Friday, January 13, 2017

How to travel from Astana to Borovoe (Бурабай көлі) in Kazakhstan

On the first week of January this year, I was in Borovoe (Бурабай көлі) in Kazakhstan. I was in Borovoe (Бурабай көлі) in Kazakhstan for three days and soon, I will be coming with a travel blog on it. For those of you who have not heard about Borovoe (Бурабай көлі) in Kazakhstan, Wikipedia has this to say: "Borovoe (Бурабай көлі) in Kazakhstan is one of the Burabay lakes in the north of Kazakhstan, in the Burabay District of Akmola Region, in the eastern foothills of Kokshe Mountain."

You can read more on Borovoe (Бурабай көлі) in Kazakhstan From HERE

I will be back with more information soon.

So, how did we plan?

We had many days for holiday at the end of 2016 and on the first week of January this year. WE were roaming around Astana for few days and then, decided to head to Borovoe. We celebrated New Year on 31st December Night-morning of 1st January and left to Borovoe on early morning of January 01. We took the electric train from Astana. It was 3.5 hours journey and reached Kurort-Borovoe  Railway station around 10.30 am. So, if you are going to Borovoe by train, the station where you should get off is Kurort-Borovoe.

Regarding Railway tickets, we bought them online from Kazakhstan Railways Website (From the website of Kazakhstan Temir Zholy). We had tried to book ticket online few months ago from Kazakhstan Temir Zholy website but we were not successful but this time, the process was easy. We booked the tickets on Second Class of Electric Train (электропоезд) and got comfortable sitting chairs. The train was full but there were no people standing. Everyone had their seat. The ticket per person was around 1200 Tenge which is quite cheap/reasonable.

When we reached the Kurort-Borovoe Railway Station

It was our first trip and we didn't know how to reach our hotel. Our hotel was booked in Advance in Borovoe. It was Park Hotel, Kokshetau in Shchuchīnsk, Borovoe.

The hotel had informed us that there will be shuttle buses, generally from Kurort-Borovoe Railway Station to a place near to our hotel but they had also cautioned us that the buses might not be plying on the day of January 01. So, we had to take a taxi. When we came out from the Kurort-Borovoe Railway Station, we did not see anything like Shuttle Bus. So, we decided to bargain for a taxi. We caught a taxi driver, and started our bargain. He started from 3000 Tenge but we agreed for 2000. He took us to the hotel but the taxi driver (His name is Talgat/Талгат) cheated us and charged extra 500 Tenge.

On the way, there was a barrier on a road and a guard came to let our taxi enter. The driver told us that there would be a camera and each taxi entering this area should pay 500 Tenge. They will not charge immediately but when he returns, he needs to pay. So, we had to pay him 2,500 KZT and later, we found out that it was all bullshit ! bullshit !! bullshit !!! Anyway, we were in a holiday mood and did not make the fuss of that extra 500 tenge. (While returning back to Railway Station from the hotel after three days, we ordered the taxi through hotel reception and it was 1500 tenge. We talked with the taxi driver on the way back about 500 tenge and he laughed. He said us that only the taxis registered outside the region will have to pay around 200 tenge per passenger but it is not at all imposed.)

So, we found out the standard price from Kurort-Borovoe Railway Station to any hotel in Borovoe/Shchuchīnsk should be 1,500 KZT.

Borovoe, Kazakhstan - a holiday spot which is located almost 200 Kms from Capital of Kazakhstan, from Astana
When we reached Hotel

Park Hotel, Kokshetau in Shchuchīnsk, Borovoe is a good hotel but I have mixed reviews/views about it. The location is good and the hotel rooms were nice but I think the Restaurant and its service was disappointing to say the least. Food was not tasty at all and the service was quite slow. But, I must credit to their breakfast which was a buffet one and was surprisingly a good one. I will write more about Park Hotel, Kokshetau in Shchuchīnsk, Borovoe and its reviews in my other blog posts.

I have posted few photos in this blogpost and you can see that there is snow, snow and snow around Park Hotel, Kokshetau in Shchuchīnsk, Borovoe. We can not find fault with Park Hotel, Kokshetau in Shchuchīnsk, Borovoe at least for this. Most of the time, we walked around little bit. There was a lake nearby and we walked to see the frozen lake. We did sliding on ice seating on Round Tube/Balloon. We saw people skiing and skating but we did not do it by ourselves. We are little bit scared of winter sports. At the end of three days, we came back to Astana by train from Kurort-Borovoe Railway Station. As I already mentioned, we took taxi through hotel reception from Park Hotel, Kokshetau in Shchuchīnsk, Borovoe to Kurort-Borovoe Railway Station.

