I got to the Turkestan bus station at about 10 in order to get the minibus to Shymkent. As the main commercial hub for the region, Shymkent is a popular destination with one minibus after another leaving the crowded bus station. It took about two hours to get to Shymkent and then I caught a taxi to the Hotel Askar. Thanks Allah for the Yandex taxi app (the Russian Uber)!
The Hotel Askar was a tiny place with virtually no lobby but the room was well-appointed. Unfortunately the receptionist did not speak any English whatsoever. Bring out the Google translate app! At least the place was on a quiet street right in the center of town.
After getting settled in and making a quick taxi trip to the train station to buy a train ticket for onward travel, I headed to the nearest place for my first dish of plov. Even though it was a chain restaurant I really liked the fragrantly spiced rice with raisins and chickpeas.
Shymkent is a busy trading town and the largest town in southern Kazakhstan. There’s a large market on the outskirts which I didn’t get to. The center of town is another place of wide tree-lined boulevards lined with small shops. The roads are in very good shape but the sidewalks not so much. You really have to watch your step to avoid sudden and deep potholes.
I wandered into some back streets to see some residential housing which seemed quite well constructed. I was glad to see that some apartments had air conditioning which I’m sure is a must in the sweltering summers here.
A shady gazebo also must provide some cooling relief.
It’s extraordinarily pleasant to walk around particularly once I found a nearby park.
Here’s where you top off your SIM card!
It was great for people watching. I find the typical Central Asian face of Mongoloid eyes and high cheekbones attractive and expressive possibly because I’m not very used to seeing that. Dress is more conservative down here than it was in Almaty. More women sport headscarves but it’s far from 100%. People seem to maintain a healthy weight despite a meat-centered diet. As elsewhere though, women seem to get chubby after 50.
I can’t say that Shymkent is a must-see or on anyone’s bucket list but it does give a view of a bustling Central Asian market town. Most people come here as a base to visit Turkestan and other places but I’m glad that I went direct to Turkestan first and spent the day there before coming to Shymkent.
As tap water is not drinkable in Kazakhstan I had grown accustomed to hotels providing a bottle of water with the room. However in this hotel, for some reason, there was no bottled water available and I had to find a market to buy it. With all labels in Cyrillic though, this posed a problem. I first brought back lemon soda and had to run out again. I wound up with sparkling water which at least allowed me to brush my teeth.
I turned in early to rest up for my 7am train.