Bob says: Arrived in Almaty via Kazakh airlines 7 hour overnight flight at 9am kaz time ( longhall economy is virtually inhumane if you ask me). First task was to find a hotel in Almaty, our friendly taxi driver tried to charge about 7 times the normal rate to a hotel we picked out of our guide book. After some screaming from the wife(amazing how angry she gets through lack of sleep) and some choice words from myself we managed to get him down to a reasonable rate. I knew the hotel was right for us by the delightfully decorated reception, I kid you not that wolf skins adorned the walls and ceilings just about everywhere - welcome to Kazakhstan!
First few days we missed not having the hilux(sold in London) to get about in. Driving in Almaty would certainly have been a lot of fun, some may say that local drivers are lunitics and drive dangerously, I would prefere to call it 'creative driving'. They also seem to be worried about whether their horns are working, they are tested repeatedly when ever in traffic.
Kazakhstan is an oil rich country and it certainly shows, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is extreme. People have got rich very quick( it appears mostly Russians ) and testement to this is a hugh estate of mansions nearing completion in the south of the city, it is a barratt house managers wet dream! The have nots unfortunately live in deteorating soviet appartment blocks like the one pictured above, further out of town the housing is typical of poor eastern europe, and who ever is manufacturing corragated metal is doing a roaring trade.
The soviet statue you see is part ot the world wars memorial that is present in a pretty park in the centre of the city. Kazakhstan and the other former soviet states in the area must have split from russia more amicably than eastern europe where you will not find any soviet statues.
The russian orthodox church pictured was also in the park.
Ruth says: Kazakhstan certainly took a bit of getting used to. It was quite frustrating in the first few days not being able to get around so easily, and also having to pay 50 pounds for a hotel. This is not just us being picky. All hotels in the city were at least that expensive because they were meant for the moneyed Russians. Other things were very cheap though, apart from taxis who continually tred to rip us off. Food was especially cheap. It manily consists of meat and rice with some kind of yoghurt or sour cream thing to go with it. There is a lot of grease involved and all vegetables (also highly on the greasy side of things) come with a generous serving of dill.
Bob says: On the subject of food, the infamous Kazakh delicacy of horse's penis reared its rather ugly head. It can be bought sliced, diced or in all its glory. Unfortunately we where unable to try it in restaurants due to all the menus being in cyrillic. With virtually no english speakers ordering food is a kind of lucky dip, apart from kebabs and laghman (noodles with a soup meat concoction) we largely do not know what to expect.