Astana and Karaganda, Kazakhstan
Travelling 1200 kilometres and 21 hours by bus from Bishkek to Astana (plus another two hours by public transport after I was dropped off my Russian bus unceremoniously just outside the city, too sleepy to attempt to figure out a more direct route), the differences are stark. Gone are the mountains, replaced with endless flat steppe. Flat flat flat. Nothing. It sure makes for a smooth car journey though, at least, and Kazakhstan, being a far more prosperous country, has some excellent roads — necessary, given that it’s the 9th largest country in the world. And being so far north, I found the temperature markedly colder, needing a jacket even in the day time.
That’s hardly the best way to begin to describe what the heck Astana is, the city that jarringly rises from the middle of nowhere to break the flat landscape.