Kazakhstan trip report

 

Kazakhstan



At the receiving end of a huge unflattering publicity boost from the movie Borat, Kazakhstan is an enormous country in Central Asia with a fairly small population because much of the country is barely habitable. Many Kazakhs still live a semi-nomadic existence, moving with their herds into summer pastures every year. They eat and sleep in yurts, the ancient dwellings of the nomads. They also drink a lot of kumis {fermented horse milk}. I was offered some on the way to Almaty, it was so bitter, it could have brought down a bull. Kumis is rumoured to be an aphrodisiac, I can confidently say I was in no frisky mood afterwards.


 

Almaty

Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan, currently undergoing an economic boom thanks to the riches from the country's huge oil and mineral resources. The spoils are everywhere, swanky cars, lot of brand new buildings being constructed, and a shiny metro system. The city is set against a sweet backdrop of mountains. The main highlights were:

  • Gorky Park, a big recreational park. It has boating lakes, funfair rides, an Aquapark, a zoo, several cafes, Dino Park and juice stands.
  • Panfilov Park named for the Panfilov Heroes, the 28 soldiers of an Almaty infantry unit who died fighting off Nazi tanks in a village outside Moscow during WWII.
  • Green Bazaar, a large covered market selling anything and everything. One of the most interesting sections were the butchers, who hanged drawings of whatever animal's meat they were selling. There was beef, lamb, goat and horse. Turns out that Kazakhs really love their horse meat, and many restaurants in the city were serving horse dishes.


 

Border with Kyrgyzstan

I entered Kazakhstan by crossing the border with Kyrgyzstan. At passport control, they had a "no corruption" poster plastered on the wall. The officer took my passport, asked me to follow him, then made a money sign with his hand {ie requesting a bribe}. When I pointed to the "no corruption" sign, he took me to his boss. After numerous back and forth with several officers, I was eventually let through. I hopped on a shared taxi from there to Almaty, passing through some nice scenery along the way.