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26 September , 2013 • 1 Comment
Kazakh Expats On A Cycling Tour To Promote Astana Expo 2017
Lisa Witter
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Kazakhstan expats cycle 513km from Busan to Seoul during the Chuseok (Korean thanksgiving) holiday in order to promote Kazakhstan Astana Expo 2017. Daniyar Aitkulov, 25, and Meruert Zhakupova, 30, completed the full journey while Darya Umbina, 25, joined in the Seoul area due to spinal pains.
Aitkulov organized this cycling trip, as he wanted to do something to promote the Astana Expo 2017 and he received some support from the Kazakhstan Embassy in Seoul.
“As the theme of Kazakhstan Astana Expo 2017 will focus on future energy and as the bike route we chose is a part of “The Four Rivers Restoration Project” invested by the Korean government in support of green growth, we dedicated this trip to support interests of both countries in global green growth and energy savings. We hope that this trip will show the possibility of using renewable energy sources,” stated Daniyar Aitkulov, an employee at Samsung and organizer of the trip.
Aitkulov and Zhakupova took a bus from Seoul to Busan on September 17 and departed on their bikes on the morning on the 18th from Suyong, Busan. They traveled about 100km a day until they completed the 5-day journey and reached Banpo Bridge in Seoul on Sunday, September 22.

Daniyar Aitkulov and Meruert Zhakupova holding the Kazakhstan flag at the starting point of their cycling journey in Busan (Photo: Daniyar Aitkulov)
They traveled along great rivers of the Korean peninsula such as Nakdong and Hangang Rivers, passing by destinations such as Mungyong Mountains and villages with vast gardens.
“I’ve noticed how much the Korean government cares about their citizens by investing in social projects like “The Four Major Rivers” and giving people the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful nature just by cycling which is environmentally friendly,” said Meruert Zhakupova, 30, a KAIST MBA student.
There are approximately 1,000 students studying from Kazakhstan in Korea and 500 of them are exchange students who come and go each semester. Aitkulov wanted to have as many people from Kazakhstan to participate in this event as possible, but there were not many who were prepared for such an extensive journey.
It was the first time for both Aitkulov and Zhakupova to attempt to cycle such a long distance.
“Even though I would have liked for more students to participate, I am happy to start out small with just the three of us. I understand that not everyone has a proper bicycle nor is in a proper physical condition to make the journey. I even bought a new bicycle for this trip,” shared Aitkulov.
Another reason cycling was chosen as a promotion activity was due to the fact it is a very popular activity in Kazakhstan. Astana is home to many riders who perform very well in the Tour de France.
Aitkulov, a graduate of KAIST, Korea, mentioned, “Seven years ago, most people I met in Korea did not know about Kazakhstan. Now, to my surprise, I sometimes see people wearing Astana t-shirts. They know Astana and Kazakhstan due to our excellent performance in the Tour de France. This is an example of sports playing an important role in promoting Kazakhstan to the world.”
Not only did the two expats cycle with a purpose, but also experienced new parts of Korea.
“For the first time I witnessed how the accent of the Korean language changes in every area from South to North. We met a lot of nice, friendly and open-minded people. I’m glad that we had this chance to travel in Korea and see its spectacular nature harmonized with local infrastructure, ” said Aitkulov.

Daniyar Aitkulov with a Korean cyclist wearing an Astana t-shirt while stopping in Youju City (Photo: Meruert Zhakupova)
Also, the sense of accomplishment was very rewarding. When arriving in Seoul, Aitkulov said, “I felt like a marine traveler coming back home after a long journey with a feeling of accomplishing something really great in my life.”
Aitkulov sees this trip as just a small start. In the future, he plans to expand this event and invite the President of the Cycling Association, famous cyclists, and government officials. Also, he plans to have both Koreans and Kazakhs participate together.
“I want Korean people to know that Kazakhstani people are sporty and not lazy. We study abroad and know many languages. I would like them to appreciate my country.”

Daniyar Aitkulov (left), Darya Umbina (middle) and Meruert Zhakupova (right) near Banpo Bridge in Seoul after finishing the 513 kilometer journey (Photo: Daniyar Aitkulov)
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1 response
Bella Lee
10 October , 2013
I would like to go with you guys next time, because I think it is great idea to bike travel expecially with the people from Kazakstan+Korean all together- nice mixture)). If I knew about this bike travel earlier, I would defenitly go with you, cuz. I’m phisically ready to stand any abstacles and it must be fun to do this together. You think you could let me know about next travel? Please, don’t forget about me next time.
I will be very thankful to join you! Fighting Kazakhstan!!!
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