I arrived in Beyneu about five days earlier than I had expected having decided to accept a lift from someone across the desert. This turned out to be a stroke of luck as if I had only had the one rest day here that I had planned I would only have been able to do everything Beyneu has to offer twice…and that I can assure you is not enough.
This town is an undiscovered jewel of western Kazakhstan, it has everything you could possibly be looking for: if you have low to no expectations. I am just disappointed that I will be unable to share my experiences here with anyone else in person. I am unable to understand why there are no other tourists here; I cannot imagine that the freezing cold, muddy sand/sandy mud, lack of any attractions, terrible food and inconvenient location would put anyone off from one of central Asia’s up and coming rural towns.
I feel it is my duty to let the world know what they missing and to write a short guide about the city. I hope people appreciate it, as every moment I spend inside writing about Beyneu is a moment I am missing being outside enjoying Beyneu.
I have walked across a lot of the town and feel I have a good idea of what it has to offer. I have to admit that I have not seen it all – I wanted to leave some parts undiscovered in case I ever come back. The centre is dominated by a huge three metre high monument to something (it might also be a sculpture) that is so awe inspiring it literally leaves you wondering what the point of it all is.
The monument is surrounded by a square that has used minimalist ideas to great effect and that has absolutely nothing else of interest in it. This really helps make the monument/sculpture the centrepiece of both the square and in fact the whole town. The designers of Trafalgar Square should take note, is it really necessary to have so much or indeed anything going on artistically and architecturally in a public space?
In Beyneu they take gilding the lily to a whole new level; not content with the wondrous soviet architecture of their apartment blocks they make them even more amazing to look at by painting beautiful murals on their sides:
Not only this, on some of their buildings they put photos of benevolent older gentlemen watching you as you go about your business. As I walked past this particular example I got a warm feeling of safety and security.
Forget about Istanbul or Marrakesh, the one bazaar you have to see is in Beyneu. Instead of walking for hours around a giant grand bazaar and getting lost and missing seeing the rest of the city you can spend five minutes in Beyneu’s bazaar and see literally everything and stand no chance of being lost! I came away with exactly the same goods I would have done in a much larger more ornate example of a bazaar too: nothing.
One stall had an incredible five types of honey:
The stall holder was generous enough to let me try three types and wasn’t even annoyed when I didn’t buy any.
The shooting range
Seeing this sign above a door I thought it was a hunting shop where I might be able to buy handwarmers:
Was I ever wrong! Instead, behind the door is perhaps Beyneu’s equivalent of Disneyland: the town shooting range.
With two air rifles and bunch of tin animals to shoot at it is a peach of a place.
What actually makes it worth visiting is the attendant: Muktar. A very kind and generous guy who let me shoot for free and really took an interest in my trip. It is actually worth going there just to say Hi to him. He was also the most dapper guy I had seen in weeks.
I’m pretty sure this is the town’s mosque:
I may be wrong, I have been before.
People in Beyneu are very friendly and many of them like to have their photo taken if you are seen with a camera:
It turned out this guy actually just wanted money:
Looking back on my photos it seems it is mainly the middle aged men of Beyneu who like to have their photo taken.
Beyneu is chock full of useful services. If you have just come out of the desert it is like a very muddy oasis with no palm trees or dates. That said it does have camels and sand.
Anyway I digress.
Beyneu has ATMs, in at least three different places. This was lucky as the first one I went to had run out of money so I had to be led by a nice lady to the next one.
There was a very big queue at the ATM the day after it was refilled:
Beyneu also has a post office!
and an awesome post van:
I may even test it if I can find a postcard to send.
One of its key services is the train station which is probably connected to all these wonderful places:
Though why anyone would want to leave Beyneu is beyond me. Saying that, I suppose people have to get here somehow and the road is definitely not the best option!
In this photo you can see the street of mobile phone shops:
The people here were very helpful and helped me buy a sim card allowing me to access the internet on my phone for a very reasonable price. It only took around an hour and five different people to get this job done! Sometimes I wonder if I really need the internet here as I can just stare out of my window and watch incredible sights unfold.
Beyneu has other shops too. It is possible to buy many different kinds of goods here and as long as you don’t care about quality you’ll be happy.
Beyneu Hotels: Where to stay?
My initial reaction to this question would be “another place completely” but that wouldn’t be helpful to anyone else staying/stuck here. Beyneu actually has a surprisingly good selection of hotels for such a small/rubbish place. I have managed to find five and wouldn’t rule out there being more.
Of the five, I have stayed in two and been in one other. Please note that all prices are for single occupancy.
The first place I stayed at was the hotel Duman:
This hotel has the benefit of being on the edge of town so you can at least pretend you are somewhere else. It is also fairly reasonably priced. For 3000 tenge you get a twin room with access to shared toilets and showers. The toilets are clean but squats. The showers are good: clean with hot water.
Duman also has a restaurant which serves breakfast and dinner for sure and probably lunch if you ask. The food was reasonably priced and pretty tasty I’ve come to realise having eaten in other places in town.
They also had a small cupboard I could store my bike in.
The only issues I had were that my room was hotter than the fires of hell and opening the window barely made an impact.
I imagine you could negotiate the price of the room if you were staying longer than a night.
The second place I stayed at is the Hotel Aknur:
This is where I spent the majority of my stay and was happy with the place. It has the benefit of a manager who speaks enough English to negotiate with. As a result of this I got a 5000 tenge a night room for 3000 tenge as I was staying for four nights. The room in question was a double with an ensuite bathroom with a shower and western toilet. Everything was very clean and new (apparently the hotel had only been open a month).
The hotel is also close to the centre of town making it easier to reach the wide variety of shops on offer.
There is a restaurant where breakfast and dinner are available on request.
I was told there was also a non ensuite twin room on offer for 3000 tenge (2000 tenge per night if staying for four nights). This room had access to a shared toilet but no shower. Apparently there are plans to install a communal shower soon. Also the manager said they were planning on getting WiFi.
The staff are very nice too, perhaps a little overly eager to please as I kept getting knocks on my door – once to ask if I wanted a fridge in my room and another time a kettle. Also the cleaning lady reorganised my stuff as I clearly hadn’t put it away very efficiently!
I went inside the Hotel Arna to see if I could use their WiFi.
This was possible for the extortionate sum of 1000 tenge for an hour (about GBP 4) after much discussion and phone calls to managers. Rooms were apparently 5500 tenge a night, I didn’t see them. Access to WiFi would be included in that.
I don’t know much about the other two hotels, other than that this one was by the station and looked seedy:
Probably good for one night if on a budget.
And this one which has 3 stars apparently:
Personally I am very happy with the Aknur, as stated the people are nice if a little overly keen.
With the language barrier I am probably missing a lot of what the city has to offer from a culinary perspective…actually scratch that I see what other people are eating I am not missing anything.
My staple in Beyneu is the Samsa, this is a bad samosa made with minced meat and onions. They are cheap at 50 tenge and do have a bit of nutritional value.
Samsa are normally sold out of small shops. Here are some photos of the most famous of the Samsa shops in Beyneu:
One night I ate at this restaurant:
Given how my stomach felt afterwards I would not advise that you do so. Their borsht and shashlik were pretty bad tasting to top it off. Hotel food has been the same price and of a better quality.