The Secret Land of Central Asia Surrounded by Snowy Mountains

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By Joe Chiu
19 Apr 2024

The Secret Land of Central Asia Surrounded by Snowy Mountains

This time, I travelled on a direct Air Astana flight to Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan. The southeast side of Almaty is basically an extension of the Tian Shan mountain range, which is surrounded by mountains. City dwellers in Hong Kong do not often have the chance to see snow-capped mountains except when travelling, so it was amazing to be able to see the towering snow-capped mountains clearly from the centre of Kazakhstan! But what made me even more excited was the Shymbulak Ski Resort, a half-hour drive from downtown Almaty. From the entrance of the ski resort, I took the cable car up the mountain in just over 10 minutes, and before I knew it, I was already in the secret land of snowy peaches, and the mist in front of the ski resort made me feel that I was in an inhospitable place, as if I was in another world.

Another "tourist hotspot" in Kazakhstan is the world's second largest canyon, Charyn Canyon, which is located on the outskirts of Almaty. Many people compare the Grand Canyon of the United States with Charyn Canyon. The Grand Canyon of the United States is known as the world's first canyon, so it is naturally very famous, but I personally think that the drawback is that visitors can only view the Grand Canyon from a high altitude. I have visited both, in contrast, I prefer Kazakhstan's Charn Canyon, scenic area visitors are mainly residents of Kazakhstan, there are not too many foreign tourists, not too much commercial flavour, visitors can slow down the pace of appreciation, stop to take pictures, walk freely between the canyons, and even climb to the steep rocks, zero distance to feel the magnificent scenery of nature.

Behind the back of the canyon, no one is around to take a photo (Joe Chiu/Photo)


When we visited Almaty this time, we got to know our tour guide very well, and within a few days, we were already on good terms with her. She even invited us to her home as a favourite host, and we accepted the invitation without a second thought. The most straightforward way to get to know the culture of a place is to visit the home of the local people. So after finishing our tour, we went to her house in the evening, and our guide's family had already prepared a full table of "nine big dishes" for us, and the one that caught our eyes was a big dish of horse meat. Having lived in Hong Kong, we rarely ate horse meat, and we were all very curious about the flavour of horse meat. The tour guide explained that in the past, when the Kazakh people on horseback had to go out to war, horses were not only the main means of transport, but also the staple food of the Kazakh herders to replenish their energy. Nowadays, most families may not eat horse meat in their daily meals, but the tradition is still preserved during festivals or when important guests come to visit, and horse meat dishes are sure to be served, so it seems that our guests had a good time.


I was lucky enough to have a taste of the horse meat dish used to treat VIPs at a local "house meal" (Joe Chiu/Photo)


Kazakhstan is a must-pass country on the ancient Silk Road, where East meets West, and is rich in tourism resources. I look forward to another opportunity to unveil the mysteries of Kazakhstan and the other four stans in Central Asia.

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