2018 Tian Shan
August-September 2018 travel to Kazakhstan reviewed in 2020
Commentary from 2020
This third post from 2018’s travel was a summary of every stereotype and possible prejudice (false or true, positive or negative) that I had still before actually visiting the destination country and culture and seeing things for myself. Please note this was written just hours from the travel to start.
I think it was important to gather those thoughts. I am one of those people that reads as little as possible before going abroad so that you get to learn by surprise, which makes experience more powerful.
In 2020, this post made me rethink why exactly was I so obsessed about Kazakhstan between 2012 and 2018, when I knew so little about it. I knew that I wanted to go to Central/North Asia again after I visited Siberia in 2008 and China in 2009, and Kazakhstan was an obvious next choice “on the long list of massive intercontinental travels” that never actually happened due to lack of money, time or knowledge. I think it was exactly that failure that made me so obsessed. And many thanks to my mother for actively cheering me up to actually do it, and twice it was twice the joy that I went there all alone, and using only money I saved up myself.
As you see below, this is basic knowledge about Kazakhstan that takes five minutes to learn online, with a pinch of superficial stereotypes that I picked up mostly while talking to Russians, and to people on Interpals.
Original blog link: https://2018tianshan.tumblr.com/post/177123806466/final-thoughts-before-departure
Original post from 18.08.2018 is copied below. Please note the original post came without pictures, and this post’s featured picture was made by Erol Ahmed and comes from Unsplash at Unsplash’s license and was edited.
Final thoughts before departure
It is 7:30am here in Europe. Bus to railway station leaves at about 11am, train to Warsaw leaves at noon, arrives at 3pm when I meet my sister that lives there, then at 11pm my flight departs to Astana.
It is the last day when I have my current weight of stereotypes and prejudices about two countries that I am going to see. How about going through them, later to return and see if false or true?
As this was my dream travel destination, I did some research, even long ago. Getting the obvious out of the way: huge country (12% in Europe, but it also directly borders China), steppe, climate very close to Mongolia and Siberia. Turkic language. Adopted Islam. Extreme continental climate (+40°C in summers, -50°C in winters), lots of sun. Key place on Earth regarding spaceflight (Baikonur spaceport being the oldest and biggest in the world, supply to ISS take place here, and descents from ISS take place here, yes, also for the Americans).
As for the less known stuff. A couple of stereotypes that I take with me, only to be verified:
- Kazakhstan is more relaxed about Islam than Arabic countries and within obvious reason respects other cultures. Meaning it should be relatively safe to travel for a kafir like me.
- Kazakhstan is a clash between Russian culture and Turkic culture.
- Kazakhs are known for uncomfortable amounts of hospitality.
- Kazakh girls are known for breathtaking beauty, combining best features east Asian and Slavic girls have.
- Kazakhs mainly eat meat and it will be hard to find other things (I’m quite omnivorous and I like the green to meat).
- Kazakhs, as Muslims, don’t drink alcohol. But when they do, they are unmatched, as I heard in Siberia: what three Poles will be able to take, two Russians, one Kazakh. Better to avoid that kind of confrontation.
- Astana and Almaty can be frustratingly expensive and very modern, while the rest of the country save for a few other cities is inexpensive.
Since it is only about 350 kilometres from Astana in Kazakhstan to the capital of Kyrgyzstan, called Bishkek, I decided to pay it a visit too. A visit to Issyk-kul lake in Kyrgyzstan is also apparently a must-do when one’s near Tian-Shan in Almaty.
I do not know anything about Kyrgyzstan at this point – not many people mention that country where I live, though the name will ring a distant bell. What is it like? How does it differ from other countries in the region? Having no stereotypes to take with me, I will probably go to terra incognita, unless I read too much or ask people online.
Remains to be seen.