Traveling On Trains – KL to Moscow in 5 Weeks (Part Four)

written by Carolyn Chon March 5, 2015

The second last of this series takes place in Kazakhstan! I apologize for taking so long to finish this, but to sit down, select photos and write a passable to decent piece of adventure time memoirs does take up one’s time, and usually you need a mood for it. Excuses aside, I hope that by the end of this series you are curious and inspired to start traveling on trains to see the world. I cannot stress enough on how much more you get to see, smell and experience when traveling on a train. Go do it already!

China out, Kazakhstan in.

We left Yining, China at the break of dawn. Much to our very pleasant surprise, the bus wasn’t meant to pack us in like sardines as our previous bus ride from Mengla to Kunming. This bus was a real delight, the bed was spacious enough for us to turn comfortably and the aisle in bus was turned into a communal like area. Laid out with a long carpet, the locals would spend most of their time seated there when they were not on the bed sleeping.

Couldn't have said a more beautiful goodbye to China.

Couldn’t have said a more beautiful goodbye to China.

 

Our very cosy ride for the next 13 hours to Almaty, Kazkhstan.

Our very cosy ride for the next 13 hours to Almaty, Kazkhstan.

 

Most of the time people would gather on the floor area than on the bed.

Most of the time people would gather on the floor area than on the bed.

 

The ride to Almaty provided us with many beautiful views of some of Kazakhstan's landscapes.

The ride to Almaty provided us with many beautiful views of some of Kazakhstan’s landscapes.

 

It was nice to be in and out of sleep and waking up to wide horizons like this.

It was nice to be in and out of sleep and waking up to wide horizons like this.

 

Would definitely want to come back to Kazakhstan for more epic scenery.

Would definitely want to come back to Kazakhstan for more epic scenery.

 

Almost there!!

Almost there!!

 

Almaty, Kazakhstan.

We couchsurfed in Almaty because to be honest, accommodation there wasn’t the cheapest and because getting by in Kazakhstan without speaking any Russian was going to be just a little bit hard. However in our case, because throughout our time in China, I was the one that did all the communicating, because I spoke Mandarin. Now, it wasn’t as if Jules took up Russian before our trip, but on the last couple of days while in China, my dear friend took the initiative to learn how to read the Cyrilic alphabet. Trust me when I say, if you’re not going to learn how to speak Russian in your lifetime, but plan on going to places that speaks the language, at least learn how to read Cyrilic.

Kazakhstan doesn’t seem to be a place flocking with tourists like Russia, Germany, China…etc. So, the people who would speak English there are at a minimal, especially if you spoke to the older generation.

We arrived at our host’s place in the evening, albeit having a bit of communication problem with our taxi driver (i have to elaborate on the taxi system later). Our host, is a one of a kind person and I’m not exaggerating in my case because I’ve never met anyone like her. I mean I’ve met many interesting people in my current lifetime, from a Zoo Designer, to an Olympian, to a real life hippie who grew up in the woods and went for Rainbow Gatherings, all thanks to my work and travels. So, back to our host, Uki. She’s a Yoga instructor, she wakes up every morning at 4 or 5 am and goes to a nearby mountain to meditate, she lives in a basic home, and I mean basic. Her unit consists of floor mats, a small breakfast table with two chairs, a fridge, kitchen cabinet, stove and a built-in wardrobe. Yup, she sleeps on the floor. Now, to be honest I don’t think it’s cos she can’t afford stuff, but she chooses to live a life that simple and finally, she’s a fruitarian. Yup, she only lives on fruits and has been for the past 6-7 years. How amazing!!

Apparently, she’s very likely the only couch-surfer who actually hosts people in Almaty. Once, she had up to about 10-12 people surfing at her place! What an awesome girl! While we were there, there were also 3 German girls surfing, so we had a simple home-cooked breakfast and made sure we bought fruits for Uki at the market.

 

Our minimalist host's place.

Our minimalist host’s place.

 

Eins, zwei, drei

Eins, zwei, drei

 

Home-cooked brekkie by Jules. You see the funny looking siliconed shaped bread like thing? The one in the middle? That's smoked stringed cheeze. Best thing ever! I bought a couple and tried very, very hard to make it last till the end of my trip.

Home-cooked brekkie by Jules. You see the funny looking siliconed shaped bread like thing? The one in the middle? That’s smoked stringed cheeze. Best thing ever! I bought a couple and tried very, very hard to make it last till the end of my trip.

 

Morning marketing before brekkie.

Morning marketing before brekkie.

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Smile please!

