Shymkent Travel Blog› entry 55 of 83 › view all entries
However you choose to spell it, old or new, Shymkent is a large city and full of shops, restaurants and a couple department stores. It's low on specific tourist attractions, but is close to several old cities and is a pleasant enough place to have to spend a few days. I arrived around 7:30 in the morning after a long train ride from Almaty that started with the people across from me shooting vodka consecutively until one guy passed out. But he soon revived enough to spit, sputter and wail throughout much of the evening, finally vomiting on the floor shortly before I climbed up into my berth across the hallway. Luckily his loogies did not have enough force to make it across the hall, and some patient family members took care of him (while laughing at him) through the night.
I had to fight off the aggressive taxi drivers, including one who pulled on my shirt as if this would make me want to ride with him even if I needed a taxi! My host, Vicente, responded to my text message that I'd arrived and planned to meet in front of the newly opened Mega Center Mall downtown, so I caught a local bus. Vicente was entering his second year as a Peace Corps volunteer and was due to start an unexpected new assignment that day at a new organization. He took me back to his flat near the center where I soon met another CouchSurfer named Lindsay. After Vicente went to work, Lindsay and I went to the bus station where I helped her buy a ticket to Almaty. I then wandered off on my own to explore Shymkent.
As I mentioned, there weren't many things to see, but I wandered around the streets and through a park. On one side of the park was a hideous twin needle-shaped monument and nearby some old tanks and artillery. I think it was supposed to be a World War II memorial, but it appeared very much forgotten. Beyond this was another street that eventually led back to the center where I'd started. I continued my walk to the Ordobasy Square area, where there was a large statue of a MiG fighter plane and a medium-sized gold-domed mosque. I heard from my friend Erlan, who usually goes by Eric, that he was arriving from a wedding in Turkistan and should be able to meet up soon.
It was getting close to the time I was supposed to meet Lindsay to exchange keys and also time for Eric to catch a night bus back to Almaty. I was going to meet up with Aliya and her friends at the local coffee hotspot, Madlen, but she also had to go home. It was a short meeting, but another serendipitous moment in my travels that I was able to meet up with Eric. After we said goodbye, I went back and relaxed a little at Vicente's. He soon came back with his roommate, Kanat, and then he made a spicy pasta dish for dinner. I saw his sink full of dishes and knew Ihad to come to the rescue. While I was in the washing mood, I did some laundry, taking advantage of the clothesline and the few days I had, knowing it would have time to dry. I slept like a baby on the futon-like couch.