Apologies in advance this post will be a stream of consciousness mostly text post because, well, we were so busy working we didn’t get to see a whole ton!
Ended up working until mid-afternoon in downtown Bishkek, and at 4pm we got ready to head to the Almaty. Our office in Bishkek had arranged a driver to take us to the border, and our office in Almaty had arranged another driver to meet us at the border and take us the rest of the way. Sounded like an easy plan, and as someone who’s gotten used to negotiating minibusses and share-taxis the last couple years it was a rare treat! Not only the chance to not have to negotiate, but comfortable and uncrowded. Score!
Traffic in Bishkek wasn’t awful for a Monday afternoon, and about 30 minutes later we were at the border. Our Kazakh driver was already waiting for us on the Kyrgyz side, and walked us through the car lines (the pedestrian lines were super long on both sides of the border, and apparently he knew some tricks that we could just walk through the much shorter car lines…it took quite a bit of yelling, complaining, and posturing, but in about 15 minutes we were through the border. His car was parked on the Kazakh side, so he loaded up our luggage, and we got ready to head out. I turned back to take a quick snap of the border from the Kazakh side:
Very soon after the border, things got very rural…very fast. We drove for around two more hours before we started to see any signs of the city, and then spent nearly another hour fighting Almaty traffic trying to get to our hotel. All total from downtown to downtown travel time was around 4 hours, and that wouldn’t include any time fighting at the border or negotiating with taxis.
Our hotel was the Rixos Almaty and appeared to be located pretty centrally in the city. It was around 8pm by this time, so after checking in we decided to head out quickly in search of a bite. Nothing was easy to find and we were getting pretty hungry at this point, so just decided to admit defeat and head back for room service since we had an early morning. Unfortunately work was incredibly busy here, so there wasn’t a whole ton of time to sightsee. So, I’ll do a mini hotel review first.
The obvious place to start, since I just mentioned room service, is with the food. Let’s just start by saying that for the region I thought prices were outrageous. I ended up with a club sandwich and a beer from room service, which came to nearly $45. Stunning. I was expecting to get something pretty awesome for that price, but you be the judge: