Travel notes from a trip to Alma-Ata. Mobile communication, phones and people


Fees to Kazakhstan for several days do not take much time. I throw a book into a suitcase in the hope

that there is time to read.There will be no time, I know about it in advance - how many such books traveled around the world and returned home. Their time came later. The forecast promises temperatures like in Moscow - light snow and near zero.

My journey starts at Sheremetyevo, girlat the check-in desk says that the plane is packed to capacity, but finds a seat by the window. In the morning, mountains meet me, in the dawn haze they look amazing. The mountain ranges behind the porthole immediately captivate, this is the first impression when you arrive in Alma-Ata.

Nearly a five hour flight and the plane taxis tosleeve of the local airport, which remained from the times of the USSR, but was completed and rebuilt several times. And now, next to the main building, the construction of another building is slowly going on. A small airport that does not meet the needs of Alma-Ata, everything is crowded, people scurry about, touching each other. There is no place for excesses in the form of toilets in the arrivals area, you need to stand behind your suitcase near the baggage belt and only then go outside.

The booths of customs officers resemble the oldSheremetyevo, their roots are exactly from there, from the USSR. A small circle with a microphone that records all conversations, a webcam hangs on the table, they ask me to take off my glasses and look through the peephole. The officer holds the camera at arm's length, checking something on the computer. No questions about the purpose of the visit, no conversations, everything happens slowly and in complete silence.


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I got my luggage, I go out into the outside world, and I'm herebut taxi drivers are clinging to each other, who vying with each other offer to take them to the city inexpensively: “Brother, it’s not far, I’ll take you in the best possible way, let’s go.” Escalators go to the second floor, one of them is broken, but there is a toilet opposite. For the first time in many years I see that there is a queue in the men's toilet, a dozen men in front of me, since there are only three booths, the same number of urinals. We hesitate in a corner, new passengers come up and look at the line in the same surprise, not understanding how this is possible. The man in front of me dives into the booth, from there it is heard: “Your mother!”. But, judging by the rustle, he still decided to stay in it. I conclude that they did not have time to clean up after someone not very clean.

An airport is a microcosm that reflects manythings. I am going to exchange dollars for tenge in order to be able to pay on the spot. There are no people who want it, except for me, the girl is sad in the booth, the course is unprofitable. It doesn’t matter to me, the amount is small, I’ll spend more on a taxi in the city. Money is bright, unusual, without understanding the dimension and their real value, they are perceived as candy wrappers. Bills of 10 and 20 thousand are very similar, they can be confused. My colleague paid for something in the city, accidentally mixed up the bills, but the seller took advantage of his inattention and did not say anything.

In a small stall selling chocolate, water andother food, they also offer to purchase SIM-cards. I ask the girls which operator works best, I hear in response - any. For the Internet, they advise me to take Tele2, it has nothing to do with our company. There are also packages with Beeline SIM-cards.

For a package with the Internet in 17 GB they ask me 8,500tenge (1,400 rubles), I understand that it is expensive, so it turns out later. On the operator's website, such a package costs 3,800 tenge, and the SMS that came to the phone says exactly the same.

In five minutes, the girls connect the tariff,check that everything works and give me the phone. In addition to connected roaming from MTS, I got a local connection. Roaming needs to be said separately, the prices from Russian operators vary greatly, and MTS with the Zabugorishche option is perhaps the most profitable. Others are not pleased with the prices at all.

We are going on the bus, the conference has arrivedabout fifty people. Go to the city, and we live almost in the center, about 40 minutes. A narrow road, cars gathered in a traffic jam, our guide, a young girl, says that traffic jams in Alma-Ata are like in Moscow. She has not been to our capital, but these comparative epithets “like in Moscow” sound very often, as if the inhabitants of Alma-Ata try on their life to that in the capital of Russia. In a few days I heard from different people this “like in Moscow” about restaurants, shops, service. Either they adjusted to me as a tourist and tried to give an understandable introduction, or Moscow really acts as a starting point, a kind of quality mark.

On the road, I entertain myself with speed measurements,the local SIM-card is not happy, moreover, the connection periodically disappears altogether. There is already a city around, we crawl like a snail, but suddenly the base station signal flashes and the connection disappears. They call from the radio, a conversation of several minutes is constantly interrupted, painful sensations, forgotten impressions of the ragged coverage of the mobile network.

