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Asia » Turkmenistan » Ashgabat
October 1st 2008
Published: October 4th 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

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I am a bit behind with this journal as Turkmenistan was pretty tight with internet access. I couldn't get phone access as well. After Bukhara we went to Khiva - wandered around more amazing buildings and bazaars. From there we travelled across the border into Turkmenistan. The Border towns had not seen many tourists so we had a lot of attention as we were changing money and shopping in the bazaar.

We had a couple of days of bush camping as we made our way through the Turkmen desert. We drank our last beers as we were just out of Ashgabat. The highlight of the Turkmen desert (seeing camels roam free is so old hat now) was jumping onto a local contractors truck and making our way further into the desert one night. We went to visit the gas crater. Turkmenistan is flush with natural gas and they came across a crater in the 1950s that gas was leaking up through the earth. It has been alight ever since. It was an awesome sight in the middle of the night watching the gas flames in a large hole in the ground - it was fantastic!

From the desert we headed into Ashgabat. Ashgabat is the capital of Turkmenistan. It was flattened by an earthquake in the 1950's and they closed off the city to the world for three years as they rebuilt the city. It is a marble utopian city all honored to their past president Turkmenbashi. It was all very Brave New World - huge marble buildings, the Arch of Neutrality that was really a big gold statue of the Niyazov that turned to face the sun throughout the day .... another national monument that looks like a big plunger ... but the wierd thing was that the streets were realtively empty - noone walking in and out of the buildings, police gurading buildings and moving us on when you tried to take a picture. It was a strange old place.I like the fact that the flag has their four main carpet designs on it and that all the schoolgirls have to wear green long lenght tunics the same colour as the flag. Turkmenbashi even named January and the country's largest mountain after himself. Turkmenbashi has recently died and the new President was his minister for health .... and his dentist! I also really like that the Ministry for Fairness is located in Ashgabat.

We had four days there as we tried to sort our Iranian Visas ....

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