Sunday, January 15, 2012

Train trip to Shymkent

Living among Kazakh people I understood that the way to travel was the train; here people are not scared to take the train and travel for 24-48 hours!
So I wanted to have some adventures and decided to take the train and from Almaty go to Shymkent, the third city of the country, located in the South West of the country. I didn't play it exactly like a normal Kazakh because at the station I asked for the most expensive ticket for the night train (I paid it maybe 6-10 times more than the normal rate and I expected in this "coupe" to get all comfort. What a surprise when I saw the size of the cabin (in the normal rate cabin, it is the same size but instead of two beds it is 6 beds...). The 600 km have been done in 12 hours, and my back will remember that trip.
The heating system of the wagon is coming for each wagon from a coal boiler, so at the beginning the train is so cold and then during the night so hot as you cannot change the settings and windows are sealed!
Anyway I don't regret this experience but plane is not that much expensive and so much faster here...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Glimpse of Astana at night

As I continue my discovery of Kazakhstan through my trips, I finally arrived in that cold day of December in the new capital of Kazakhstan, Astana. In 1998 the current President of Kazakhstan decided to move the historic capital Almaty to Astana.
At the airport I landed with a -32 degrees temperature, a personal record for me.
I spent the all day out of Astana, and I can assure you the city is really in the middle of the desert...
At night when I came back to Astana, I just made a trip by taxi of the city as the temperature was unbearable regading the way I was dressed. Maybe I'll go back there in spring or summer to see all the beauties of the city.
So if you want to know more right know about Astana, I invite you to visit Wikipedia page of the city.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Almaty metro has opened

Even before the collapse of Soviet Union, the first jobs have been started to build a metro in Almaty in 1988. After the collapse, the budget money given by Moscow vanished and the main task for the new Kazakh government was to preserve the works already done and eventually to finish in mid 2011 the first line. That first line is around 9 km for 7 stations.
So far the metro opened with an important traffic with people coming there for the fun and to take pictures, but they are reluctant to use is because they fear construction is not earthquake resistant and bus and car are for them more useful. So two weeks after the grand opening, there is always vacant seats at anytime on the metro and after 9 pm almost no one while buses and cars are figthing on the roads 40 meters above...
So far the only line is not useful for that much of people living in Almaty so maybe once the full project will be completed (7 lines and 40 km) people will change their approach about the metro. It is also interesting to hear that people are reluctant to take the metro as they fear the construction is not earthquake resistant...
I don't know who did the infrastructures, but after the frost season I think already many jobs will need to be carried out to repair the breakage on the concrete and tiles, while I have no fear regarding the part delivered by the Corean supplier for the train and so on!
To finish, one word about the price of that metro; it is a little bit more expensive than bus (80 vs. 50 tenge) but if you are lucky enough to be close to the line you go so much faster... One point to improve quickly too is the selling of tickets (for each station, one automatic machine out of order most of the time and two desks with people; the waiting time to get a ticket is longer than the travelling time and ticket cannot be bought in advance as validity is only for the current day - but you can get prepaid card)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Winter is coming there

In Mynaral it is only end of November and the snow started to fall with a light -25 this morning... I had to push hard the door of my bungalow to open the door as it was frozen.
I fear the worse for the winter hoping it will not be too long!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

First visit in Almaty

On my way back of my North East trip, I took two days to discover Almaty.
Almaty is a big city 1.5 million inhabitants close to the mountain. It was the former capital of Kazakhstan before Astana became the one!

First how to travel in Almaty:
  • Speaking Russian will help and you can wave at any cars in the streets and bargain we any drivers  to pick you somewhere paying only a small fee. You can travel all the city for less than 5 $
  • You can take a normal taxi, but the same route will cost you 3 or 4 times the price - you need to speak Russian too
  • Bus: 1/3 of dollar per bus, so if you have a good map, and you are not in hurry and you like to be packed as a sardine in a box, go for it. Two kind of bus, the one you pay a ticket (modern one) or the one you pay when you get off!
  • Metro: the first line should open sometime soon!
The city has two sides, the modern one with a big opening to the West, big cars, big and expensive restaurants, big malls and then the poverty and the dirtiness.
But in any places I went and at anytime I had a feeling of insecurity.

I made a quick tour in the mountain, in less than half an hour in bus from dowtowm you are at the beginning of the cabin cables and then after 15 minutes your are at 1500 m heigh at the beginning of the ski resort.
Refreshing 20 degrees there when the city was more than 35 degrees with a lot of moisture.

I will come back on a regular basis to discover more that city. Too bad it is 5 hours far from where I am working!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Business trip in North East of Kazakhstan

A business trip led me to Ust Kamenagorsk, city in the North East of Kazakhstan where the landscape is far different from what I've seen so far in my steppes. There a lot of green, small mountains, diversity of animals and so on. The pictures have been taken in a village 2 hours from Ust where the purpose of my trip was; since the Russian left, the village is getting worse, people are leaving, school is getting smaller and smaller and so on. A quick glance at the pictures and you have the feeling a bomb exploded and the time has stopped.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Mynaral: status after one month

After one month dedicated to work in this greenfield plant (I lost a few pounds, and stamina) I took the time to look around. First there is the fishermen village of Mynaral (1,000 people) as you can see the pictures there is not that much of activity in the village but there is the Lake Balkhash, in which I like to bath after a hot and tiring day.
The pros of being in the steppes far from the civilization, we have every morning and every evening beautiful sunrises and sunsets and the night the sky is the better screen you can have (retina effect or AMOLED you are far from reach that perfection...).
The max temperatures I had so far was 46 degrees during the day, one sand storm and that's it. I will not pack my luggages right now and try to settle for a while here.