As writer Erik Trinidad discovers, the jaw-dropping landscape of mountainous northern Kyrgyzstan served as the perfect backdrop for a bit of horseback trekking and culture swapping with the locals. 

On the southern lakeshore of Issyk-Köl, within the Ala-Too mountains of northern Kyrgyzstan, rhythmic music filled the air, as far as a small cell phone speaker could reach. The melodies sounded Arabian to me, but I wasn’t familiar with the lyrics.

“Is that Kyrgyz?” I asked my local guide Baha in simple English.

“Ya. Kyrgyz,” he replied. It was one of the four songs he had on his phone—according to the count I had in my head before the loop would start over—that we’d heard over and over everyday during our horseback riding excursion.

Curious, Baha wondered about the music on my phone. “Music… American?”