains that he forgot that animal was broken, and puts your kid in another flying animal, and restarts it. It doesn’t take long, because the seatbelts aren’t used. (Where’d the snow go? I didn’t snap a pic of this ride 😖, so I stole one.)
Soviet official to the coaster designer: “Make it grin harder! I SAID GRIN HARDER!”
The pic is a still from a video 😖, and it’s hard to tell what’s even happening here: the coaster stopped in the middle of the circuit, so 3 men manually pushed it back to the platform. They then gave it a running push-start to get it to engage with the lifter. Everyone in line watched this, didn’t react at all, then went ahead and put their kids on it next.
Me and Huggy Wuggy. This was the park mascot (Kissy Wissy was also there, but not pictured; we didn’t see Killy Willy). These characters are from a toy-store themed horror/gore video game. It’s been in the news recently for appearing like a kid’s game, but having dark, disturbing content. For example, Huggy Wuggy here, embraces you in a hug then whispers death threats in your ear. And Flamingo Park un-ironically ripped it off as their Park Mascot! 😂

This place is walking distance from the embassy. I once asked a driver “Hey, what is Flamingo Park?” and he said, “it is like… Bishkek Disneyland.” Then he laughed and laughed. Now I know why! Our 9-year-old wouldn’t even get near the rides, because she was so worried about their safety. But I was proud of her cleverness when she recovered from her crying fit and said, “the only ride I want to go on is the RIDE HOME.”

And you know what? For all of Flamingo Park’s Soviet “charms,” we had a GREAT day with new friends. The scalding cocoa tasted fantastic, once it cooled. The sky was blue, the air was clean, and the snow was sparkling.

Afterward, our new friends took us to their place and treated us to homemade… well, everything! Biscuits, beef stew, lentil soup, tomato soup, chocolate chip cookies – all of the things that warm the body and the soul. The kids played, the adults shared great conversation, and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. (Except maybe the Flamingo Park part).

❤️ Love from Bishkek ❤️