“This is a hotel, right?”
“Do you have rooms?”
“Yes. How long would you like the room?”
“For one night.”
“The whole night? You mean until morning?” It was 11:00 P.M. The woman at the desk seemed surprised by Audrey’s response.
“Don't worry I clean the room and change the sheets after every client. Everything is clean,” she assured us, showing us a room with a day bed.
It did look clean and she agreed to get some new sheets and towels, so we took it. Thank heavens for sleep sacks, anyway.
“You are my first American clients,” she beamed. “If you need anything, just find me. My name is Galina.” First all-night clients, too, we thought.
Audrey paid for the room at the front desk and noticed a ledger detailing the rooms and times they were booked.
“I have a bigger room next door. It will be available after midnight,” Galina explained. Who knew midnight was such a popular time to finish up your business in Kazakhstan? The curfew time of married men, perhaps?
“Do you want to watch TV? If so, I'll ask my husband to plug it in and turn it on. Some former clients ripped it out of the wall. Now he needs to install it each time.”
A little rough-housing, we figured.
We were so exhausted from our experience at the border, we enjoyed a bit of “Dangerous Minds” on our little abused TV, put in our earplugs (the place did seem pretty busy after all) and slept until mid-morning.
After we checked-out, we elicited some strange looks from the taxis waiting in front of the hotel. “Not accustomed to clients with large backpacks?” Dan inquired. More looks. That’s the great thing about being a tourist. You can sleep at a hotel-by-the-hour and not really care what the locals think. After all, it isn’t your country and you can simply plead ignorance.
So next time you are on a limited budget and need a place to stay in Shymkent, Kazakhstan look no further than the hotels-by-the-hour near the train station. Once you overcome the initial weirdness, they are pretty clean and inexpensive, particularly by Kazakh standards ($20/night for a double). And if you want to take a nap before a train or bus, there is nothing odd in asking for a room for 2 hours. Just be sure to bring an open mind, a sense of humor, your sleep sack…and your earplugs.