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Landlocked In Kazakhstan, Expo 2017 And More...

Landlocked In Kazakhstan, Expo 2017 And More...

Old Aug 31st, 2017, 06:53 PM
  #1  
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Landlocked In Kazakhstan, Expo 2017 And More...

We arrive in Astana around 11pm and it is an efficient process through Immigration and Customs with English speaking guides readily available to help. At an currency booth inside of the baggage claim area we exchange $100 US for about $33300 KZT. Once outside of Customs ATM's are available to your left.

Since it is pass 10pm public transportation is not available to the city center and are only option is a taxi. Fares to the city range from 2500-3000 KZT. Not wanting to do much bargaining after a long day of travel we settled on 3000KZT with a “Uber Like Driver” who initially wanted 4000 KZT.

It is about a 30 minute drive to Orion Hotel but along the way we get to see the impressive lights of the city and some of the displays from Expo 2017.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2017, 05:58 PM
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STROLLING AROUND ASTANA

It is already blistering hot as we leave our hotel at 11am for a walk around Astana. Under a clear blue sky even the occasionally breeze is warm and gives us no relief from the blazing sun. Along dry and dusty streets we find some comfort among trees that show signs of having been thirsty for a long time.

Our initial destination is Bayterek Tower and our route there basically retraces our taxi cab drive from the airport to our hotel. Although we now have time to smell the flowers along the way, what we did miss under last night’s darkness was the huge U.A.E embassy along the way.

Crossing an extended bridge we watch a river tour boat pass belong us and then descend a set of staircase. Our ears take us on a path towards music as we hike through one of the many parks around the city.

In the main square of the park there is a festival of sorts going on with children enjoying toy rides and bounce houses. With laughter and happiness all around, we stand in front of a stage and spend a few minutes enjoying a free show of entertaining musicians, singers and dancers.

What would a festival be without ice cream? With a few vendors around I gladly depart with 200 KZT, about 0.60 US, for a sampling.

Exiting the park our destination is in sight. Although it is only 700 KZT for a visit to Bayterek Tower the entrance line although in the shade is too long for our comfort and we take a bypass for now.

Not too far away there is an egg I am interested in and we head that way. As it turns out this huge gray egg shaped building is not accessible and I don't get to unscramble the mystery of what it is. Sacrebleu!

Lunch at a nearby food court in a mall is inexpensive and delicious although I sure could use another scoop or two of ice cream to top off my slice of cake that is drizzled with honey.

Recharged we continue our stroll around Astana while taking in a sometimes futuristic skyline before a brief stop at Nur Astana. Some more criss-crossing the city and we end up at Khan Shatyr another interesting structure around the city which from the distance looks like a big Hershey's Kiss.

Turns out that Khan Shatyr is a giant transparent tent that is a high-end mall with a small amusement park inside. Our next stop is too far a walk away so it time to take a 2000 KZT cab to Expo 2017.
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Old Sep 28th, 2017, 06:16 AM
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AN AFTERNOON AT EXPO 2017

Besides it's main focus on “Future Energy”, Expo 2017 in Astana provided a lot of opportunities to learn about other countries and their cultures along with a full venue of entertainment.

From an exhibition standpoint touching a block of ice from the very “top” of the world courtesy of the Russians and checking out some virtual reality gear from Serbia are highlights for me. However, if after dressing like a Saudi Arabian Sheikh I could have rolled with his bank account that would have been nice too.

Although unable to get a relatively inexpensive (less than US$10.00) Cirque Du Soleil ticket an Electric Light Parade of sorts followed by a free amazing concert is a decent compromise. Next it is a laser light and fire show which turns out to be an enjoyable way to end our Expo 2017 experience.

Thanks, Astana!
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Old Sep 28th, 2017, 10:50 AM
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Thanks for sharing. I pictured Astana in my head as a version of Dubai; not sure if you had the impression. Did you make it down to Almaty and the surrounding areas?
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Old Sep 29th, 2017, 07:07 AM
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tripp,

I was thinking Dubai but I was pleasantly surprised by Astana.

Did make it to Almaty.. TR follows and I will post trip video later when I get a better internet connection.
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Old Sep 29th, 2017, 07:18 AM
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THE OLD CAPITAL, ALMATY

Our original plan to travel to Almaty is scrapped as 12-15 hrs in a second class upper bunk of a non air conditioned train just does not seem like much fun. However, I know I will have some regrets as I have been told the scenery is much better than from 37,000 feet.

Besides taking in the local scenery there are three reasons we are in Almaty, to see Lake Almaty, to hike Charyn Canyon NP and finally to get to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Although gently warned about driving in Kazakhstan and the possibility of encountering difficult traffic police we still opt for the adventure of a car rental and pick one up from Hertz. As it turns out we did not need a 4x4 at about US$100 per day for our outing. However, it cost less than doing a guided tour and provided us a lot of convenience.

Equipped with small currency notes we set out early in the morning for about a 4 hour drive to Charyn Canyon NP. Carefully monitoring my speed and road signs along the way, we make it to our destination without having to unwilling part with any of our dinero.

A small entrance fee and we park among some of the first cars to arrive at Charyn Canyon. Descending a steep set of stairs we begin our hike in what some consider “The Baby Grand Canyon”.

The morning sun is already blazing and stops in the shade to be awed by mother nature are welcomed. Our turn around point is at an Eco-Tourism Resort along the banks of a shaded and refreshingly cold river. From here you can take a taxi for your return trip although we decided to walk back and are still amazed by the scenery.

Back in Almaty we end up by accident at the very cool and almost “chic” Line Brew for dinner. A plate of “Dried Cold Sliced Horse” and I am having a sampling of local cuisine. After dinner we stroll a few blocks and join a lengthy queue for a 24 hour Almaty favorite. Since this is our second time to enjoy this cool delight we are going to try the competition for a taste test comparison. Earlier we were told that the two vendors use two different formulas with one producing a more watery product. I guess I am going to need a third or fourth tasting to really tell the difference.

It's a little later start to Lake Almaty as it is much closer to the city than Charyn Canton. However, we make a stop at the “Green Bazaar” for souvenirs and a giant sweet corn on the cob before we head up the mountains.

About 30 minutes outside of the city we pay a small toll to enjoy a landscape with jagged and majesty mountains as we drive a curving road to Lake Almaty. At a split in the road we come to an abrupt stop as the road is closed by local police due to construction. Our delay is only about 25 minutes and the scenery continues to be amazing.

Lake Almaty with it's powder blue waters surrounded by mountains still capped with winter snow and perfectly planted dark green pine trees is as mesmerizing and as beautiful as I imagined. A drive around the area and brightly colored wildflowers can still be seen decorating the slopping hillsides. I'm sure in winter and spring the area takes on another form of beauty that is all its own.
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Old Sep 29th, 2017, 02:12 PM
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Good on Astana; I pictured it feeling more artificial. Lake Almaty and Charyn Canyon both seem like places we would enjoy. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on Almaty itself too.
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Old Oct 5th, 2017, 04:58 AM
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SIGHTSEEING AROUND KAZAKHSTAN

The video.

https://youtu.be/giVjebBv634
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Old Oct 5th, 2017, 05:01 AM
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tripp,

I like Almaty as it had a more personal feel to it and we got to interact more with it's citizens.

Also being so close to the mountains for a quick change of scenery and pace was nice.
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Old Oct 5th, 2017, 11:16 AM
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Thanks for answering me, DMBTraveler. Without having been to either city, I always had the impression that Almaty is a more "lived in" city as Astana didn't really exist a generation ago.
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