The cozy city of Shymkent. Founded in the 12th century in order to protect the town Sayram on the Silkroad.
Tashkent – Shymkent.
Initially we planned to stay 2 nights in Tashkent after coming back from the Fergana Valley, but the hostel we stayed in was so shit we decided to move on right away. After breakfast we made our way to the bus station and asked around for a bus. We found out there was a straight bus in about 1,5 hours so we got tickets and got coffee and waited for the bus to leave.
Since we still had to wait a few days on our Turkmenistan visa we decided to go up to the south of Kazakhstan. To the city of Shymkent, we heard good things about the city! Shymkent was founded in the 12th century as a caravanserai to protect the town Sayram on the Silkroad. Nowadays it’s the 3d biggest city in Kazakhstan.
After an hour we made it to the border, where maybe 50 cars were waiting to get through. Luckily the bus company that we used has a deal with the border crossing making things a lot easier. Leaving Uzbekistan was super easy, but it took quite a while to enter Kazakhstan. The officers looking at our passports had no idea what to do with them. Discussing whether we needed a visa or not they decided just to put our passports on the side and deal with it later. After waiting and waiting, eventually a young senior officer came (about an hour later) telling the border officers that we didn’t need a visa (duh). We already had Kazakhstan stamps in our passport without a visa, but they didn’t really seem to get that. After making our bus wait for about an hour we were allowed to enter Kazakhstan again! Nice!!
2 hours later we arrived in Shymkent and felt this was gonna be a nice city to stay.
Day 2 – Shymkent sleeping in
Today was time to be lazy! Right next to our hostel was a very modern and lively park that we walked through and sat down for some coffee while we watch life go by. We found a really nice shopping mall at the end of the park where we got some much needed new clothes. After wearing the same shirt for 3 months it was definitely time for a new one!
Rest of the day we wandered around the parks and updated our blog. This was when these blogs were written:
Day 3 – Shimkent Sayram
Close by the city is a small village called Sayram. A former Silkroad city. Yes this was the city why they founded Shymkent. Nowadays there are little remains of this Silkroad history. But it’s close to Shymkent and it’s fun to check out.
The only real sights are several small mausoleums and a minaret. Not very spectacular but it was really nice and very calm. No tourist and fun to see life in a small village.
From here we took a maschrutka back to the city center of Shymkent. The maschrutka was a small delivery van, that probably had room for 10 people (comfortably). However, you can sit on someones lap, stand with your shoulders against the ceiling, hide in the corner and before you know it there are 30 people in there. Since we got in as one of the last people we had to stand, but the inside of the van we only had about a meter height to stand. So after standing with our necks and backs crooked, needless to say that, after 40 minutes we were happy to get out!
Day 4 – Shymkent
Remember the cool USSR style posters we got in Dushanbe? If not read this blog:
We needed to find a way to get them home safely. At one of the bazaars we visited we found a friendly guy who was willing to give us a piece of PVC tubing, which are perfect to keep them safe. Since we already carry too much stuff we decided that it would be easier to send them home. We found a post-office and started the whole bureaucratic process of sending a package. Anyone that has been traveling around in Central Asia knows nothing goes fast or easy or without using 10 different forms and at least an hour. For some reason they make everything very complicated and inefficient. So we were prepared to spend the entire morning at the post-office. But all in all the process was fairly smooth and only took us an hour.
The basic Russian skills we had gathered in the last 3 months really helped.
We paid the equivalent of 5 euros and the package was off to the Netherlands. Out of our hands, we could only hope that it would arrive. Since the last things we tried to send never arrived (bunch of postcards in Moscow) we were quite skeptical. Also our skepticism came due to the price of sending it, as sending a package within the Netherlands is more expensive then sending it from Kazakhstan to the Netherlands.
But actually at the time of writing the package already arrived home. Took only 10 days. We can highly recommend the Kazakhstan post service, cheap and fast!
By know we had decided to visit Iran after Turkmenistan and applied for the online visa code. Since there are no ATMs in Iran we needed to get a load of cash (dollars). We figured that it was probably easier to do this in Kazakhstan than in Uzbekistan since it is already difficult to get local currency in Uzbekistan. Good thing we did, because we later found out that since the 1st of October made a new law in Uzbekistan making it illegal to exchange Uzbek Som into Dollars. So the rest of the afternoon we spent running around banks and exchange offices in order to get enough dollars.
After a quick dinner we decided to go back to the park for some roller skating. One of the few good things from the USSR is that all former USSR countries/cities have super nice parks. Parks filled with attractions, food, drinks and fun stuff for kids, teenagers and families. This particular park had a skating ring. So we felt the urge to give it a try.
We didn’t break any bones and i’m sure we didn’t look to elegant while doing it – but it was a lot of fun! After 30 minutes our legs were sore and it was time for some drinks. The rest of the evening we spent in the park watching local teenagers performing some live music! Great atmosphere.
Day 5 – Shymkent
Today we were suppose to go to Turkistan, but we overslept a bit and therefore I had an excuse to watch the Formula 1 race that day. So we added another day of relaxing, I watched some Formula 1 while Elisa visited one of the local bazaars.
After this we went out looking for an outdoor store since we needed some sleeping bags. We got a tent from our friend Haig, so that we can do some camping at the Aral Sea (Uzbekistan) and in Turkmenistan at the Crater of Hell.
Also since we had plenty of time it was a good time to organize my stuff and take a nice overview picture.
Yep this is all that I have on me!
Day 6 – Turkistan
Second attempt to visit Turkistan. Turkistan is an ancient city in the south of Kazakhstan dating back to the 4th century. As many cities in the area it was an important center on the Silkroad, formerly the city was known as Yasy. Nowadays Turkistan is mainly known for the Khoja Ahmed Yasavi Mausoleum. Which is basically the only sight in the city. But the 4 hour round trip from Shymkent is well worth it.
We got a shared taxi from Shymkent and a local girl in the taxi helped us out to find our way around Turkistan. She even paid the local bus fare for us and made sure we took the right bus! Again another example of the lovely hospitality in Central Asia! Brilliant.
The mausoleum was build in the late 14th century by Timurlane. During the Timurid Empire (google this, pretty interesting stuff). However construction of the mausoleum was halted in 1405 when Timurlane died, it doesn’t look unfinished. The mausoleum is quite big and impressive.
After marvelling at this giant construction dating back to ancient times we made our way to the shared taxi stand a got a taxi back to Shymkent.
Day 7 – Shymkent – Tashkent
Time to go back to Tashkent Uzbekistan. Meaning we had to cross the lovely border into Uzbekistan again. It took almost 3 hours to cross the border, but at least the bus had AC and they didn’t sell us like last time. Like they did coming from Tajikistan. Read the blog below to understand why they sold us!
So yeah overall we spent way to much time in Shymkent. But we needed a bit of time out, relaxing in one place and Shymkent is the perfect city to do this. Lots of nice places for food, coffee, nice parks filled with young couples and live music! Great place to spend a few days. But happy to get back to Tashkent and hopefully pickup our Turkmenistan visa!!!!