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Ak-Dovurak & Kyzyl-Mazhalyk/Russia

Introducing Ak-Dovurak & Kyzyl-Mazhalyk

The world's largest open-pit asbestos mine dominates Ak-Dovurak, Tuva's unlovable second city. Around 10km away, the only 'sight' is the Chinggis Khaan Stone, a remark- ably well preserved moustachioed stone idol (kameny baba in Russian or kizhigozher in Tuvan). To find it, cross the Shui River to marginally nicer Kyzyl-Mazhalik town then drive 8km towards Ayangalty. About 500m after passing the turn-off to tiny Bizhiktigh Haya village, the stone stands all alone in a field, 400m west of the road. Ak-Dovurak taxis want R200 return. Another scenic excursion heads 38km west to Teeli - where there's a very basic hotel, Chonar Dash (24222, 21192; ul Lenina 25, Komsomolskaya ul 121) - and continues to the soapstone-carving village of Kyzyl-Dag. Personal security is a worry.

Ak-Dovurak's Hotel MPP ZhKKh (1255; ul Tsentralnaya 6; tw R320) has Western-style toilets. It's upstairs in the rear of the building whose giant Soviet-era mural faces the east side of bright Kafe Mirazh (ul Tsentralnaya 2; 9am-5pm & 6-11pm). However, Ak-Dovurak's lawless reputation makes it preferable to prearrange a homestay with a trusted local family who can meet you on arrival. Contacts in Kyzyl can help.