An introduction to Couch Surfing

Shymkent Travel Blog

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Sunset over Shymkent, with the birds flying around

People i met here, who contributed to and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Hannes (Sweden), David (Spain), Luis (Mexico)

Today was to be my first ever experience with couch surfing. Julia and I had researched it a little bit before, but never followed through with it. Accommodation in Kazakhstan had proved to take up a large part of our budget so far, so now seemed as good a time as any to see what this craze spreading the backpacking nation was all about!

Julia contacted a Spanish guy called David, who told us that although he was already hosting 3 people, he would do his best to squeeze another 3 into his apartment! As it turned out, 2 of the people had decided to go to Turkistan for the evening, so that left just one other guy, a Mexican NGO worker called Luis.

Beautiful sky during sunset over the city. The birds circle in the air


When we made it to the town centre, David came to collect us and walked us back to his flat, which was just a few minutes away. David has been living in Kazakhstan for the last 3 years, teaching Spanish at the local University, whilst Luis has been in the country for a little under 2 years, teaching English in a village in the middle of nowhere. Luis was in Shymkent taking the opportunity to catch up with civilization, as he had some holidays.

It was past 20,00 when the 5 of us decided to go out and grab some Pizza at a cafe that used to be a casino. I was surprised by the quality of the food and also the portions, as Julia and I had pretty big Pizzas that only cost 350 Tengge ($3). It was nice to chat with the guys and try to gather a foreigners perception of the locals, after living there for so long.
Hannes, David, Luis and Julia having lunch
The most interesting thing that i learned was that in some respects Ali G's character 'Borat' was based on fact, whilst other bits were fiction. Did you know they still have bride kidnappings here, seriously!

After a nice meal, we went back to the apartment via the internet cafe, where i found Leeds had lost in the play off finals at Wembley. This meant we didn't get promotion and i felt a bit sick in my stomach all of a sudden. Another season gone to waste. I was all of a sudden grateful that i hadn't followed through on my idea of going home for this game, i don't know i could have taken it!

We sat up until gone midnight chatting about everything and nothing and looking through David's pictures of Kazakhstan, to see if there were any places that we really had to see. There were some ruins not far from Turkistan that looked far more impressive than Otrar, but we didn't want to go back to Turkistan. The Aral Sea looked fascinating, but the mention of $150 to hire a jeep for the day began sending questions through my head.

The next day we all woke up later than expected, even though we hadn't had a late night. After bumming around the flat for an hour or so, we went out to grab lunch and i had my first taste of Laghman, a noodle soup with meat and beans. It was decent enough and I'm sure it won't be the last time on the trip that i encounter it.

Our most important task for the day was to buy our train tickets to Aralsk, located near the Aral Sea, Once again we were left disappointed as all the tickets were fully booked for the next few days. They did actually have some very expensive tickets available for tonight, but we had already made plans, so we booked tickets to go back to Almaty on Wednesday night.

Sadly it was time to leave Shymkent, as we were already running terribly late. David had very kindly introduced us to an American guy named Danny, who was living in nearby Zhabaghly, located at the foot of the Talassky Alatau Mountain Range, and he had offered us a place to stay! We said goodbyes and hoped to meet again when we came back to Shymkent to catch the train out to Almaty. It had been a successful introduction to couch surfing and one that I'm sure will lead to further meetings with other members of the community.

kelleeoo says:
yea CS!
Posted on: May 30, 2009
Transitory says:
Thanks again, at the very least it will make a good story to tell :D.
Posted on: Mar 26, 2009
Deats says:
I hope you have a great time with it :)
Posted on: Mar 26, 2009
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Sunset over Shymkent, with the bir…
Sunset over Shymkent, with the bi…
Beautiful sky during sunset over t…
Beautiful sky during sunset over …
Hannes, David, Luis and Julia havi…
Hannes, David, Luis and Julia hav…
Shymkent
photo by: Biedjee