Friday, 13 December 2013

Days 177 and 178 - Around Astana - Mon 19 and Tues 20 Aug

Days 177 and 178 - Around Astana - Mon 19 and Tues 20 Aug
Booked into boutique hotel in the city -  organised laundry and GirlRob had her hair coloured at salon on site. Half way through plastering on layers of sticky colour the woman said "you husband know you do this you hair??" With all paperwork downloaded from internet, passport photos and attachments filled in in advance, had no trouble getting Ukraine visa from consulate. Free then to spend the days exploring the sights and revelling in the attractive outdoor art – a respite after crudeness of signs and town icons in Mongolia. 


Under blistering blue skies, enjoyed the crazy architecture of Astana, President Nazarbeyev’s long term vision. Called “Tomorrowland”, the city has been dubbed an architect’s playground in the midst of a vast flat steppe, where “East meets West”. Twin copper green glass buildings straddle the magnificent square housing the Ak Orda Presidential Palace, with the petal shaped Concert Hall off to one side. 

The showcase is certainly the Khan Shatyr, a giant transparent “tent” covering an area larger than 10 football stadiums. It houses an enormous shopping mall, entertainment venues, town squares with cobbled streets, a boating river, and an indoor resort with a wave pool.

Surprised to find the ticket office/ elevator to the top of the spectacular Bayterek tower closed for lunch, missing out on the tourist dollar. 

Given the number of parks, walks and spectacular gardens there was a notable lack of crowds throughout. Walked past four men in suits and sunglasses sitting silently in a sedan watching passers-by (goosebump time….) It was sobering to see odd signs of decline of infrastructure in such a short time since construction, eg popped rivets and tiles, cracked pavements, fallen eaves and rusted columns (we imagine the excessive winter temperatures play havoc with buildings and roadworks). 

The Pyramid of Peace, which accommodates Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism and other faiths inside, lights up at night in colours representing the Kazakhstan flag. We dined at a restaurant called Lime Brew and enjoyed the Brady Bunch look-a-like boy band and their 60’s music, before saying goodnight to this amazing city.

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