The drive from Turkmenbashi to Ashgabat was two hundred miles of really bad road, and one hundred sixty of pretty good road. The temperature was above 100 F most of the day. The country side looked more like the Mojave Desert than I could believe. It has the same hills and vegetation. I bottomed out the suspension a few times, scraped the center stand once, and shook the mirrors loose.
The main attraction of Turkmenistan is the price of fuel, about 31 cents/liter ($1.20/gallon). We had to pay a foreigner fuel tax on entry, but it is still cheap.
Getting yo our hotel was a real problem that started with the planned route blocked for construction, followed by a bunch of street closures because the president was on his way to his palace. Unfortunately. the hotel is kitty corner from the palace. Every time we tried to get to the hotel the guards chased us off the street. We finally got chased off a street and into the side entrance to the hotel parking lot.
Ashgabat is an unbeliveable monument to waste and megalomania of the former president for life and the continuing government. There are hundreds of marble buildings. In fact, it appears that all new buildings are marble, and most old buildings have been reskinned in marble. The only exception is the dismal apartments that most of the people live in. They don't appear to matter in the all for show attitude of the government. Many people live in crumbling communist concrete apartments with up to thirty people sharing a kitchen, and twenty sharing a bathroom.
There are miles of wide, ornate boulevards which are heated to melt snow in the winter. They are lined with fancy buildings for ministry after ministry after ministry. It's good to have a govermment job. There are lots of fancy monuments with huge parks, bit no people, even on Sunday. We saw very few locals, and no one looked very happy in public.
You can't take a picture of the presidential palace, and we were not allowed to ride our motorcycles on Sunday.
Turkmenistan, with the cult of the president god, vast government excess, and poor living conditions seems like North Korea with money. It was a relief to get out of there.
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