Big Skies in the High Kyrgyz Pamir

For whatever reason, it’s often the places where I have the most transformative experiences that get the least amount of screen time on this blog.  I think it’s because I can never really find the right words to do a place or experience I really love justice.  It’s happened in the past – there’s a reason why you don’t see any posts about things to do and see in Tbilisi or Seoul here.  But, having just written an account about nature that terrified me, I thought it would be best to get my thoughts down about our time in the high Kyrgyz Pamir, where we were fortunate enough to take a three-day trek last September while we were in Kyrgyzstan.

The Pamirs, or, more specifically, the Trans Alay range, in Kyrgyzstan don’t have much in common with the dense jungle rainforest of Suriname on paper, but to me the two represent similar types of experiences.  The uniting thread is that of dominance of the natural over the man-made.  Our time in the Pamirs of Kyrgyzstan, between Turpal Kol, Peak Lenin Base Camp, and Tuyuk Valley, wasn’t as daunting as in the dense jungle, I think due to the vast expanses of land visible from every vantage point.  This isn’t to say that obstacles didn’t exist – just in this case the antagonist was altitude over 12,000 feet, whereas in Suriname it was the hypothetical threat of creepy crawlies in every nook and cranny. Read more

Sary Mogul, Kyrgyzstan: An Unlikely Hamlet at 12,000 Feet

There isn’t much space devoted to places like Sary Mogul, Kyrgyzstan in guidebooks.  Sary Mogul is one of those places that is typically seen as a stopping off point, or a place to have a sort of layover, perhaps in the midpoint between two more noteworthy destinations.  But for whatever reason, I was immediately struck and fascinated by the place.  Neat rows of one-story mud houses, free-roaming cows and pigs, a lack of vegetation (save for the odd potato plant), and the curious people made it very hospitable, and I found it to be an absolute delight to explore and photograph.img_2302 img_2300

Places like Sary Mogul, traditionally, shouldn’t exist in Kyrgyzstan.  Sary Mogul, like it’s larger neighbor to the east, Sary Tash, were founded in the 1940s by Soviets in an attempt to supply nearby Murghab with potatoes and livestock.  Murghab was a strategic point along the Pamir Highway, connecting the major parts of the southern Soviet Empire with the relatively more Russified Kazakh and Kyrgyz Soviet Social Republics.  Thus, Sary Mogul came to existence to support another town that wouldn’t exist if it were left to the rules of traditional Kyrgyz nomadism.  It was truly a manufactured place, and in that respect, it had been given a blank canvas for independent cultural development. Read more

Almaty, Kazakhstan, Dressed in Resplendent Concrete

The first stop on our whirlwind tour of Central Asia was Kazakhstan’s former capital, Almaty.  It remains the largest city in the country, as well as its cultural epicenter.  My knowledge of the city was somewhat lacking (aside, that is, from my standard furious pre-trip googling and wiki-ing), and the city threw me through a loop.  Not because of culture shock – actually, it was quite the opposite.  Almaty was strange to me because of how cosmopolitan, ostentatious, and developed it was, thanks in large part to the Central Asian (primarily Kazakh) oil boom.stans-2016-13_29877361666_o stans-2016-127_29877426286_o Read more

Where are the Tourists in Central Asia?

It’s been a few weeks since our return from Central Asia, and I think I’ve had ample time to process our amazing experience there. One of the things we noticed throughout our time there was the near complete lack of tourists. With the exception of the odd Dutch or Israeli traveler, we met very few other travelers on the road. With all Central Asia has to offer, from crumbling modernist concrete to majestic scenery to extremely inexpensive transportation and cost of living, we were constantly wondering, “Why are we the only ones here?”

So I went about gathering opinions about why Central Asia (granted, we were only in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) seems to fly under the radar when it comes to travel destinations. To be fair, this is not a statistical study, as my sample size was about five, including my parents and others who might have some trouble identifying the stans on a map. Hey, I never claimed to be a mathematician.img_1958 img_2092 img_2222 Read more

Big Concrete and Bigger Nature: Central Asia 2016

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been captivated by Central Asia.  My father runs an antique rug store in the Seattle area, and since I was a wee child I’ve been surrounded by Central Asian textiles, from Uzbek suzanis to Kyrgyz shyrdaks.  For one reason or another, I’ve yet to make it to the region from whence these textiles came, but that is about to change.  David and I are heading on our second trip of the year – to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.  And I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/depenbusch/
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/depenbusch/
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mibuchat/
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mibuchat/

I long thought that Central Asia wouldn’t happen for me until I was older – its remoteness proved to be a hindrance, with only expensive and lengthy flights serving the region from my relative backwater of Seattle.  However, with Momondo flight alerts set, I stumbled upon round trip tickets to Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, for under $1,000 and with only one stop (in Frankfurt, of course), for precisely the times David and I would be able to travel.  I jumped, and bought the tickets, and decided to figure the rest out as the cards fell. Read more

July’s 5 Travel Obsessions

I have written about my predilection for falling down rabbit holes before – see Chiatura, Georgia, what remains one of the highlights of David and my trip to the South Caucasus last winter.  I fall down them all the time, so I thought it could be fun to keep track of my brain’s eccentric wanderings in the universe of travel.  Especially now that I’m attempting to devote more time to working on this blog, I am becoming aware of more things to wrap my mind around than ever before.  SO, here goes:

  • Hungarian Seccesionist Architecture, Subotica, Serbia
The synagogue in Subotica, Serbia - a prime example of Hungarian secessionist architecture.
The synagogue in Subotica, Serbia – a prime example of Hungarian secessionist architecture.

Read more

photo by: