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Uzbek/Kazakh + stan. My name is a Borat, I like you (Part 2)

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Joined: 19 Dec 2006
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Location: BLR, DXB

PostPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 4:17 pm    Post subject: Uzbek/Kazakh + stan. My name is a Borat, I like you (Part 2) Reply with quote

Part 2

Interesting side tour - making Mulberry paper.
The mulberry branches are soaked in water for 5 days and de-barked. The inside bit is boiled for a few hours.
Then it's mashed (water does the work) and the pulp is strained and dried in sheets (50 between cotton fabric sheets so they don't stick to one another)
The sheets are stuck individually on a plank and dried (again) in the sun then taken for pressing/polishing. And then .... paper.

The Samarkand of today doesn't stand where the original settlement was.
Afrasiab is the oldest part of the medieval city, built closer to the high ground and dates back to the 7th century BC.

Alexander the great came around 329 BC from Iran and from here (Samarkand) went to India (where he encountered the elephants and had to turn back)
unrelated mural from the Afrasiab museum.

Zoroastrians didn't bury or burn their dead they left the bodies on the hills and the birds of pray picked at the flesh. Later they collected the bones and played them in a box.

Shah-i-Zinda (The living king) ensemble- Necropolis. It started off as a small burial ground then more and more mausoleums were added.

Random Samarkand pictures

We travelled back to Tashkent on the Afrosiyob, the high speed train.
Departure 1700 Arrival 1910 so 2:10 to cover over 300 kilometres not bad at all for Uzbekistan. It left exactly on time. Passports were checked entering the train station then all bags were X-rayed and they only checked our tickets when we got on the platform. Train was new, spic and span and very fancy. Reading lights + audio channels + chargers at every seat and lots of leg room.

Samarkand station

We got served tea (tasted like hot water) but the little cake thing was nice. One jam one chocolate, simple but a nice teatime treat. I saw the speedometer get up to 220 kmh. Wow, I knew it would be faster than an Indian 'high speed' train but this was impressive.

We got to Tashkent on time and were in our bus within 10 mins. I didn't take any pictures of TAS railway station and there were quite a few old locomotives outside which the train geeks would love .....

HY-763 (1910-2140)
Uzbekistan Airways UK32001
TAS = Tashkent
ALA = Almaty

Not much to say about this flight. It left 10 mins late, new aircraft very clean and friendly crew.
Major major shock Laughing It was a chicken sandwich this time and it was edible! ..... if you were hungry Wink

Check in

Immigration. We had no problem taking money out.


We had an interesting experience with our cabbie from ALA to our hotel .... but we only have ourselves to blame I guess. The 'supervisor' said 1000 Tenge (which was tooo good to be true) and we agreed. Neither party spoke the others language so it was sign language + using the phone calculator. Anyway when we got to the hotel the cabbie tried to scam us and asked for 10,000. He threatened to report us and take us back to airport but we called his bluff and used the receptionist as a translator (she blasted him 😂 hahahahah). Anyway he called his supervisor and he also threatened to report us we said ok well report you. Another group checked in right after us and they paid 2500 from the airport, the receptionist said their company charges 4000 so ..... after a lot of arguing we paid him 4000. We took pictures of his licence plate and by now he realised his scam wasn't working so he made a dash for it. The receptionist was very very very helpful and called the cab company and filed a complain et all. Hmmmmmmm drama. Im pretty sure he rigged his meter as well 🤔 But like I said it was our stupidity to take this chap.

Our first day was spent waking exploring (as is the norm). Breakfast at the hotel was nice except the milk had lots of cream it was floating in my coffee 😱😱. Can't drink it like that. We just had or maps (and citymaps2go) and off we went hitting the main sites- we walked for hours. The weather gods were kind to us since it was forecast to rain all afternoon but not even close it was hot and sunny all day. Exchanging the local currency Tenge was normal, no 'unofficial' rate like Uzbek and lots of money exchanges around so that was easy. The rate was approx 100 to a dirham which made it easy to convert.

Eternal flame and monument + the church made of wood + markets.

Another Soviet style hotel. The Kazakhstan Hotel.

Then we took the cable car up to Kok Tobe. That was loads of fun, 2000 tenge for the ride + 1000 for the giant wheel + 1000 for rock climbing + 1500 for the roller coaster 😜. It was lots of fun.
We got back to our hotel late afternoon and took a quick nap then headed out for dinner an hour later everyone was starving. After 9 days it was time for some Indian food 😁. Hmmmm black dal (since there was no dal Bukhara in Bukhara) indian kebabs (local ones were nice but not 7 days in a row) hmmmmm. That meal counted as lunch and dinner.

Interesting things about Almaty -
There are lots of gambling dens and casinos (most of them small)
The girls wore dresses and tight clothes but the guys never wore shorts- mainly jeans.
Not many cabs (roaming the streets) in ALA. You pretty much had to go to a hotel to find one you hardly ever saw them driving around and good luck flagging one down.

Giant chicken

Using our friendly receptionists translating skills (again) we figured out a plan with the cabbie who dropped us after Kok Tobe. He would pick us up from the hotel and take us to Lake Almaty (50 km) then to Medeu Sports Complex and drop us back. Around 5 hours? For 15,000 tenge which was super!! He first said 20,000 and while we were trying to figure out what order to do the stuff I'm guessing he thought we were unconvinced so he dropped the price. Anyway we paid him 20,000 + tip coz he was nice/helpful and made lots of detours for us.

We left at 1000 sharp the next day and stopped by presidential park for 10 mins. Then up to Almaty Lake. The pictures speak for themselves. On the way down we stopped twice for scenery pictures etc.

It took about :40 minutes to get to Medeu it's the highest ice skating rink in the world apparently. Unfortunately the rink was closed, otherwise you can rent ice skates and skate outdoors- that would have been awesome fun! The main attraction was claiming the stairs behind the complex and getting the birds eye view of the area. Yikes that was hard 😱😜. Hard but lots of fun. I was sweating like a pig when we got to the top but here's the view. I thought they had the reservoir behind but I guess not. The walk down was obviously much easier (some people find that harder? Wierdos 😈) and we had lunch at the restaurant. After that everyone was tired again so back to the hotel it was we reached at 1530.

We asked our cabbie (we never figured out his name) if he could do our airport shuttles over the next few days and that was set at 2500 each drop/pickup.

Another nap, slightly longer today hehehehe and at 1800 we took a cab back to Kok Tobe. The roller coaster was way more fun this time! It started to pour just as we got done and everyone made a beeline for the cable car. Once we got down it was coming down like no ones business. I Havnt heard thunder that loud in .... forever? It didn't look half as impressive as it sounded. Awesomely loud cracks the lightning must have been right over the city. It was the first time I've ever felt thunder. Yup that's right. I felt the blast/waves in my legs and chest -my pants fluttered 😜. and I momentarily went deaf but that was less impressive or interesting. It was amazing, half the cars in the parking lot had their alarms set off with the thunder Shocked Shocked
I wish I could have videotaped that.

R and the other 2 friends headed back to Dubai in the morning, it was time for my Astana day trip! The tickets were about $28-42 USD one way a day or 2 ago but I booked the night before and paid around $50 each way. Still cheap, like flying in India (barring peak season). 2 new airlines and one new aircraft type. Any guesses? Q400 😜. Yea never been on one. There are quite a few options to fly Astana-Almaty it's the busiest domestic route in Kazakhstan. I picked the flights based on the airline and timings. Air Qazaq going and return that evening was Scat (737-300)

IQ-353 (0945-1150)
Qazaq Air P4-AST
TSE = Astana

There was no traffic at 0800 and the airport had no lines at all. No ID required to enter the terminal and check in took 20 seconds. If even. I just had my backpack (left my suitcase at the hotel) showed the lady my passport and no questions asked. Was handed back my boarding pass before I could ask for a window seat. Anyway flight was not even half full so I just took a window seat.

Security check took 2 mins, no line no fuss. No ID check before the x rays you just stood in line and went thru. After the x Ray they had a security person check ID and tickets and tick it off a list. Smallish waiting area and most people had bags on seats so it took a while to find a spare seat. There was one coffee shop (Costa type) another cafe, a small shop, vending machine and a smoking room. And a bar, which was open at 0900.

Airside pics

Very new aircraft, maybe 25 pax on board? Qazaq Air has 3 aircrafts (All Q-4oos) and fly to 10 destinations. As I mentioned before my first time on a Q400 -nice window shades nice lights. Nice interiors I was impressed. About 2 hours flight time and 2 happy cabin crew. Before door closure we were offered boiled sweets from a basket, kind of like the IC ravalgaon sweets from a decade ago? Inflight service was coffee/tea/juice/water/soft drinks. I tried to sleep but not much luck.

Looking back towards ALA

The capital.

Landed in crappy Astana weather 5 degrees and drizzling 😖😖😡. So much for weather gods- it was forecast to be 18 and maybe rain in the afternoon. Not bloody cold and drizzly before noon!!!! I was wearing a tshirt and a light jacket, so i was freezing the whole day. I had another change of t-shirt in my backpack so i wore both. I think it went up to 11 degrees at some point.

I took the bus to the city it was quite easy if you do your research in advance. Even if you don't theres free wifi everywhere so you can figure things out. There are 2 routes, #10 and #12 but no maps. I found them online and figured out which one went near my destination. Cost was 90 tenge one way. My fist stop was (supposed to be) the Presidential Cultural Center. I had read about it on Lonely Planet, and since the weather was crap I had planned my day with minimal outside walking, starting from the north and making my way south by bus or taxi if I had to. Anyway there was no Presidents Cultural Center 😳 there was a 'military historical museum of the armed forces of the republic of Kazakhstan' which I could not get into 😅. Seriously confusing- I went to (what turned out to be) the rear entrance and the guard said take the front one. The front one was locked so I went back to the rear one and he said can't be. So I went to the front one again and sure enough I wasn't being foolish it was locked. So I took a picture and went to the back entrance again. He didn't know what was going on. There was another lady trying to get in neither of us had any luck. Sign language was getting confusing so anyway all this took 10 mins in a freezing drizzle so we both gave up. I did take a picture tho 😁

After that massive failure (I've never not found an entrance before Rolling Eyes Laughing ) I just backtracked, took the same bus 10 to the city center. It was still drizzling so scurried around trying to look at the buildings, the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation + Khan Shatyr. Next went to the top of the Bayterek and hung around for :20 mins brining my body temperature back to normal. They had free and easy wifi everywhere, at the monuments at the restaurants at the airport - everywhere.

Headed back to the airport a few hours later. That was it 😖😖. That was my useless day trip to the capital city. Unlucky with the weather but o well, I'd say next time but there's really not much to see. It's a really small + new city. Almaty was the capital until 1998 when it was moved here. It looks well planned and laid out but it's tiny and not much to do.

DV-734 (1900-2040)
TSE-ALA 737-300
Scat UP-B3712

Astana airport is much newer and nicer than Almaty. Spacious and green (not even counting the green steel 😉) with plants nicely dotted around the terminal. Bathrooms are clean with automatic flushes altho they had normal entrance doors which I don't like (don't like touching other people's pee). There was lots of seating space and a few mobile chargers as well.
Check in was a breeze, asked for and got a window seat. Security was India style where the they stamp your boarding pass after security check.

We departed 10 mins late.
733, one of only 2 in Scats fleet with very old interiors (except the seats they were leather and seemed new and clean). Old school lights and call bells and an even older clunkier wings.

On ground the crew came around with a basket of sweets exactly like the Qazaq sector. I was surprised to get a snack in a box, the sandwich wasn't really good but I removed half the bread and it was ok. Chocolate was so so as well but it was better than nothing. I skipped the drinks and just had water. The paper pouch contained a spoon napkin and wet wipe.

Scat has 763/752/737-700/500/300 and CRJ200/700 😶

A very good landing and the usual claps from the cabin (most of our flight on this trip ppl clapped). The only noticeable difference in the cabin was the air-conditioning or cabin fans which were really loud.
Got back to the hotel late and was super tired but needed to eat. Walked around for 20 mins and just got a sandwich and passed out.

ALA-DXB (0745-1025)
KC-895 320
Air Astana P4-KBA

Our usual cabbie picked me up. The ALA international check in is a bit confusing. It's all the same terminal but you have to go thru the green/red channel first to get to the check in counters. There were no signs so walking thru a customs green/red channel isn't the first thing that comes to mind. This was a standby ticket (which cost more than the confirmed Uzbek/Qazaq/Scat tickets 😜) but the flight was empty. I asked for a window seat and had my boarding pass in no time. There were no lines anywhere at immigration I had 4 people in front of me but that didn't count as a wait. I was going to say 4 people 'shouldn't' count as a wait but in Tashkent the line was so slow it took more than 15 mins for the 4 guys in front of us to get done. Anyway I digress.
There was no forex exchange at the gates but luckily I didn't have much Tenge left. Bought a croissant and tea (bleh 🙁) and got rid of most of it- the rest went in the donation box.

Everyone pretty much fit in one bus and I had all 3 seats to myself. R had the same yesterday must be low season. Air Astana flies ALA-DXB daily and a few times a week from TSE. FlyDubai also flies to both but not daily.

5 cabin crew on board, 16J and the rest economy seats. New interiors and comfy seats, drop down screens and 10 audio channels. Well that's what the selector said I never tried it out. The emergency/safety video was probably the longest one ever created.
After boarding the crew came around with the customary sweets and everyone got a bottle of water ..... a big half litter one that to. I liikkkeeeeee. Emirates also gives out bottles in economy I'm a fan of that.
The experience just got better and better. All 3 seats to myself and I sprawled out only to get up a few minutes later when they handed out warm towels and headphones if needed. The menu was impressive - 3 breakfast choices in economy 😱😱 including one porridge option (with spiced apples and butter) I've never seen that before. Did I mention I was very impressed
Then they handed out an amenity kit. Impressive. The pouch contained ear plugs and baby toothbrush+toothpaste. Blue socks, a mini pen and a smart eye shade. Green on one side (wake me up for food) and red when it's inside out. I think that's smart .... maybe 😜. EK gives you little stickers to let the crew know if you want them to wake you for meals etc but sometimes people stick them on the tray or the side of the seat or on top or it falls off etc and it could get missed. I guess if you don't like wearing eye shades it'll get missed as well heheheheheee but cool the idea.

The fruit was nice, sweet and not bitter which it generally tends to be. Strawberry yogurt was nice as was the omelette and sausage/bit of hash brown. The bread was ok, had cheese and jam. Overall a good breakfast.

It was my first time landing at the new Dubai concourse C, nice views on the train ride. Anything left to say?

Thanks for reading and thanks for putting up with some bits which seemed like a lecture Embarassed Smile
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Posts: 4528
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess I will get tired of using the word `fascinating'. Mulberry paper!
Did you get some back? How is it to use: we get hand-made paper here, and paper made of bamboo pulp is usually known to be quite fine. Do tell us.
Mulberry is not a particularly revered bush in India. We usually know it for its fruit, the berries, shahtUt, for us Delhi'ites. yum...
What lovely architecture, with the blue, and bluish-green tiles!
Some of the pre-Mughal architecture in Delhi also has these glazed tiles. Thanks to the ASI, quite a few of these also survive in India.
The Afrosiyob experience was wonderful!
Fascinating facts and pictures of really have the reader with you at all points in time.
Your descriptions simply leave me transfixed: the unfortunate door-closed incident seemed to unfold before my eyes.
Nice traffic in front of you at ALA Smile
We see some Air Astana birds regularly at DEL.
It is nice to read about, and see pictures of the experience!
Lecture? come on's dinner was extra long for me.
I will relish this for quite some time to come.
Thank you very much, once again!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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Joined: 19 Dec 2006
Posts: 2311
Location: BLR, DXB

PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 3:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sumantra wrote:
Did you get some back? How is it to use: we get hand-made paper here, and paper made of bamboo pulp is usually known to be quite fine.

Nah didn't buy any and I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between that or bamboo paper or normal or Embarassed Laughing
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Joined: 05 Jul 2012
Posts: 1447
Location: Never, never land

PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And another awesome part, thanks for sharing!

Loved the pictures and descriptions!

Wow, Air Astana has impressive service in to Dubai!

Looking forward to more exotic stuff from you - Jordan and stuff maybe? Wink
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