Sunday, February 27, 2011

Train Ride Home from Almaty - December 2010

After a nearly 3-month hiatus, let me see if I can go back to keeping up on my blog. First, I feel that I have to end the Almaty story with a warning....

Don't ride the slow train from Almaty to Astana (or vice versa). I know, I've done it three times--the first time, it was a good experience, the second time it was less-than-stellar but do-able, the third time was awful.

The first time was a year ago, going from Astana to Almaty during Nauriz (spring holiday). We bought tickets for a 19-hour train ride, and we lucked out with a clean train. Due to time constraints we flew home.

The second time was in December 2010, from Astana to Almaty. The train was much dirtier, the car rocked, the toilets dirty. But still, it wasn't too bad, we arrived in Almaty tired but excited and had a great week.

The third time was returning from Almaty to Astana. It was 21 or 22 hours, unlike the others which were 19 hours. We got on late at night and so, after a fitful night's sleep, we had a full day on the train.

It was COLD. The train rocked. We were COLD. (Need I say it again? I slept with my winter coat over me and still was cold.) There was NO restaurant on the train, and we hadn't taken food, since the other times we'd ridden, there was a restaurant.

After a horrible night's sleep, spending 12 hours in a dirty, confined place with no food was pretty awful.

Oh, and the toilets were disgusting. Possibly the most disgusting toilets I've ever seen since arriving in Astana. (Yeah, that bad.)

So, I forgot how much that ride cost, it was really cheap. For twice as much--and still very little money--we could have taken the "fast" train, the 12-hour train, which I've heard is as nice as my first Astana-Almaty train ride was.

Moral of the story is: If you're going to take a train ride between Almaty and Astana, do yourself a favor and splurge on the 12-hour train. It's still incredibly cheap.

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