The local Tele2 belongs to Kazakhtelecom, itthe largest telecom company in the country, a kind of national champion. We can say that Kazakhtelecom is the Kazakh version of Rostelecom. They have mobile operators in their portfolio - Tele2/Altel, Kcell/Activ, as well as broadband access, communication lines and many other services. The main offices are located in Astana and Alma-Ata. Walking through the center, I captured the office of Kazakhtelecom, it is so atmospheric, as if it had descended from the pages of the Marvel Universe and now the struggle between good and evil will begin here. It is possible that such an impression is created by houses located like a book in the background.

A few words about Alma-Ata for you to understandthe size of the city and how it is located. Around the mountain, you can almost always see them, unless you are in the center, where development can hide them from view. The city is actually located in a large valley, there are almost no winds, and the houses are very dusty. Dark smudges are almost everywhere, the white quickly becomes worn and turns into all shades of gray.

Cause the air is worth, twopower plants smoke, plus a quarter of a million cars drive on the roads every day. Local residents stubbornly overestimate the number of vehicles, they talk about a million cars. Official statistics stubbornly refute such words - there are a quarter of a million of them in the city, and about the same number in the region. The desire to exaggerate a little is generally typical for Almaty residents, but they do it not from evil and without intent, they really believe in the numbers they call. For example, it is believed that about 3-3.5 million people live in Almaty. The most recent official statistics I could find are 2.1 million people. A million visitors boldly add to this figure, and not from Russia, but primarily from Kazakhstan, the city is the center of attraction.

People on the streets are dressed discreetly, you can evensay that the bulk of the poor. In shopping centers, of which there are plenty, you will see a different audience, and there are also many of them. The stratification in society is clearly visible, for the first time in several years I see a lot of poor people who beg for alms on the streets of the city. A walk through the center from the Green Bazaar through the city park to the local Arbat, almost a dozen beggars beg, they are all Russian. At the end of the walk, a heavily built man in his forties, who looks like an ordinary hard worker, also asks for money. I apologize and refuse, in response I hear: “What should I do, how can I live without work? You all say no, what should I do now to die here? He doesn't look downcast, that's the way things are. While I find the exchanger and return back, it has gone cold. There is an unpleasant gnawing feeling inside. On the other hand, a small amount will not solve his problem. There are too many beggars, and they are practically everywhere.

Last time I was in Alma-Ata for about six yearsback, before that a few more times. I did not have the impression that there were so many beggars, I did not see them. At the same time, Kazakhstan lives richly in comparison with its neighbors, in Uzbekistan the standard of living is much lower, not to mention Kyrgyzstan. The country looks strong in the region, and the changes that have taken place over the years are tangible - modern shopping centers, restaurants and cafes, there are more different cars on the streets. The standard of living has clearly grown, although it remains quite low for the average resident of the country.

I move around the city by taxi, here you canuse Yandex.Taxi, the company accepts rubles and independently converts them into tenge. You don’t see at what rate this happens, but the cost of travel is small, fifteen to twenty minutes by car will cost 300 rubles in economy class, 500 rubles in business class. Business here is Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry and similar cars, they are tired and battered. I didn’t even try to order in the economy, I saw them from the side, they were just as tired, but the models were quite inexpensive.

On trips around the city from time to time I check,how mobile internet works Quite well, although there are gaps in the coating, they are noticeable. The base stations stick out randomly, the feeling that there was no planning as such, they put the stations where it was possible. An interesting observation: in modern shopping centers, the speed of mobile Internet is higher than outside - obviously the developers have tried and agreed with the operators.

Kazakhstan does not yet have 5G as such,you can try the experimental zones in Alma-Ata on Panfilov street while you walk along it, or go to Shymbulak, a ski resort, where the Medeo high-altitude skating rink is located below. In 2011, good booths were installed, climbing up turned into a pleasure. At the top you will find a sign that 5G from Tele2 reigns here.

Such experimental zones appeared at the end of 2021years, in 2023 they plan to develop further. I had an incident on my mountain, the phone did not have enough connection from Tele2 for a long time at normal speed, it showed only 3G. Swapping SIM-cards in other devices did not help, 4G did not appear. About thirty minutes later, he suddenly appeared by itself, the speed was not bad.

I attribute this to the peculiarities of billing, hardlymy phones are responsible for this. But in fairness, my models are not listed on the Tele2 website, only devices of previous generations support the experimental zone. I do not think that there are any restrictions on models, but what if?

The mountains are beautiful, and many go for them, andride at the same time. Shymbulak is frankly beautiful, good trails and low prices for Russian residents. So, a pass for those who ski will cost about 500 rubles per day, and if you rent skis, equipment and a locker, then everything will cost about 3,000 rubles per day at the upper limit. While riding the lifts, chatting with the locals, they like to ride, but they say that the prices bite.

In one of the booths under the bench lay Go Pro,saw him and said so. Immediately next to him, the boy quickly picked it up and began to examine the video on it. He turned out to be the resort's staff photographer, and I would like to believe he was going to look for the owner, but we agreed that this is the most unlikely scenario in this story.

Out of curiosity - our guide, a young girl, in myThe question of where to go to look at electronics stores was advised by 2GIS: “We all use these cards, they are from a Russian company, they are very convenient, they work without the Internet.” Imbued with these words, at the same time they show that people are sensitive to the presence of a network and the consumption of mobile traffic. In Russia, they have long been calmer about this, they are more likely to be wasteful - too large Internet packages, or unlimited traffic remained on the old tariffs.

In Google Maps, a separate attraction was waiting for me, inKazakhstan has its own culture, where dots on the map act as advertising banners: “iPhone 13 Pro repair is inexpensive.” Agree that it looks amazing, but what is. And there are dozens of such "ads", they are easily found, people have adapted someone else's system, and there is no moderation as such in it.

One of the days we went to the mountains, there we were waiting for an aulet(Easy to remember, almost like an outlet). I heard this word for the first time, I'm not even sure that I spelled it correctly. This is a village where close relatives live. I saw a huge number of ethnographic villages and settlements, but this one in Alma-Ata made a huge impression. At the entrance, guards on horseback met us, then showered us with sweets, and everything promised the usual set of entertainment.

But then magic happened, people are soin love with the culture of their people, they talk about it so beautifully that it captures. With us, bursaks were made, which could be eaten right there, all this was accompanied by stories about traditions. Horse riding was amazing, young guys and girls showed miracles of dexterity.

And there were many other things - archery, national cuisine, stories about hunting and more. From the bottom of my heart I recommend that you set aside time for this if you are in Alma-Ata.

  • Original photos (zip, 60 MB)

Electronics stores are different here, for example,In the Green Bazaar, SIM cards are sold in a tent with flashy headlines, which is no different from our trading format in the markets. Inside the SIM cards are hidden, the main product is completely different.

The bazaar itself is a place of attraction for tourists, herea lot of stuff, you need to bargain. The price of dried fruits is smoothly reduced by four times after I, having bypassed the rows, am about to leave. In principle, this is not the limit, if I were a local resident, the price would be even lower. But by the standards of Moscow, you can buy everything very cheaply. I take a hot cake and go to the 28 Panfilov Park, I want to look into the church and look at the pigeons.

Let's go back to the shops.There are large stores in shopping centers, there are separate stores of companies, for example, Samsung. There are few differences from Russian namesakes, but the goods displayed on the shelves are not so diverse, the choice is clearly biased in favor of affordable models. I observe several conversations, in each of them potential buyers are interested in the guarantee and what is included in it. The conclusion is simple - people come to large shopping centers for "original" goods with a guarantee. It is also a kind of category of buyers, with us this phenomenon was massive at the beginning of the 2000s, then it began to fade away, as the guarantee became widespread. Now, however, the circle has turned and everything has become different again.

A few words about the hotel, it is typical for Alma-Ataand the region as a whole. Large rooms, if not huge, the more space the better. Fairly simple materials in the decoration, but an attempt to give weight to the whole story. Ironically, the hotel defines its grandeur by the size of the crystal chandelier in the lobby. The bigger, the better.

Our colleague lost money from his room, the amountnot prohibitively high, about 45 thousand tenge. Unpleasant. It turns out that the guys read reviews about the hotel and mentioned such stories that happened before the departure. The feeling of this event lubricates the purity of emotions from the trip.

In the evening before we leave, we have a farewell dinner,the business part of the conference is over, so the smoke is like a yoke, everyone communicates and chats on any topic. As usual, we confess our love for each other, for companies, read poems from the stage and sing. The entertainment part of the program is songs, national dances.

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That evening it began to snow, and the city turned into something fabulous, fluffy snow fell quietly from the sky, falling asleep all around.

You can write about Kazakhstan for a long time, the country is verybeautiful, people are sympathetic, but, just like everywhere else, there is ordinary life, which can be different, good or bad. In no case did I want to offend anyone with my observations, I did not hatch such plans. These are travel notes that do not pretend to be complete and deep, what I managed to see in a few days. I hope that they will give you the opportunity to look at Alma-Ata and see what caught my eye. At the same time, I managed to try out the Galaxy S23 Ultra, prepare interesting pictures for review, get rid of the dullness of February Moscow. Although there was no such goal, I flew on a business trip, and it went very well.