The journey from Kurort-Borovoe Railway Station to Astana Railway Station on 3rd January, 2017 at around 15.00 Hours was not so great and pleasant. Why? I will come with another blogpost on it.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Banya and Sauna of Astana, Kazakhstan/Баня и сауна Астаны, Казахстан

It's good to be back in my blog so regularly and so frequently. I have already wished you a Happy New Year in case you do not know yet. :) Today, I will be wishing you "Happy Orthodox Christmas Day" on 7th January if you celebrate it.

Today, what am I talking about? Nothing in particular to be honest but some of my ramblings and rants for sure. The end of December, 16 and the first week of January, 17 were great for me. Holiday season is always good. We went to Banya/Sauna in Astana, Kazakhstan, and went around the city and finally, to Baravoe/Shuchinsk. I would like to talk about our Banya/Sauna experiences in Astana.

What is Banya and Sauna? (что такое баня/сауны?)

Banya/Sauna are same in principle. There will be a small room to heat your body and once you get heated sufficiently, you come out from the room and take bath in hot/warm/cold water as you wish. This process is repeated for 3-4 times or more depending on how much time and money you have. When you are in a heating room, you start sweating profusely and you have to come out from that room to pour cold water on you. Again, you enter with your wet body back to the heating room. The wet body helps you to sit there longer and sweat more. I think in average, a person sits inside the heating room for 10-15 minutes before he comes out to pour water. This is only in case you do not know what Banya/Sauna is.

For me, it is one of the best ways to relax in Astana, Kazakhstan when outside temperature is always around -10 degree Celsius in the winter.

We did internet search and took recommendations from few friends. and we decided that we would try a new place.

We generally found following problems in Banya and Sauna of Astana, Kazakhstan/Баня и сауна Астаны, Казахстан:

1. Most of the Баня и сауна in Astana, Kazakhstan cater to the groups. They expect minimum 4-6 people at a time. The pricing is done in such a way that if you have a group of 4-6 people and can take bath together without feeling any shy in semi-naked condition, then, the price is okay, reasonable and in fact cheap.

2. We were two people (husband and wife) and we were looking for private place where only two of us can use the place without entry of any third party, without any disturbance from outsiders. It was difficult to find a decent and good place meeting this criterion. Most of the Баня-сауна в Астане (Banya and Sauna in Astana) were not only for two people or were costly. We love to hear any recommendations from any of you if you know such a private Баня-сауна в Астане.

3. I realise that the problem in us as well. We both grew up in little conservative families and we are not very comfortable with unknown people especially they are dressed minimum. Actually, I was shocked to see boys/males taking bath naked (completely naked) in a shower room/changing room in Fitness Center. We had membership of Duman Hotel, Apriori Fitness Center, Astana (фитнес Клуб АПРИОРИ) and we faced this unpleasant situation in changing room. It may sound funny but this was so unpleasing that we stopped going to the Fitness Center (фитнес Клуб АПРИОРИ). My wife reported the same scene in Ladies Changing room and we have heard complaints about it from many of our colleagues who go to other Fitness Center such as "Fitnation" in Central Park of Astana (Астана Центральный парк). Of course, it seems there are many who don't mind flashing their assets - big or small- in changing rooms of fitness center. Funny it may sound but it was too hot for us to handle and we left that Fitness Center, Duman Hotel, Apriori Fitness Center, Astana (фитнес Клуб АПРИОРИ). We did not use their Sauna and now, in search of new Fitness Club/center.

4. So, now back to the Баня-сауна в Астане where went in Astana and our experience.

We went to Баня-сауна «Кит» which advertises as "Русско-финская баня, печка на березовых дровах, хамам". It is located at little bit outside city on the right bank but not far. From Radisson Hotel on the Right Bank of Astana, it would be about 6-7 Kms. drive. It is located at  Адрес:
ул. Бейсекова, 9/4, Астана and was not difficult at all to find it.

We were four: my wife, her parents and I as our attempt to find exclusive place only for two of us failed. In phone, we understood that there would be two seperate rooms for parents and for us but when we reached that was not the case. We all four had to use one сауна for two hours and the cost was 10,000 KZT in total. There must be some misunderstanding on the phone but we did not make any issue.

What we decided was parents will go first and we went upstairs to watch TV for an hour. Parents finished washing in 45-50 minutes and dressed and came up. They sat in TV room, watched TV and drank tea while we were taking bath downstairs for another 1 hour and 10 minutes. To be very honest, 1 hour 10 minutes was more than enough and we were satisfied with the services. In the meantime, they charged another 500 KZT for hot water. That was strange for us! The overall experience was good for us.

So, do we go to that place - Баня-сауна «Кит» "Русско-финская баня, печка на березовых дровах, хамам" Адрес: ул. Бейсекова, 9/4, Астана again? The answer is: NO. Why?

