From Tbilisi we flew to Almaty on Astana Air. Arriving early in the morning we found our hostel only to be told the owner had left town for a couple of days but he had prepared a room for us. This was pretty sweet deal because the hostel was brand new and we had free reign over it.
The first day we slept and didn’t do much. We spent some hours chatting with some Brits who told us a hilarious true story about a dwarf. Then we met some French guys who told us about their escapades with the corrupt Kazakhstan police. Apparently if you break any number of small laws such as public urination, public intoxication or even letting the passenger get out of the car while it’s a red light will lead to arrests unless a payment is made. Unfortunately the French guys said no to the bribe and spent a night in jail instead. They strongly recommended the payment option next time.
Deciphering the menu:
The 2nd and 3rd day was spent not sightseeing but attempting to locate a bus to China. Why did it take so long? There was a 3 day long holiday (Dragon boat festival) in China meaning all land borders were closed. Also there are two places to buy tickets located quite a bits away from one another so we had to bus back and forth. The first time we took the taxi as we didn’t know where the location was but it was very expensive given the distance 2000 ($14) Tenge and that’s with lots of bargaining versus 80 ($0.6) Tenge taking the bus!
Also for some unknown reason the customs lady at the airport did not double stamp my registration card but she stamped M’s. Knowing Kazakhstan notorious police, we had to spend a half day going to the registration office to get my card sorted. This whole running around was extremely tiring as it was 38c outside.
Our last full day was our only day spent sightseeing. We went up to the ice rink, Medeo, to take a little stroll. The view was ok but it was cloudy. So I couldn’t say we did too much in Kazakhstan except run around town.
Kazakhstan is quite expensive. And if one wanted to day trip they had to take a taxi. A good price for a return trip to the Big Almaty Lake was 10,000 Tenge and that was only a short drive away. However flagging a taxi is extremely easy because everyone acts as unofficial taxi drivers, it takes about 5 secs to get a ride.
Kazakhstan women are also very pretty. They seem to have inherited the best of Asian and Western genetics.
With that, we took a very long bus ride to China.
-If you don’t want to take the taxi, just write down your destination in cryllic and ask passing busses or waiting passengers which is the correct bus, they are generally helpful.
– There are 2 places that sell tickets to China. The Bus station sells Urumqi bound tickets for 8900 Tenge leaving at 7am. Otherwise you can go to the Baraholka market north of the city , when you reach the market, walk along the main street until you see several busses with Chinese writing and license plate on them. They are located on the left side if you are walking with the the city centre behind you. If you enquire with the driver (normally sitting inside the bus or near it) they will sell you tickets to Urumqi for 7500 Tenge leaving at 6-8pm or Ili/Yining Tickets for 5000 Tenge leaving at 6-8pm. Shop around if you wish as each driver runs their own bus. The ticket sellers at Baraholka are extremely informal, you will not get a receipt or ticket, just their business card and them writing your name on a sheet of paper.