 

Almaty’s city trains were relatively new and their stations were quite good looking. I liked how the escalator looked like it went on forever, it kinda felt like it did. I think Jules timed it and it took about almost 2 minutes, or wait, that could be in Russia. Hah. Anyway, we checked out a market and bought ourselves some old stuff, Jules bought herself a mouthpiece organ, okay, I don’t know what’s it called. We checked out a Catholic church and hung around for a bit while Jules sketched it. As we were minding our own business, sitting on a bench outside it, an elderly lady walked up to Jules and told her not to sit cross-legged! We were somewhat dumbfounded, but hey, when you’re told off by a local, just obey whatever rules they have.

Next, we went to a food market and got ourselves some cheese. Mmmmmmmmm, Cheese. (exactly how Homer would say it)

 

Symmetry here...

Symmetry here…

 

...symmetry there.

…symmetry there.

 

Practicing busking skills for our next trip.

Jules practicing busking skills for our next trip.

 

Oh hi, beautiful Church.

Oh hi, beautiful Church.

 

Sit properly Jules! No crossing of legs allows in Church compound.

Sit properly Jules! No crossing of legs allowed in Church compound.

 

Next to the church was also a small park.

Next to the church was also a small park.

 

Summer time plants.

Summer time plants.

 

Went to a food market in the evening.

Went to a food market in the evening.

 

Cos' Jules loves visiting food markets.

Cos’ Jules loves visiting food markets.

 

Us checking out cheese.

Us checking out cheese.

 

Yummmmmm

Yummmmmm

 

Then we met up with the German girls and had locak Kazakh dinner!

Then we met up with the German girls and had locak Kazakh dinner!

 

While we were in Almaty, a Kazkh friend whom I met and befriended with in KL was back home! So, naturally she was obligated to play host for a bit and took us around. They took us out for dinner one night, and then after dinner she took us to Medeo, the highest skating rink in the world! Needless to say, it was freezing up there even though it was summer. She also took us this place where many locals would go to to get their pre-wedding/engagement shoot done.

This is where all the couples go to.

This is where all the couples go to.

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The one of the left is Dinara, who brought us around!

 

We met up with Dinara the next day for one last meal in Almaty, before we made our way to Shymkent on a bus, we headed to Shymkent to catch our last train ride of the trip! Yup, the last train to Moscow!!

 

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Bidding farewell to Dinara and her cute lil’ brother.

 

Huge stop as we made our way to to Shymkent. Food in Kazakhstan I have to say, is pretty decent comparing to China.

Huge stop as we made our way to to Shymkent. Food in Kazakhstan I have to say, is pretty decent comparing to China.

 

Roadside stall.

Roadside stall.

 

Shymkent train station.

Shymkent train station.

 

Shymkent to Moscow.

We took an early train out of Shymkent, this was going to be our longest train ride of all. A whole 60hours! Were we worried? Not really. We were getting excited about it and about Moscow, our final destination. Our 60 hours spent on the train was made really, really awesome and sweet by the locals we met. Obviously, we were fed again! It wasn’t easy for us to communicate, but we managed to, one of the girls spoke the best and she would act as a translator on behalf of her two friends. I think I’ll look her up as well the next time I go back to Kazakhstan, which I hope to be in the near future!

One of the many sights from the train.

One of the many sights from the train.

 

I think this is a Mausoleum., then again I'm just taking a wild guess.

I think this is a Mausoleum, then again I’m just taking a wild guess.

 

Gorgeous sunset light in our train.

Gorgeous sunset light in our train.

 

This lady was like our mama bear, she was the one who helped us translate as she spoke some English.

This lady was like our mama bear, she was the one who helped us translate as she spoke some English.

 

Food compartment.

Food compartment.

 

This is the other bunch who made our 60 hours on the train so wonderful.

This is the other bunch who made our 60 hours on the train so wonderful.

 

Train conductor's cabin.

Train conductor’s cabin.

 

Another sunset.

Another sunset.

 

Rainy morning somewhere in the middle of Russia.

Rainy morning somewhere in the middle of Russia.

 

 

Stepping out onto Russian soil for the first time!

Stepping out onto Russian soil for the first time!

 

A bit of morning light peeking through.

A bit of morning light peeking through.

 

Almost there!

Almost there!

 

Okay, so that’s all for now. The next one will be the last and final part of this series where we get into Moscow! If you haven’t started from the first three parts, here are the links to it :

1. Part One : KL-CHINA

2. Part Two :  CHINA

3. Part Three :  CHINA

I promise not to take too long for the last part of the series!