Kenet is probably the only vegetarian central Asian I’ve ever met. He was one of the other two passengers in my taxi to Bishkek- yes that’s right there were only 3 of us! (Maybe I’ll rename this blog ‘people I meet in shared taxis as I travel through Asia in search of my next latté’…). It was an unheard of level of comfort which helped to make the journey to Bishkek one of the most enjoyable of this trip so far.
When I say vegetarian – well he was trying to be but as he told me, not at all unsurprisingly, it was incredibly difficult in Kyrgyzstan. [As it happens I know there’s a couple of places in Almaty where you can get raw vegan food which I think officially confirms how un-central Asian it now is]. He was also interested in eastern religions- Buddhism, Hinduism – despite being mildly Muslim (!) as is typical of the region. He had two young daughters but *of course* wanted a son too – though apparently, he told me, if you eat meat during pregnancy you are more likely to give birth to a boy (I’m not sure if this is folk wisdom or if he’d read something in the latest copy of Science that I just haven’t seen yet 🙂 ). This wasn’t going to help his vegetarianism much either as he had previously been trying to persuade his wife to give up meat too!
We had a couple of stops along the way, one at the most salubrious roadside café I’ve experienced so far, and one at a shop where I couldn’t help myself and bought one of the scary hard cheese balls (they’re called qurt). I still haven’t eaten it yet!
In Bishkek at the Interhouse hostel there were several cyclists and I felt like quite an underachiever with just my public transport riding backpacker status…Then the next day (Tuesday 8th) it was on to Almaty again to do exciting things like laundry, spend western amounts of money on dinner, skate on an Olympic ice rink – and hope that the US election result is just a horrific nightmare.
Next Tuesday [ie the extremely early hours of tomorrow] I’m flying to Bangkok and then travelling overland to Cambodia to go and see an old rallying friend (hi Andy!) but before that I’m doing a slightly ridiculous stint involving 3 (separate) nights on trains so I can – very quickly- see a little bit of northern Kazakhstan: Semey and Astana (then back to Almaty for my flight..). Incidentally I’ve never had much luck with the Kazakh railways website but the ticket booking office at Almaty-2 is great and http://www.tutu.travel has accurate timetable and price information.
Right now I’m on the train to Semey (should be there in a couple of hours). This is train coffee:
Mmmm. you could do better if like the Kazakhs you brought along everything but the kitchen sink – no kitchen sink required as there’s a small kitchen with sink at the end of each carriage next to the samovar!
And I won’t be wittering on this time about how the view from the window embodies the Kazakh flag, because this is the view from the window:
Haven’t seen any melons either!