Marshrutka Monologues (or, Why We Travel the Way We Do)

Kyrgyz Marketing

I thought Americans liked to travel in comfort. I don’t know why you take a marshrutka. You should take the marshrutka. There you will meet the real people. -- Two competing local views on whether or not we should subject ourselves to long-distance rides on marshrutka minivans, the dominant form of public transport in the Caucasus and Central Asia. … [Read more...]

Golden Camel Awards, Part 1: Food and Markets

Camel Crossing

Welcome to the first and only Golden Camel Awards, a camel’s eye view of the best and worst that Central Asia and the Caucasus have to offer!While most people don’t travel to the Caucasus and Central Asia solely to explore the cuisine, we had our share of pleasant eating experiences there. We also occasionally felt the wrath of a post-Soviet culinary hangover. … [Read more...]

Sex and the Central Asian Visa

I just want to go home. I'm tired of all this visa stuff. -- A distressed traveler at the Kazakh embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.So what does sex have to do with Central Asian visas? Simple, really. Thinking about, planning around, and procuring visas for Central Asian countries begins to dominate one’s time and mindspace -- almost to the point of obsession. … [Read more...]

Central Asian Food: The Good, the Bad, and the Inedible

Smoke Break

Mystery vegetables are better than mystery meat. – the mantra we adopted after eating Central Asian meals for over three monthsAlthough we would not advise an exclusively culinary expedition to Central Asia, the region does have its appetizing moments. Surrounding those moments, you’ll primarily find a nomadic carnivore’s dream or a vegetarian’s nightmare. … [Read more...]

Dialing in from the Dark: What’s Coming Up

We just finished a three-day trek that landed us at Inle Lake, Myanmar. While the people, markets, temples, villages and floating gardens here have all been wonderful, internet connectivity and availability of electricity leave much to be desired. With rolling brown-outs, random power outages, and heavily censored dial-up internet, staying in touch with the outside … [Read more...]