After my 3-4 day stop in Astana, Kazakhstan, I decided to take a $95 USD flight down to Almaty, Kazakhstan (the former capital of Kazakhstan).
You can either take a train for about 15 hours, or a 2 hour flight… Obviously the flight was the better option.
Long story short, I ended up staying in Almaty for almost a month, and had an epic adventure into the mountains of Shymbulak.
Where is Almaty, Kazakhstan?
A Little Kazakh History
Kazakhstan, for the longest time, was an enormous nomadic region in central Asia.
You were either a herder of sheep, horses, cattle, or other livestock, OR you were a trader on the Silkroad.
(A nomad is someone who constantly travels from area to area, depending on the seasons, resources, cultural beliefs, etc.)
Imperial Russia into Communism
Eventually, the Russian Empire came along and conquered Kazakhstan, starting in 1813.
This period was called the ‘Great Game', which involved the British Empire and the Russian Empire.
While the British empire was leeching resources from India and its other colonies in exchange for a different style of culture, education, and social order…
Russia was doing the same to its conquered regions (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan).
But when communism took over Russia, it quickly penetrated, and overtook the Kazakhstan nation.
As such, the architecture has a heavy influence to communist ideals… effective, efficient, minimalist, and ‘blocky'.
A New Almaty, Kazakhstan
The collapse of the soviet union ushered in over a decade of instability, violence, intense criminal competition, heavy corruption, and ultimately a restructuring of ex-soviet societies.
After almost 2 decades, Kazakhstan was back on its feet, with a strong relatively strong economy, mostly built on the manufacturing and exportation of oil.
Furthermore, due to large investment incentives put into place by the government, there is a LOT of construction projects taking place, resulting in a mesh of soviet-era and 2010+ style architecture around the city.
The Mountain Background
While the city architecture of Almaty, Kazakhstan isn't overly special, what you will be really amazed by the is mountainous background.
On a map, the mountains are considered ‘south' but to the Almaty locals, it's considered north or ‘up-town', since you are going ‘up' a mountain.
The Mountains of Almaty
But the really amazing part is the mountains of Almaty. You simply take a bus from the city, and then a few cable cars to get to the top.
There are 3 cable cars, each one, going progressively higher, and the view is obviously breathtaking.
Long Story Short
The real invitation to the city of Almaty, comes from its mountains, and potential adventures you can have there.
You can stay in Almaty for about 3-4 days, and have an epic time skiing, or just climbing the mountains and taking selfies, as I did.
Keep in mind, the 3rd cable car stop closes at 4:30pm, so make sure you climb down the mountains before that.
Otherwise, you will get stuck, like I did, for about 2 hours. You will get to slide down on your shoes and ass in the end 😉
Otherwise, the city itself has all of the necessities you expect to see in any modern city… Uber, large malls, KFC, McDonalds, night clubs, restaurants, and everything else.
And everything is inexpensive, relative to the western world (ie. a $20 uber in North America, would only cost about $2-3 in Kazakhstan).
Na Zdaroviye (Cheers or ‘For Health', in Russian)