The overnight train trip to Shymkent, Kazakhstan’s third-largest city, was fairly uneventful and almost comfortable if it wasn’t for the fact the Air-Con only worked when the train was moving rapidly and that wasn’t all that often. So whilst the beds were comfy and our traveling companions pleasant enough – a dad with two cute little girls – we had a hard time sleeping while bathed in our own sweat.
(Note: From memory we got the guys at the Hotel Turkestan to get our tickets for us. But if your hotel can’t do it, it’s best to visit the train station and buy them directly. Here’s the link to the Kazakh Railways site so you can check timetables and prices. It has an English option but it wouldn’t work for me, so I used Google translate to get the Kazakh spelling to plug into the search bar.)
On arrival in Shymkent, the taxi drivers immediately tried pissing in our ears with exorbitant prices for the one and a half kms to our hotel. Armed with the knowledge it was walkable, we couldn’t even be bothered negotiating. Instead, to their collective dismay, we threw on our packs and walked off down the road towards town. Even though it was uphill, the streets were shady and it was only 7.30 in the morning so we arrived at the hotel in good shape about 30 minutes later.
The cheaper room at 5400 Tenge ($35 including breakfast) at the Hotel Ordabasy was perfectly OK for our needs, although the watermelon pink walls were a little hard on the eyes. It was clean, had air-con and an ensuite bathroom and they let us check and have breakfast straight away – a fact that would come back to haunt us! The breakfast was extremely substantial, with about three or four courses and stodgy enough to stay in the tummy until well into the afternoon.
We met a Kiwi-Australian couple who filled us in on all the local sites to see, which included the local museum, the brand new memorial come park thingy where there were lots of wedding party photos happening in the evenings, and nearby Turkistan. Armed with that information and promising to catch up for a beer later on we wandered out to see the sites.
Shymkent is a pretty laid-back place. It’s similar in some respects to Almaty but not nearly as “fashionable.” But it is Kazakhstan’s third largest city and has all the facilities you might want.
The local museum was interesting to a point but not labeled in English so we were left to deduce what some of the displays were about. There were quite a few stuffed animal exhibits showing the local fauna, most of which had seen better days but gave us some idea of the diversity around.
It was pretty damn hot in the middle of the day so we sought refuge in a modern air-conditioned café and availed ourselves of shashliks, salad, bread, and the locally brewed offering – Shymkenska Beer after which we toddled home for a rest before meeting the others for a few beers before they headed off to Almaty.
The next day we would make an attempt to head out to Turkistan on the local transport. By all accounts a simple task but we would see…
Things to do in Shymkent
- Head to Independence Park at sunset
- Visit the