Saturday, September 17, 2011

Almaty Adventure: Destination Almaty - Impressions


Let me first debunk the generalized misconceptions of Kazakhstan. Before we arrived in Almaty, there were some concern from both of us - is it like the movie Borat? Is the country safe? How modern or backward in the country? After  4 days in Almaty, it was nothing like we what we thought it to be. Almaty was a modern city with pretty good road infrastructure, layout and is even less chaotic then cities like Bangalore or even Penang. Almaty feels more so like any city in Europe than Asia. People were well dressed and  there were probably more Porsches, Hummers, Mercedes and Ferraris than in Penang!

The weather when we there was also very nice. The sun was out and the temperature was a cool ~20 Celcius which reminded us of our trip Melbourne in Australia. We also felt pretty safe walking the streets of Almaty and we didn't meet police officers who might have wanted to check our visas or ask for a bribe.

People who we met and interacted with in Almaty were also very nice, helpful and friendly. This could be as our tour guide explain was part of their Kazakh and nomadic culture where they would graciously except guests. At some restaurants, there would be no English menu and only basic English was spoken but they patiently explained the menu.

Things were slightly "different" however outside Almaty. There are no highways per se and the roads can get pretty bumpy in some places. The biggest adventure ended up being visiting the toilets or more descriptively a shack containing a hole in the floor. If you think porta-portys are nasty, wait till you experience those in Almaty. Our advice would be to hold it in unless you REALLY have to go.

Out of the city
The "Shack"
In spite of some of the difficulties, we would recommend visiting Almaty or Kazakhstan for those looking for a off the beaten path kind of holiday. The hiking and outdoors are spectacular and again, the people are extremely friendly. It wouldn't surprise me that in the years to come, this could be the next tourist hot spot once the infrastructure improves which is not too difficult considering the country is pretty wealthy with all the oil reserves.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you liked your stay in Kazakhstan! Was great reading about your experience and impressions.