Saturday, September 11, 2010

Khan Shatyr, the Palace of the King

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Khan Shatyr is Kazakh for Palace of the King, and it has been in the process of being built for several years now. My Lonely Planet puts its opening date in 2008, but it was not completed until this past summer and had a grand opening in July.

Khan Shatyr is, basically, a tent. A massive, leaning tent which contains a massive shopping mall. Another shopping mall for Astana.

Khan Shatyr is a big deal because it will maintain a consistent pleasant temperature all throughout the year, maybe 15 to 20 degrees Celsius. Even in the coldest of winter.

It was supposed to be like a mini-city, complete with parks, and contain the 4 seasons. Instead, it's just a big, extravagant shopping mall.

My friend & I were not impressed. My daughter and her daughter were.

Khan Shatyr has 6 floors. The bottom floor (basement) has a large supermarket, Green; there is a Green near Artyom where I once found tortillas for Sophia. There are some other stores on the bottom floor.

The first floor (or 2nd, depending on how you're counting them) has a large, open area in the middle. When we came on Saturday, a band was playing hip-hop music and dancing to it. They looked like your average scrawny, punk-ish, hip-hop-ish American boys. Except they were Russian and singing in Russian and actually the dancing was pretty amazing. (Break-dancing)

Behind them was a large pole leading up to the top, attached to the pole was an amusement-park-style ride, where people were sitting and the ride went up, halfway to the top of the building, and then the ride free-fell down. Up and down it went, sometimes going down slowly, sometimes as fast as you would if you were falling; sometimes going all the way down, sometimes going only halfway down. The people on it raised their hands or clung to the safety bars, squealing. Sophia, of course, wanted to ride (we didn't).

We could see all the way to the top, the funky leaning-tent ceiling, and partially outside, as the outer material is some kind of near-see-through material, supposedly good for maintaining a good climate inside.

The levels immediately above us seemed to contain shops, above that, we could not see. On one of the top levels there was another ride--like a roller coaster, but not fast or scary, just a roller coaster-like set of cars that went around some track, circling the 5th floor, way above the ground. Interesting. Perhaps dangerous, I'm not sure what the safety standards for rides are in Kazakhstan.

There were lots of plants, perhaps trying to give the place a park-like feel. (Fail)

The 2nd & maybe the 3rd levels had shops (I can't remember the floors exactly). Then came the level with food and some games for kids. The usual video games, Chucky-Cheese-like stuff, and.. bumper cars, and some amusement-park rides. Wow. We also saw a "Krusty Krab's" fast food restaurant--the restaurant from Sponge Bob Squarepants!!

We went up and there was a water ride. Kind of like the log ride, where you and one other person get in a log and then go around in water on various turns and sorts, and then go down really fast and splash and get wet. Sophia and her friend had plenty of fun watching the ride.

Then we found the entrance to the beach and spa. This was one floor above us, but to get up you had to pay or have a membership. Another teacher had been given a tour of the beach when he inquired about a membership, so I told my friend that that's what we would do.

The woman working there recognized us from the dancing lessons we'd attended last year. How nice!

The price list sheet was in Russian and the prices all had too many zeros on them for me to figure much out. 8000 Tenge ($54) for one day at the "beach", 4000 Tenge for a child. Membership for a year cost 400,000 Tenge ($2714). That's almost half a million Tenge for a membership!! Which includes the spa, but still!!!

So we asked about a membership and were given a tour. We got in the elevator and went up.

Upon exiting the elevator, there were two "beaches". Which looked like shallow and not-too-large pools surrounded by sand. There were a few people wandering around in skimpy bathing suits or robes.

One of things I like least about the beach is the sand. So why pay 8000 Tenge for sand plus a pool?

There were some water slides at one pool; later, one of my students would come here and then draw a picture of himself rather happy on the slide. There were waiters and food, and a spa somewhere.

But seriously. 8000 Tenge for one day. I'd pay close to $100 just for Sophia and I to go to a pool with sand. The pool that my friend had taken us to last year cost about 500 Tenge a person. And it was much nicer. Maybe the water slide wasn't as fancy, maybe it wasn't as warm, maybe there was no restaurant. But a nice 3-foot deep pool with a slide, a wading area for young children, a hot tub, and an Olympic-sized pool that was at least 12 feet deep on the shallowest end, with high-diving boards. Much better than what Khan Shatyr had to offer.

The Palace of the King... Maybe I'll come to like it in the winter, but seeing as it's a 20-minute walk, and in the winter nothing is worth 20 minutes in hellish-ly freezing cold, then maybe not.

(This picture is of the inside of Khan Shatyr, taking around Christmas-time)

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