Ok, you have seen the Borat movie and you think you know what Kazakhstan is all about. Think again. The movie is a work of fiction that in no way, shape or form depicts the Kazakh people and their country in an accurate light. This is a country after all where 99% of the people can read and from which the Soviet Union launched its space rockets.

Kazakhstan is a rapidly changing country that is buoyed by oil revenues. Popularly said to be five times the size of France, it is an enormous country that is largely empty. The population is roughly 17 million with half of the people being of Kazakh decent and half of Russian decent. It is a country where multiple languages are spoken and whose customs are rich. It is a nation still struggling to come to terms with the environmental impact of nuclear testing and the draining of the Caspian Sea. It is a nation that moved its capital a few years ago and whose cities are sprouting new towers every week. It is a place that not too many people travel. Those who do will find it to be frustrating, enlightening and nothing like you could imagine if you know it only from the Borat movie.

What to do

This isn't a country with a big group of checklist attractions. The scenery ranges from stunning to deathly dull. The new capital in Almaty has some interesting architecture, but visiting Kazakhstan is mostly about wide-open spaces. Perhaps in the post-Borat world they'll come up with some new things to draw in more travelers.

Getting there

You can book a flight into Almaty International Airport (code: ALA), and then fly to any other Kazakh city from there. You could also enter the country by train either from China or via the Trans-Siberian railroad in Russia. Your journey won't be easy but you'll have stories to tell the grandkids about. Be prepared to bribe and to drink a lot of vodka. Those are two survival mechanisms on Kazakh trains.

Where to stay

Once you are in the country you will have to press your luck with accommodations. Be forewarned that you are likely to either end up paying a bundle for a fancy hotel with western amenities or you will be in a pigsty with no amenities. There really isn't an in between.