Well, things are certainly happening to the West of here, but my thoughts are decidedly towards the East. It is probably not the first place you will think of, but, Kazakhstan sounds like a fascinating destination. The Republic of Kazakhstan straddles Asia and Eastern Europe. It is the largest landlocked country in the world. A country of 18 million, it is rich in mineral deposits and has a thriving oil and gas industry. Neighbours include Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.In the 13th century, Kazakhstan was occupied by Genghis Khan as part of the Mongolian Empire. There followed 5 centuries of upheaval, with various changes in rulers, until, in the 19th Century, the country became part of the Russian empire. In 1936, the country became known as Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the USSR, in 1991, Kazakhstan declared its independence.
As if this turbulent and fascinating history was not enough, we have a super host in Almaty who is really keen to show visitors the wonders of her country of which she is very proud. Lyudmila lives in Almaty in her home which she has named “Rainbow House”. Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan, with a population approaching 2 Million. It is set in the foothills of the Trans-Ile Alatau Mountains and is the trading and cultural hub of the country. With such a long and varied history, Almaty has many museums and heritage sites. Ile Alatau National Park is situated in the mountains south of the city and is home to Snow Leopards, Lynx, Brown Bears and Golden Eagles, to name but a few of the exotic wildlife here. Here you can see Apricot trees growing alongside Apple and Maple. This landscape is truly unspoiled and a wonder to behold. If you are feeling energetic, there is a ski resort close by, called Shymbulak, or Chimbulak. Situated at 2,200 metres above sea level, snow is guaranteed. If you just want to relax, try the Arasan Baths. This is the perfect place to while away a couple of hours and maybe have a relaxing massage. Zenkov Cathedral is a functioning Russian Orthodox Church. Entry is free and the frescos are really worth seeing.
Whenever I visit a city, I love to check out the food market. The “Green Market” does not disappoint - there is a rainbow of colours here, with a vast choice of fresh fruit and nuts, meats and even clothes from all over the country, served by very friendly traders. I hope I have whetted your appetite for this exotic location. Get in touch with Lyudmila, she is really looking forward to welcoming Freebirds to her beloved Kazakhstan.
Having moved from San Francisco to Bangkok, in 2008, Cliff one of our newest Freebird Hosts is waiting to welcome you to this exciting city. Bangkok is, of course, the capital of Thailand. The city is famous for ornate shrines and a vibrant street life. Built on the Chao Phraya River and with an extensive network of canals, this is a city that never sleeps. Street food here is stupendous, both in its variety and sheer quantity. It is a city of hustle and bustle where streets are crowded all day long with locals and tourists alike.If you are on a short visit to Thailand and don’t have time to venture into the countryside, Bangkok has the answer: Ancient City is an open air museum exhibiting scaled down versions of the country’s historic monuments. Bangkok is full of Buddhist temples, one more beautiful than the next. One of the largest and oldest such temples is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Here you will see over 1,000 images of Buddha, the largest of which stands at 160 feet. The temple also houses a monastery school and is home to practicing monks.
Thailand is famous for massage. Why not spend some chill out time in the massage school at Wat Pho. Bangkok is particularly famous for its huge choice in eateries. I recommend mango sticky rice, in fact, if mango is your thing, you are spoilt for choice in the city, as this fruit is widely used in many recipes. Some of the best food is to be found on the street, served up at a myriad of stalls throughout the city and late into the night. One of the world’s largest markets, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is spread over 70 acres and has 8,000 stalls selling exotic animals, barbecued insects, clothes and beautiful flowers. Entertainment is served up by musicians and is free.
Bangkok’s best feature is, undoubtedly, its people. Famous for their beauty and hospitality, Thai people are exceptionally welcoming and seem to be always smiling and friendly. If you would like to visit Bangkok, send Cliff a message. He knows the city inside out and is really looking forward to showing you around.
Happy travels in the exotic East.
Let's make the Freebird fly!
The Freebird Club Team
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