I decided to only stay in Kazakhstan for two weeks, even though the country is massive. I had to start making my way to the other Stan countries so I decided to skip Nur-Sultan (formerly known as Astana) because I’d read it was a place that, I quote, “deserves to be sucked into a black hole”. Not that I always listen to what other bloggers say, but I looked the city up and it just looks… meh? People compared it to Dubai, which doesn’t interest me at all, so I decided to skip that 22 hour train ride and just head south instead. I looked on the map of places to go to before my last stop Shymkent and I found Taraz. I thought it sounded interesting because it’s one of the most ancient cities in the country and was a nodal point on the northern branch of the Great Silk Way. Also, the train ride from Almaty “only” took 8 hours and cost me 4,000 tenge. Not too bad, I thought. If only I’d know that the train ride would be the best thing about Taraz.
I came with no expectations and I’m really happy for that because otherwise I’d just be really disappointed. Perhaps it was because the weather was grey, or the fact that my couchhost was an absolute A-HOLE, but I just didn’t like it. The only redeeming thing about Taraz was the café I sat and worked in for 4 hours, just so that time would go faster. It’s called “Discovery Coffee” and the address is Abay 128.
Taraz is quite a small city if you compare it to Almaty. You can easily see everything within a few hours, if you skip Aysha-Bibi like I did (it’s 18 km from Taraz). If you do find yourself in Taraz though, I recommend you going to Karahan Mausoleum, Central Mosque, Ancient Taraz Park and just walk around in the city centre. Spend maximum a few hours here or better yet – skip it. There’s not much to do here at all and I thought even one full day was more than enough for me. As soon as I came to Shymkent, which is only 2 hours away with taxi from Taraz (price is between 1,500-2,000 tenge, never more), I was so happy and relieved. Taraz, you are one weird city and I’m never coming back.
I booked a hostel through Booking.com at Hostel House in Taraz on my first night. I paid 2.000 tenge for one night. It was just me and about 3 other guests there who were cycling through Central Asia so don’t expect any atmosphere here. Also, don’t trust mapsme or Yandex when you “Hostel House” as address. It’ll take you somewhere else. The address is Zhambyl Avenue 51. Pin it on your google maps, it knows the correct address.