We arrived in Almaty at 7 am in the morning. A quick trip through the grumpy customs officials and I was off to the hotel. The taxi driver said that it would cost 5000 tenge to get to the($30) airport. This seemed a fair price.
Once we arrived at the hotel, the taxi driver said it would be 21,500 tenge ($125). Yeah right. Apparently, the taxi driver had said 500 tenge per kilometer at the airport. Perhaps it was the jet lag or perhaps he was trying to take advantage of some poor American soul. Whatever the case, there was no way I was paying $125.
I told him that in Moscow where it takes two hours to get to the hotel, I only pay $50. There was no way he was getting $125. He kept trying to convince me, but saw I was going to budge. He started to come down on price and we finally agreed to 7000 tenge ($40).
I went in and checked in at the Intercontinental Hotel and slept for 5 hours. I was picked up at the hotel and whisked off for some meetings in regards to our proposed operations there. An hour and a half later, we had agreed in principle.
It was time for my hosts to show me Almaty. We went to a traditional Kazakh restaurant. My host ordered at least 5 entrees off the menu (at least as far as I could tell since I don’t speak Russian). The first two dishes came and my plate was piled high by my hosts. The food was very tasty, seasoned well. The next two entrees came and my plate was piled high again. I could tell my hosts were very keen on knowing how I liked Kazakh food. It actually tasted quite good.
Finally there was one more round of entrees, but I couldn’t hardly eat anymore. I made sure and give lots of compliments through the translator to my hosts.
As were were taking the taxi back to the hotel, I asked the translator what exactly we had had for lunch. Her reply was “Pony, pork, and horse”. Lovely.
They picked me up again at 8 pm for another round. They tried to go to a couple of clubs that were full, we ended up at a nice restaurant. The drinking and eating continued until about 11 PM. At this point, I told them I would have to heard back to the hotel as my flight was leaving at 3 AM.
My hosts were very gracious the whole time and Almaty was suprisingly a very good city, that felt a lot like Kiev rather than Moscow.