Visa time Kazakstan

Almaty Travel Blog

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Country side Kazakstan

We have been in Almaty for 6 days and hope to get our passports back from the OVIR.  OVIR is the internal checking mechanism left over from the Soviet days of rule as a sort of check and balance to double check who you are, where you are and what you are doing in the country.  This also takes time and money.  The more money you pay the less time the process takes.  Sounds familiar.


Visas.  We have two hurdles to overcome, namely we need to get :


1. a Chinese visa - this we can maybe get in Tashkent Uzbek.  I have this on absolutely no authority, more a whim.  But fingers crossed we can find a consulate/embassy of China in Tashkent, and that it is still open.


2. a new Russian visa.  Our current Russian visa is out by one day which could potentially be disastrous if we left it and did nothing about it.   So we are weighing up the possibilities of what to do.  Maybe that we have to apply all over again somewhere like Uzbek. 


3. At least we have our Mongolian visa.  Perhaps, in fact the best consulate/embassy we have ever been to.  Three cheers for the Mongols.



The Aussie consulate in Almaty has long since left so we found out when we attended its supposed location last week. 


The Facts. 

We don't have enough time to get permits to travel around Kazakhstan, so we are heading off to Uzbek hopefully Monday night. 


History in a nut shell. 

Kazakhstan was the state in which the soviets used certain weapons above ground and as such many areas are still sensitive zones. 


Astana -the word means capital - is now the capital city of Kazakhstan and is located many hours north of Almaty.  Almaty comprises 30% Russians and the rest Kazakh and minorities.  Many Russians are leaving though.  The city is very fashion hungry and you must display your apparent wealth for all to gloat, more than even back home.  Guys and girls dress immaculately in the latest fashions from Europe, and it’s not black market stuff either.  It costs a fortune to live here.  It is costing us more to live here than at Brisbane. The town itself is beautiful, with tree lined streets and plenty of pedestrian areas to walk around town in.


I went to the Russian banya or public bath on Saturday and had a fantastic time. The complex was massive.  Guys and girls in separate facilities use it as relaxation to shower, sauna, whack yourself with a bouquet of dry Myrtle or similar leaves, and to dive in the freezing cold plunge pool. I was the only foreigner there standing absolutely naked with about 50 other Russians in this room.  I strutted with towel in hand past the cafe serving beers and lattes into the shower room and further into the heart of the banjos, the Russian sauna.  I thought I had walked into the boiler room of the Titanic.  The room had tiles on the floor, hence the need for thongs - I had been warned - naked Russians some wearing beanies, slapping themselves and others with these dry leaves to open the pores of the skin.  My pores didn't need opening....  The heat was intense pouring out of this massive two storey boiler, it was a furnace.  I lasted 5 minutes and ran, or rather coolly strutted out the door trying not to pass out from the heat, with guys offering to give me a good dry leaf bashing all the way to the plunge pool located down on the next level and short distance away. 


To paint the picture the whole banya is like in a complex the size of a football field, with cafes and shops.  There are more private rooms etc , but I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I was on my own as Paul wasn't keen to get naked.  I wanted to stick with the crowd so to speak, safer that way I thought.  It cost 550 tenge or $5.50 AUD for as long as I wanted, I think.  Access was to the change room, cafe/vodka/refreshment area in between beatings or the plunge pool, the shower room with over 50 showers on a couple of levels, massage was extra, the Turkish sauna, the Russian sauna, and the ice cold plunge pool located in between these Greek looking columns beneath this massive dome-like structure such as you would find at a mosque. 


On that point it is very western here in Almaty and no Muslim or religious culture is really present in the streets, apart from the odd Russian Orthodox Churches.  I expected more indigenous-dressed people, not Armani suits and the like. 


Back to the banya...


I spent about two hours there going from Russian sauna to plunge pool and back having a great time.  It was a real social outing for guys aged 10 to 90, wearing nothing but thongs, and maybe a beanie or traditional Urgur style hat, which looked ridiculous, but who was I to make comment.  I was naked.................  it felt a little awkward striking up a conversation with someone in a language you don't speak when you're naked.  Is that making me more culturally diverse?  Raise that at the multi cultural meeting Dad.


It has been pissing down rain all day today -Sunday- so we are just taking it easy at the hotel.  It turns out by the way that our hotel is a semi brothel type establishment.  It appears as though our budget attracts this style of accommodation unfortunately.  Rooms are more often than not hired by the hour.  It was a real struggle at first to get a room for a day; they looked at us in surprise.  Now we know why......


Not much else really.  Hope you’re all OK, we are fine. Food here is fantastic, like five-star dining each meal, but it also comes with 5 star prices. 


Another point, tourists don't really come to Kazakhstan and so the people here are not really interested in tourists.  Although many foreigners work here from embassies etc. 
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Country side Kazakstan
Country side Kazakstan
photo by: Alfiya