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Almaty Kazakhstan (Part II):
22–25 April (Mon–Thu)
Typically first day. I walk around - sometimes with a purpose and sometimes aimlessly. First-up: Exchanging my excess Chinese Yuan. I had 1000 which is about A$400 that converted into a bit more than 100,000 Tenge.
The Hostel staff taught me how to use the local bus and what buses would take me into the central area and even up to the mountains - how grand !
So, with local money in my pocket, I visited the Zernov Cathedral and found the tourist information office near by - only to learn that I had missed the Almaty Jazz Festival by 2 weeks. Alas...
It was a bit cold and I did need a scarf, as my Korean scarf had fallen off my lap and onto the road upon my departure from my taxi the previously evening - it sat in the rain and mud repeatedly driven-over. I was very pleased to find it the following morning - I was certain it was lost at the train station - but car tires had made many gravel-size holes in my favourite scarf. Well, holes are in fashion now days so I decided that all those Almaty cars had turned my beloved scarf into a fashion statement. It did need a good wash and I was slightly embarrassed that this task - along with a week's worth of clothes, since Xi'an, would be washed by Jono...
Anyway, a new scarf at the Almaty tourist centre is A$30 - cheaper than catching a cold, I thought. It is light grey and made of silk and wool.
Centre staff pointed me to the Green Market, which is famous for fruit and vegetables, but I recalled Miwa's request for earrings to replace her single lost pink flamenco earring. Red seems to be Almaty's colour, as Almaty has some kind of fondness for apples. Those pink flamenco earrings can never be replaced - I figure - a substitute may be the best that can be achieved but a substitute is not a replacement.
The hunt for earrings reminded me that I wanted a new smartphone cover. I had looked all over China without success - even visited Samsung Xi'an but no go. Yes, Samsung A5 smartphones covers are available in Kazakhstan - made in China - and so I bought the first one I found for A$4 but decided I did not like it and bought another for A$12.
With all these tasks out of the way, I then set about wondering around. Shamsiya had pointed out a couple of famous streets and a couple of her favourite streets and so I spent time walking these. Some grand building and some charming neighbourhoods. Eventually stopped along the way for a bit to eat and drink. Recalled that Miwa wanted an investigation of organic stores and unlike China several come up on a Google search so I visited four but only found one that was a real organic store. Along the way I met two KZ girls who were pleased to meet an Australian on a quest to make his spouse happy.
It started to rain and so I took cover and had a lime coffee - first time and it was ok. The rain slowed and so I tried to walk back to the hostel but was not on the right street although I thought I was. Finally, I came upon a cafe and connected to their wife - no password required - and figured out my error. Departed without ordering anything but left a A$4 (T 1,000) tip after a visit to their restroom. I wonder what they thought of all that.
I joined a tour for most of the day so I will put that as a separate entry, but that evening I ate at an Italian restaurant where I had fettuccine with horse meatballs - kind of sweet.
With a 5.03pm train I figure I would spend the day out and about. But I required some addition travel knowledge and connections from Shasiya - as she is originally from Aktau KZ, the port-town that is my entry across the Caspian Sea. I also had so say goodbye to my Australian friends, and Miwa called and we enjoyed a wonderful catch-up. So, all that left me with one choice only - something close to the hostel - the Kazakhstan National Museum. It had everything you would expect. Pretty good really although very little English.
A taxi to the railway station and Almaty became part of my past.