Saturday, March 24, 2012

Borovoe with my Mom - Day 1

Earlier this year, my friend had picked up a brochure for the Park Hotel Kokshetau, near Borovoe. Borovoe is the resort area about 300 km north of Astana. This is a place with forested hills that resemble mountains and several lakes. Last year we went there in the summer for a few days.

(You can see my entries for Days 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in Borovoe this past summer.)

The brochure and web site made the hotel look so wonderful that I booked a room there for one night and got train tickets to get there on Monday afternoon and leave Tuesday evening. My mom arrived Sunday at midnight, so she had one day of mild rest before we were off.

The train ride there was an interesting experience. We traveled for just one small stretch of a much longer train ride, and our seats were beds (and those were the cheap seats!) The entire car was open--no rooms, just a bunch of bunk beds. They even gave us clean sheets! I liked it because it gave us extra room, although it was somewhat dirty.

The weather was cloudy and windy, and for most of the ride, all we could see out the window was white--as if the world had vanished away.

The ride was 3 hours long, and as we got off the train, I heard someone say my name in a thick accent. Someone from the hotel was waiting for us!

He took our bags and led us to the hotel van. He instructed us to put on our seat belts, but said Sophia didn't need to. Either this was because she was in a backwards-facing seat, or because her seat didn't have a seat belt, or because she's a child, I don't know! But he definitely made sure Mom and I wore seat belts (which is quite unusual here, no one really cares about seat belts unless you're in the front).

Once we got going, we wished we'd insisted that Sophia have a seat belt, too. He drove quite quickly up a winding and snow-covered road.

The hotel is located on the Suchye Lake, which is closer to the town of Shchuchinsk than to Borovoe, but still in the general area, still a beautiful, woodsy, mountainy area.

(And can you pronounce Shchuchinsk? I certainly can't!)

The guy at reception obviously spoke no English and thus didn't want to even try to communicate with us; he quickly led us to our room and left us there--no signing in. So far I had given no information other than my name and my assistant's phone number, no proof that I really was going to pay at the end.

Our junior suite cost 31,000 Tenge a night (a little over $200) and while it was a nice room, and a nice hotel, it wasn't quite worth that much money. We were paying the on-season price, yet the hotel was almost completely empty, so we should have gotten the off-seaon price. Monday and Tuesday this week were still normal working weeks for most Kazakhs. The spring holiday, Nauryz, was on Thursday, and the official holiday was Wednesday through Friday.

Our suite was quite large, two rooms that could be separated by a curtain, a large bed, and a nice couch that pulled out into a bed.

After settling in, we went to the restaurant to eat. The waiter made the mistake of addressing us in English, thus making us assume that he knew more English than he did. He struggled to keep up with us and to understand us.

Next, we went outside to look around. There were sleds by the entrance-way, and we were told we could take these. How nice!

The hotel's area is behind the hotel. There's a gently-sloping hill, a children's play area, a tennis court, an area for an outdoor cafe, and a beach. Of course, in the winter, this is all snow-covered. It's a mini winter-wonderland, and the iced-over lake was amazing.

The lake was large and white and covered with thick, powdery snow. The wind was fierce, and as it ripped across the lake, it picked up the snow--a sandstorm made of snow. We couldn't see the other side of the lake, due to all the wind-swept snow. There was so much white that I doubt my mom's camera took any good pictures, although it was breath-taking to behold.

After a while, we went back inside and went swimming. The water was cold, so I waited while Mom and Sophia swam and then used the jacuzzi. We did not make use of the sauna or the massage.

There was one normal sauna room (a wooden room, with benches) and one room with a wooden contraption that a person gets inside, so that only his/her head shows. The best example I can give of it is this picture.

Next we had dinner, and again we were the only people in the restaurant, and again we had the same waiter.

After dinner, we played ping-pong in the gym next to the pool. We saw proof that we weren't the only people there when a Russian family passed us on their way to the pool. Then the power went out, and luckily my mom had her kindle's light in her purse (quite a nice-sized flashlight). I went to the pool to offer the light to the Russians in the jacuzzi, but they said they didn't need one. So they planned on staying in the pool in the dark!

On our way to our room, the lights went back on. We also ran into our waiter, who had come upstairs to bring us a candle.

Day 1 was nice and pleasant, and we made plans to go skiing on Tuesday.

(Photos: Our car on the train and the snow-covered lake.)

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