Friday, July 16, 2010

The Land of Borat

I survived.

4 nights and 3 days cooped up in a 100 square foot closet with 3 other people.

I’m quite proud of myself right now. Not only did I survive, I enjoyed it. The train was very peaceful and relaxing, especially when it ended in Almaty, Kazakhstan with one of the most impressive and comprehensive banyas in Central Asia.

About 1 hour after the train pulled into Alma-Ata I was checked into the hotel and was off to banya. To feel clean is such a luxury when you travel and getting clean is often part of the fun. You guys know from older posts how much I love banya. But this one was incredible with a full pool that you swim naked in (sex-specific obviously) and mostly because you could also opt for a $20 massage.

There may be some bruises on my back this morning. The masseuse was a diminutive Kazakh named Karina, whom I quickly renamed Igor - she dug in fingers, fists and elbows into my back and found muscles that definitely have never been reached before. It could have hurt more - if she was wearing stilettos standing on me while carrying a Hummer. It probably also could have hurt less, but where is the fun in that.

Now, with a few less skin cells on my body and way less dirt, I find myself in Almaty - an incredible city of trees. So many trees, all the roads have pedestrianized tree-lined side streets and fountains everywhere (and a church...aaaaahhhhh). It is fantastic and super cosmopolitan. This is hardly Borat-country.

Despite the beauty and energy of the town, I'm stuck in a cafe on the internet. I haven't yet cured my internet addiction, curing my phone addiction was enough I think. But, mostly I've been online all day organizing my Tibet trip and Panda volunteering. It's really going to be great and I'm totally looking forward to China - if only there wasn't another 52 hours of train in front of me next week.

The Clak-Clak is coming to get me.

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