So 3 sun-starved Malaysians decided to jalan-jalan around the area of the Astana Baiterek (Viewing Tower).
As they say when in rome..... do as they do. And we hailed a taxi the Kazakh way - and that is to just stand by the roadside and raise an arm shoulder level.
Now a "taxi" can be ANY car willing to stop and give the hailers a ride (in the proper sense). For money.
Recognisable metered taxis do exist, but they are few and far between.
However the "hitcher" taxis have been absolutely reliable so far, though usually the cars look like they have seen better days, but they are warm and comfortable inside, and they get you to your destination.
We've ridden in European, Japanese and Korean makes and have been "cabbied" by people from young lads to fifty plusses. I guess taxiing's a way for them to earn an extra tenge(Kazakhstan currency) or two.
A 10 minute drive downtown in daytime may cost us 600 tenge (equivalent to about RM15), at night 1000 tenge.
The middle-aged driver we had yesterday was friendly.
"Cheena?", he asked.
"Nyet, Malaysia", we said.
"Aaaah, Malaysia...Kazakhstan... turis?".
"Aaaah, biznis..... Kazakhstan.... Astana. Malaysia?"
"Malaysia..... Kuala Lumpur"
"Aaaah, Kuala Lumpur.... Kazakstan ...tenge, Malaysia?"
"Ringgit? Skolka tenge....ringgit?" (skolka is Russian for how much)
I showed 4 fingers followed by a zero by joining my thumb and fore-finger.
"Aaaah. Malaysia.... kikboks?" He asked while gesturing with a closed fist.
"Hahaha nyet, Thailand, Thailand". But I was reminded of the interest in Muay Thai of mamasita's kain pelekat blogger.
And.... we arrived at Baiterek, paid him the 700 tenge he requested and said our spaseeba(thank you in Russian) and rehmat (thank you in Kazakh).
The authorities have shoveled the snow since
I was here last Wednesday. Note the cloudless sky.
The Baiterek is the city's icon, symbolizing a tree of peace, unifying three levels of the universe - lower, middle and celestial. We did not venture inside, preferring to walk around and take pictures, but it says in my guide-book that there is an aquarium, an art gallery and a cafe on the lower, "below ground" level, and a restaurant and a viewing gallery on the upper "celestial" level. The "trunk" is accorded the middle-level.
The area around the Baiterek is Kazakhstan's administrative centre where ministries and government offices are, much like Putrajaya.
We didn't have to walk for very long before the unforgiving cold bit - especially my 2 inadequately covered escorts who felt their ears progressively turning to ice. It must have been minus 11 degrees
We ducked into the upmarket Keruen shopping mall to get warmed up and balk at the items on display in the boutique windows.We also managed to use a Russian language kiosk machine to top up our phone credits. It took 10% off our payment as fees - and I bet it charges the telco as well. We are using Bee-line, but there is also Aktiv and K-cell.
After 40 minutes or so, we braved the cold again and walked back towards Baiterek and onwards in the direction of the President's Palace.
The President's Palace
As I understand it the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev, like our sultans, holds his position for life. Other than functions related to the appointments of parliament and government hot-shots, he is also the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as well as the life Chairman of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan. The 350-strong Assembly is not part of government but is focused on maintaining inter-ethnic concord, and promoting cultural and spiritual revival. Kazakhs look up to the President as a visionary who inspired the development of Astana as the new capital of Kazahkstan.
We had to nip into another building for warmth and comfort, where we met up with Yerlan and his family, who took us to his office for zohor prayers. Then back to sightseeing, this time travelling in the comfort of his car.
Inside the Pyramid of Peace, under the glass
roof stained with lovey-dovey doves.
No dead mummies here but maybe one fat mama.
The Pyramid also known as the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation "has been conceived and designed by architect Sir Norman Foster and inaugurated in September 2006. It contains accommodations for different religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and other faiths. It also houses a 1,500- seat opera house, a national museum of culture, a new “university of civilization”, a library and a research center for Kazakhstan’s ethnic and geographical groups. This diversity is unified within the pure form of a pyramid, 62 meters high with a 62 x 62-meter base. The building is conceived as a global center for religious understanding, the renunciation of violence and the promotion of faith and human equality. The Pyramid of Peace expresses the spirit of Kazakhstan, where cultures, traditions and representatives of various nationalities coexist in piece, harmony and accord. Bathed in the golden and pale blue glow of the glass (colors taken from the Kazakhstan flag), 200 delegates from the world’s main religions and faiths will meet every three years in a circular chamber — based on the United Nations Security Council meeting room in New York. ; Height: 77 m (252.62 ft), total area: 25,500 sq.m.; Accommodates: Opera Hall for 1,500 seats, The Museum of National History, The Research Center of World Religions, Library of Spiritual Religious Literature, Exhibition and conference rooms" - from Wikipedia
A section of the interior wall nearer the roof is lined
with plants and flowers
The younger Kazakh is a visitor from
London. The more mature one is Yerlan.
- the guide at the Pyramid
I am not able to discern a common look in the Kazakhs as there are 100 different ethnicities making up the population.
- Kazakh, 44 percent
- Russian, 36 percent
- Ukrainian, 5 percent
- German, 4 percent
- Tatars and Uzbeks, 2 percent each
- Azerbaijanis, Uygurs, and Belarusians, 1 percent each
- Ninety other nationalities, 4 percent.
With our "nephew" Azizali.
He can sense if someone's good or bad.
He can sense if someone's good or bad.
And with the beautiful Zhannara who
cooked us a fantastic meal on Saturday
This is only half of it
Will tell more later... Insha Allah