I meandered my way back into the republic of Kazakhstan thanks to a clever visa free passport switch at the border (Irish for Uzbek visa, British for Kazak visa free entry). The toughest part of my Central Asian adventure was over and I’d escaped Uzbekistan. The countries of Kazakhstan and Kyrgzstan were up next, both on repeat. Internet had been horrific in the previous five regions (Tajikistan, Gorno Badakhshan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Karakalpakstan) so it was time to get online again and get some work done. I also wanted a private room and an ensuite. Hot water was also an issue in Uzbekistan (though as a long term backpacker, cold water showers are not something I’d moan about – but somehow just any excuse to have a dig at the Uzbek culture!). I was so excited at the thought of staying in a Boutique Hotel with a Japanese history and exploring a new city I knew nothing about – Shymkent, Shimmy, Shy Kent etc.
I was aware of a few budget hotels in downtown Shymkent but I decided to give them a miss in favour of the Orbita Boutique Hotel. It just stood out as the best place to get online again after the horrendously slow internet in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Plus it has some history and character – it was built in the 1950s by Japanese prisoners of war. To remember this history, Japanese numbering has been restored to the rooms, the place is run by a cool guy Vadim and a traditional Japanese ship is now used in the logo of the hotel.
As for the city itself, there’s something peaceful and endearing about shy Shymkent in Kazakhstan. Most other backpackers simply use this as a quick base or passover city/ changeover city on route to other places. In four days, I’ve loved the charm and character of it, give it more time please. It pumps out a pleasant winter beat, the Soviet era seemingly passing the city by with raucous aplomb. For the following five reasons, the Orbita Boutique Hotel was the place to be.
1.Boutique Charming Rooms
My bedroom was brilliant, one of the best I’ve had in Central Asia. I was in room 3, cosy in the corner with a desk, a clean ensuite and even a television with BBC on it.
As a pure bonus, I also had tea and coffee and a kettle in my room.
2.Very Friendly Staff
Greeted by Anzhela on arrival, I was given a welcome drink and shown to my cosy room. Bear in mind, I had just been backpacking in Uzbekistan which is a bit of a tough nut to crack even if you have been travelling for years. To see smiling faces here was incredible again.
Catherine, the reception manager always made sure I had everything I needed and the bar staff kept me happy!
3.Downstairs Bar – new Local
I found my new local in the bar downstairs. What surprised me most were the prices. While backpacking in Almaty touring the bars there, I couldn’t find a pint for less than 499 Tenge in pubs. But yet here, beers were so much cheaper. In this bar, I was drinking for 350 Tenge a beer, which is about $1 US!
You’ll notice me saying this a lot, but the Central Asian countries are woeful for digital nomads and for working online. I had neglected e-mails and important clients for about 2 weeks by the time I got here. The amount of times I clicked send on e-mails in Uzbekistan only for the internet to crash, was ridiculous and excruciatingly frustrating.
5.Choice of Three Great Breakfasts
The breakfast at Orbita Boutique Hotel has three choices every day and I made sure I tried all three. They have a Kazak style breakfast (gorgeous cottage cheese, raisin and dough balls with sour cream), a continental option (porridge, cheese, bread, fruit) and an English style option (eggs and bacon). I stayed four days, four nights in the end as this was a perfect base to blog, plan my trip back into Kyrgyzstan and of course go backpacking through Shymkent’s top sights and a day trip to Turkistan. Breakfast set me up each day superbly, here are some breakfast photos.
I also loved the city of Shymkent, a bit of an under-rated city for sure in my travel repertoire and a city that rolls off the tongue nicely.
Here are the details for booking the Orbita Boutique Hotel in Shymkent, Kazakhstan:
Address : 160000 Kazakhstan Republic, Shymkent city, Abay av., 27
Phone: +7 (7252) 407 271, +7 (7252) 407 287
Mobile: +7777 740 72 71
E-mail: [email protected], [email protected]
Here are my videos from my time in the Orbita Boutique Hotel in Shymkent, Kazakhstan: