Blogs from Kazakhstan, Asia


Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan » Almaty November 28th 2019

The blog title was the response of the Kazakh Tourism Minister when asked what he thought about Borat. I’m not sure if Borat actually did much for tourism in Kazakhstan but he doesn’t need to as the country is great. I thought I would like Almaty, and I did. I think I once considered it as a place to move to back in my English teaching days. Any city so close to massive mountains is always going to be appealing. In addition, there are plenty of pedestrianised streets, numerous tree-filled parks, a wealth of theatres (akin to many former Soviet cities), but best of all you can take a city bus into the Altai Mountains in under half an hour. I would be very fit if I lived here. Our Central Asia trip would involve a ... read more
Log Jam at Kolsai Lake
Lake Kaindy
Kolsai Lake

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan September 20th 2019

We started our trip on Friday, September 13 (a bad omen). United Airline's flight from Columbia was 4 hr late and we missed all our connections. With a mad dash for nothing, we were forced to spend the night at ORD airport Hilton, not the most pleasant hotel we have ever stayed. Wasted the whole 2nd day waiting to board Turkish Airline at 9 pm to Istanbul. Luckily Istanbul has a new airport with lots of nice cushions to stretch out and relax. Finally made it to Almaty, Kazakhstan a day late. We joined the day tour anyway to synchronize our body rhythm with local times. Met our tour leader, Max, a 6'8" Swede who we could never miss in a crowd. Silk Road was a network of trade routes that connected the East and West ... read more
Ray got a bench to stretch out
Monument of Independence
Beautiful fountains

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan » Almaty September 13th 2019

The Silk Road going through Central Asia has been on my bucket list for a while already, not only because of the history of the Silk Road, but also because I can add 'five' countries in one trip! Now that I am getting really close to my goal of traveling to 100 countries, adding five in one scoop is very enticing. One of the top priorities for me on this trip is to be able to pronounce the five Stans correctly - Kazakhstan is the only one I have confidence in my pronunciation. Uzbekistan (Uz-beki-stan) is doable, Tajikistan (Ta-ji-ki-stan) not too bad, Turkmenistan (Turk-meni-stan) starting to give me trouble and Kyrgyzstan (Kyr-gyz-stan) is impossible, I couldn't even get the first sound out of my mouth. Ray tried many times to help me but I am still ... read more

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan April 2nd 2019

Everyone with whom I spoke said how lovely Almaty is. It is pretty, and has many parks throughout, but it is also a rapidly growing modern city complete with traffic jams morning and evening. It seems many people want to live there; there is a feeling of freedom and laissez-faire. No visa is needed to enter Kazakhstan, which was refreshing especially after the difficulty of even getting a visa to Turkmenistan, and also after our trials trying to get our whole group into Uzbekistan. Except for the long delay at the Tashkent airport (no reason given), we simply walked into Almaty after deboarding the plane, and met our van and newest local guide. One of the reasons I enjoy being here so much is our lovely young guide, Dina, who is effervescent and funny, who, on ... read more

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan » Almaty March 6th 2019

I drink camel milk. There. I said it. It is out there. Now cue of up the parade of responses I have grown so accustomed to getting when I divulge this tidbit of information. There is the “have you lost your mind” side eye. The “are you messing with me?” uncomfortable laugh. My favorite is the “oh Valeri” eye roll. Sometimes, it’s the “WHY?” judgement. Then, there is the most common, the ”I am so disgusted I can’t even speak” wrinkled nose. Every once and awhile, I get the “tell me more” curious lean-in. To this one, I respond with the explanation that I am allergic to cow‘s milk, but camel milk doesn‘t cause inflammation. Then I launch into a very brief summary of how camel milk has more protein, less fat and more vitamins than ... read more
Rookie Milker
Milking Time
Camel Food

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan » Almaty March 4th 2019

There is something about the beauty of a mosque that seems to really catch my attention. I don’t know if it has to do with the majestic domes or the sophisticated use of color or the identifying minarets, I just find myself drawn to them. I caught a ride outside of Almaty into the countryside and found many of the mosques to be real head turners. Gorgeous greens, inviting blues and sparkling gold domes dotted the road sides and city corners in a way that I did not expect. Near the Greeen Bazaar is the Central Mosque. It is well known in Almaty because it is the largest mosque in the city and seems to be a busy location for daily prayer. Religion in Kazakhstan is an interesting study since the people of this country spent ... read more

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan » Almaty March 4th 2019

It’s no secret I like to eat. I like the adventure of trying new things. I like the comfort of familiar old favorites. I like to take culinary tours of the world even when I can’t travel. I relish the presentation. I crave the merriment of a meal. I like the experience of dinner. Bottom line, I just really like to eat. I won’t say that I choose my travels based on foods, but I also won’t say that I don’t. If a location offers unique and delicious food, it may tip the scale over a location not known for great cuisine. In this case, I did not choose Almaty for it’s cuisine but I heard the city offered up some fine dining worth investigating and it did not disappoint. I was pleasantly surprised at the ... read more

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan » Almaty February 24th 2019

Well, that is easy to do since it is my birthday! When I was growing up, birthays were exciting and magical. They were predictable, but they were also special. My birthdays were sometimes over the top and sometimes more low key, but every year my parents went out of their way to make me feel special. There were cakes and favorite dinners. There were gifts and special activities. There were family dinners and there were parties with friends. One year there was the huge surprise party. Other times there were slumber parties and pizza deliveries. For my 18th birthday, my parents rented out the skating rink for an epic time. There was always Granny’s famous lasagna and angelfood cake. And regularly, there were joint celebrations with my aunt who’s birthday is one day earlier than mine. ... read more
Camel Milk Cappuccino
Birthday Party in My Hotel Room
The Restaurant that Started it All

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan » Almaty February 24th 2019

I have a confession to make...I love going to the grocery store in foreign countries. I know it sounds nerdy at best, but I just love to see how other people live and I think the grocery store is a great place to start a true anthropological hunt. Or maybe, it’s just because I love to eat. Either way, I can’t resist a slow, methodical walk through a grocery store or two. Or, as is the case here in Almaty, I think I walked through four different stores. (I know my typical travel partners just let out a huge sigh of relief they were not by my side on this trip...they are usually fine with one grocery store visit, but can you imagine the looks on their faces when we passed by the fourth store and ... read more
Beautifully Packaged Honey
Candy Aisle
Ready Made Food

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan » Almaty February 24th 2019

It has always been my philosophy that you haven’t really experienced a city if you haven’t gotten lost wandering the winding, often confusing alleyways of her marketplace. Whether you call it a souq, a bazaar or a market, they all have one thing in common. They are dripping with cultural experiences and provide endless opportunities to peak in the window to a specific culture. These hubs of commerce, often unchanged since they began hundreds of years ago, are a sure fire way to see how the people of that city interact, eat, shop, dress and survive. Ripe with color and brimming with unique vignettes, old world markets are a magnet for anyone wanting to learn more about the history and the future of a community. I always admire how markets can be an true equalizer. They ... read more
Yes, That Is Horse Meat
Outside the Green Bazaar
Casanova’s of the Green Bazaar

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