I bid adieu to Kazakhstan with this: the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, designed to celebrate ethnic and religious diversity, as well as to promote equality and peace. Can't argue with any of that. Look really closely and you'll see the Presidential Palace nestled in the background on the other side of the river.
Kazakhstan has been such a blast. After the 'organised' tour imposed upon me in Tibet, it's been great to get back to my way of travelling. I had misguided expectations going in - based on other regions I've visited in this part of the world, as well as countries under similarly questionable regimes, I wondered if people here were going to be distant and suspicious, at least upon first glance. The fact that tourism is so limited here made me have further doubts.
I'm happy to say that any apprehension was unfounded. People in Kazakhstan have been uniformly wonderful - kind, open, and so very curious. I guess that's where the lack of tourism comes in. Often the first question I'd get (after the inevitable "where are you from?") would be "what are you doing here?" So many expected me to be a student, or working for some international company. It was charming to see how confused people were when I'd state that I was merely a tourist. I've lost count of how many selfies I was asked to be in, and when you're dealing with an ego like mine that can only be a good thing. I'm also humbled with how knowledgeable people are about the UK - so many knew the part where I'm from, which beats pretty much the entire rest of the world that seems to default to "London?" 🙄
Anyway, tourism here is still relatively nascent, but when you're dealing with people as warm and generous as those in Kazakhstan it can only be a matter of time before it grows. I feel like I've been on an epic journey here, jumping from astounding natural scenery to ancient relics to 20th century traumas to the modern face of the nation and all it seeks to represent. I hope that journey convinces others - not to mention people in Kazakhstan themselves - that there's much to relish here. And I wish only the best for everyone in this country moving forward. Thanks for such an amazing time.