Let's talk good things about the place:

1. It was a private one. Once you close the door, you have your own space. No one knocked the door, disturbed us for another two hours. We had cupboards for our clothes, two or three showering places and sufficient space, good and clean heating room. From the stairs, you could go up, sit around the table, watch TV and if you want lie on the bed. Now, I realise that the TV did not have remote but it was not a big deal. The most important thing was that it was clean, no one disturbed us once an old man came out after putting fire inside the oven/chamber. There were extra woods and we could add more when we wanted.

And, what we did not like?

1. Since we were looking for two private "сауна" for parents and us and we wanted to take bath at the same time at two different places, we were denied that opportunity. Instead of two hours, we could wash ourselves only for an hour.

2. And, the biggest problem was their customer service. The place is managed by two old people. Two old husband and wife (два старых дедушка и бабушка) and I think they have hearing problem or rather their manners. They were shouting all the time at the top of their voice. We were met by loud and noisy answers for our every questions. They were polite but there was a cacophony. I can easily handle such noises, perk of being from India :), however, it is not so pleasant when you go for relaxation and leisure. We chased them quickly from our room by literally shouting them back to leave the place so that we can start and slammed the door. Thereafter, things proceeded fine though we could hear still some noises from outside Sauna room. The wooden walls were too thin to stop their loud voices.

So, that's all. It is unlikely that we will go there again but when we were in Sauna, we forgot all the problems, the noisy cacophony before we started. It was a hot room and we were too busy cleaning, washing and relaxing.

Suggest us the place you have been!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Happy New Year 2017

Dear All, this post is being written in the intervening period of December 31-January 1. At least, the start was made on the eve of New Year. However, by the time it is published, I know that a lot of time has passed. In my opinion, the post will be published only on January 3 or 4 of 2017. Nevertheless, the post is intended to be a closure of 2016, and to welcome a New Year - 2017.

So, the first thing first: I wish you a very Happy New Year, 2017 to all my readers of the blog. I know that I have very few and limited readers from Kazakhstan  but everyone is very valuable to me. I hope you continue reading my posts in this year as well. I hope to get your continuous supports, reviews and feedbacks to make my blog more useful and updated.

Dear Readers, I hope you had a very good vacation and party to welcome New Year. I wish you all the best. I hope that all your dreams, wishes, desires, wants, needs and everything that you have thought of will come true in this year - 2017. My only the best wishes!

Talking of me, I had a hell lot of good times on the eve of New Year and thereafter. I was moderately busy in partying and meeting my new and old friends in Astana, Kazakhstan. That is the reason in part why I am late with my post.

When I look back to 2016, I consider it to be a moderately successful year. I learned the few tricks of entrepreneurships in Astana and somehow, surviving in Kazakhstan. In December, 2015, I joined a language school as an English Teacher but my tenure there was short lived. I had to leave the school in March, 2016 but these 4 months of experience was very valuable to me. I felt exploited in the job handed by someone, but, at the same time, I did not see any light at the end of the tunnel. I understood the business culture, working style and business approach of different nationality. I took the learnings from there and started my own small venture. Slowly and steadily, it is marching ahead. I am not yet fully satisfied but things look much more brighter now in Astana, Kazakhstan if not the clear signal in the tunnel.

That was it on my professional front.

Apart from professional and job life, there are not many things which need any special mention at this time. I have learned to live in Astana, Kazakhstan. Surprisingly, without much difficulty, I have got used to winters of Astana. Except those few days (those may be a month ago) when temperature dipped to -31 degree celsius in Astana for a week, cold has not really affected me. I have not tried many winter sports yet but I am definitely looking forward to them. I am not sure of skating in ice rings in Astana but I am very keen to trying Skiing. Most probably, I will soon head to Astana Park (Central Park in Astana) for skiing. From the list of winter sports, the one thing I have already tried is "sliding on the ice on a air filled tube". It's little bit scary if you don't balance properly but is it truly entertaining. If you are not sure of what I am talking about, I shall post few photos of it later.

New Year 2017 and Resolutions

When we talk of New Year, the resolutions are part and parcel of it. There are many jokes relating to New Year Resolutions. The first one is, "You need to make some New Year Resolutions so that you can start breaking them from the very next day." But, on a serious note, I have three very simple New Year Resolutions for 2017. They are:

Read More,
Write More, and
Exercise More

When I look back and see the things that I did in 2016, I feel that I should have written more, should have read more and should have exercised more. I did not do them adequately. I have fallen shortage of my own targets, but I hope Year 2017 will be different. I will be writing more about these topics in the future covering mainly the types of books I read and the types of sports/exercises I do. I hope I will write more blogs so that my resolution to write more will also be a realistic one.

Before I sign off for today, I visited Zerende (Near Kokshetau) and Baravoe (Burabai, again near Kokshetau) in my year end break. I will be back with travel posts soon.

Once again, a very happy new year to all of you. Stay blessed, and stay happy!