Book review: Lonely Planet - Central Asia, by Bradley Mayhew et al | South China Morning Post
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Book review: Lonely Planet - Central Asia, by Bradley Mayhew et al

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 3:42pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 3:42pm

Central Asia
by Bradley Mayhew et al
Lonely Planet
4.5 stars

Audrey Sze

When one thinks of vacation spots, Central Asia doesn't always come to mind. But the five countries in the region - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - are slowly becoming travel destinations.

Their natural beauty and centuries of history make for some of the most underrated, best-kept secrets in the world.

The latest Lonely Planet guide offers a selection of itineraries for those looking to hit specific landmarks and routes, such as tracing the footsteps of early traders along the ancient Silk Road or trekking, and horse-riding alongside local nomadic herders across the mountainous valleys of Karakol and Altyn Arashan in Kyrgyzstan.

For those wishing to travel back to the times of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, there's the historical city of Merv, in Turkmenistan. The city is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and home to archaeological remains dating back to the Bronze Age. Or visit the city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan for some of the world's most breathtaking Islamic architecture lined with colourful tile works.

Lastly, for a sensory overload, make a quick pit stop at the local bazaars selling spices, teas, herbs and dried fruit.

A trip to Central Asia wouldn't be complete without spending a night or more at a yurt-stay. Wake up to green valleys, river banks and snow-capped peaks at Kochkor in Kyrgyzstan, where you can go trekking and mountaineering or embark on horse-back tours of local sights.

Tourism is still relatively new in the region, and so it doesn't have the traditional tourist infrastructures. However, visitors have the opportunity to be a part of the local community, the book says. How many tourists can say they have lived in a yurt with a family of shepherds?

The guide is loaded with tips not only about accommodation and restaurants, but also important information about getting to different sites, such as taking a city bus or hiring a local driver.

Also, it gives detailed instructions on the types of visas and paperwork required to cross different borders - all of which differ depending on the cities and states.

The book is well researched and its information is thorough, making for a trusted travel companion.

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