Shop For The Snow Leopards

January 29, 2008

Every once in a while I come across a thoroughly excellent site, and the Snow Leopard Trust definitely falls into that category – it combines exotic ornaments and textiles, charity, and one of my favorite things, big cats.  Besides having tons of information about these majestic creatures, you can shop for handmade goods from the felines’ homelands of Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and more.  It’s a great way to add a touch of the exotic to your home; of course, you can also adopt a snow leopard or two as well.

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How can you say no to this adorable face?

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Perhaps it’s a side effect of writing a piece about the best party hotels in Las Vegas (I’m not a fan of Vegas in general and I think the whole concept of shelling out thousands of dollars in order to drink in the “hottest” clubs is silly anyways) but today I’ve been reading about Kyrgyzstan’s CBTA program and not only does it seem pretty brilliant, it’s made me really want to travel there.

The Community Based Tourism Association in Kyrgyzstan “is an umbrella association uniting 17 diverse destination communities (“CBT groups”) plus a 5-group association of shepherd families offering jailoo (yurt) tourism (“Shepherds’ Life”).  The association’s objective is to improve living conditions in remote mountain regions by developing a sustainable and wholesome ecotourism model that utilizes local natural and recreational resources.”*  The point of the whole enterprise is to fully utilize the country’s limited infrastructure and make tourism a more viable industry.  Kyrgyzstan already has the natural beauty and rich culture necessary to become a major destination for tourist dollars, and the CBTA will help to organize everything and make travel in the former Soviet Republic less daunting.

One part of the legendary Silk Road, this multi-ethnic melting pot of a nation is a place where Buddhists and Muslims co-exist.  A mountainous landscape and a relatively unspoiled environment make for gorgeous scenery and spectacular lakes – and I’m only looking at the pictures. 

Granted, traveling to Kyrgyzstan (or any country at a similar level of development) means giving up most creature comforts.  I have feeling that western-style food and plumbing are scarce, but do you really need to be within ten miles of a Starbucks at all times?  Maybe a week or two in yurt would do everyone some good.

*taken from the official CBT Kyrgyzstan website.