It is time for some local shopping. What do you expect when you go to a store in a big shopping mall and ask for a discount for a specific item that you want so much? Most probably, you would have to wait for the sale time to come to have a chance to get it cheaper. Well, in the local market, you usually can bid the price of any item you want. The vast majority of people find the price-bidding a game or a challenge. It is called ‘bazar.’ Here is an interesting fact; in the south part of Kazakhstan, people usually go shopping to local markets on Sundays and call it 'Bazar Kun,' which in the Kazakh language literally translates to ‘The market day.’ As a local, I usually go to bazaar because it is fun, cheap, and everything that you need is gathered in one space. In this story, I would like to share some hints on finding unique local goodies and stuff of Kazakhstan in Kok Bazaar of Almaty. I will show you how to go shopping, like a local.
Pretty much every local in Almaty knows where the Kok Bazaar is. You may also call it Zelenyi bazar, which in the Russian language means the same: 'Greenmarket.' Otherwise, just google the location 2GIS. The market is located in the old city center, about 10-15 min walk from the Panfilov park and the Zenkov Cathedral. If you are at a distance of less than 1 km from there, the taxi price should be about 500 tenges ($1.20). Here is another fact: in Kazakhstan, you may stand on the verge of the street, and any car could give you a ride for the price you would like to offer. But, try this only if you speak the local language; otherwise, you might face some language barriers. On the other hand, I would suggest you use a local taxi service or take a walk. If you decide to walk there, you are advised to take the streets of Gogol, Furmanov, Kunayev, Pushkina. These are the streets of Almaty, where you might find some interesting spots before even reaching the bazaar.
The market has everything that an average person might need in their daily lifestyle: clothes, accessories, food, toys, traditional Kazakh jewelry made of silver, and many other things. The bazaar is occupying quite a huge area, and it somehow looks like a maze. It has both covered and open parts, as well as lower and upper floors. It is diverse! Make sure you got cash with you because local markets usually do not accept credit cards. The ATMs are located outside of the bazar. It is quite safe, as I have never been robbed there myself; however, you should always take care of your belongings. Pickpockets can be found anywhere. As for a tourist, I am going to give you some advice on things to get from the Kok Bazaar, which you cannot find anywhere else in the whole world.
Kazakh people are experts in making goodies out of milk products. They use cow, goat, horse, ship, and even camel milk. Just for a note, Kazakh people use the horse milk 'Kymyz' and camel milk 'Shubat,' because they are rich in vitamins. Give the local flavor a try! So, there you can also find traditional 'Kurt' - Kurt is a dried cottage cheese ball. Local markets usually give some pieces to try on the spot, so that you could decide before buying. If you find Kurt salty, there is 'Zhent and Irimshik' to try with a sweeter flavor. All of these goodies are made with milk and are very natural!
When you have many people waiting for souvenirs from you after visiting Kazakhstan, then the Kok Bazar is definitely a great solution! There is a local 'policy' according to which 'the more you buy, the more discount you can ask for.' Eventually, it depends on how you can communicate and negotiate. Apart from small souvenirs, I suggest you buy some local style slippers with Kazakh ornaments made of wool. Some stores in the market sell modern shoes from leather, too. If you want something unique and unusual, an excellent souvenir to bring home is a jewelry box made in the style of the Kazakh traditional house ‘Kyiz ui’ or Russian ‘Yurt.’
All in all, these are the main unique things that you can find only in Kazakhstan. Coming to Almaty, you should try some tasty delicacies, buy unique jewelry in Kazakh style, and cheap yet qualitative souvenirs at a fair price. It is an unforgettable experience to go shopping like a local in the Kok Bazaar of Almaty.
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