Blogs from Turkmenistan, Asia


Asia » Turkmenistan » Mary September 21st 2015

Our last impression of Uzbekistan was, like our first, pretty good. The border guards gave us no hassle, were friendly, and reasonably quick. Perhaps we were just lucky. It was pretty much the same on the Turkmen side although they did the most thorough search of our bags so far. From getting out of the taxi in Uzbekistan to getting into the car in Turkmenistan took about an hour and a half – not too bad by local standards. First stop in Stan 4 was Kunye Urgench for some (more) mausoleums. The Turkmens take a different approach to the Uzbeks, rather than restoring historic buildings they just stop them falling down, although perhaps not as spectacular we thought it worked better. Then we were off on another long desert crossing, this time the Karakum, to our ... read more
Door to Hell
Door to Hell
Door to Hell

Asia » Turkmenistan October 20th 2014

Bukhara October 18 2014 We have re-entered Plant Earth today having passed through the Farob-Alat border crossing from Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan. There was air on Planet Turkmenistan and it would have made a great place for Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise to have visited all those years ago. We met some lovely people and it was undoubtably a cultural experience. Our journey through the country served its purpose because we are now in Uzbekistan without having flown anywhere yet. The cultural experience is seeing a total State run apparatus in action which is so incongruous with any modern Western society. When you are not used to it, it is mind boggling. One of our tour representatives made an interesting comment. She said, "Compared to Moscow Turkmen speak more from the heart so I like it ... read more
Ashgabat - the white marble city
The only tourist at the top of the cableway
Selfie with Ashgabat behind us

Asia » Turkmenistan » Turkmenbashi October 16th 2014

Turkmenbashi Oct 14 2014 So our Caspian Sea cruise is close to completion. I have no idea how close as we are still on board and in dock with the cargo doors open. It has lived up to expectation. Certainly it is an option for the slow traveller. This is not a passage for any one with a deadline or in a rush. This part of our journey was some what of a centre piece. It was the first bit we researched over a year ago because it made the whole route possible. Without it and with Ukraine out of bounds you either have to go through Iran, like most Mongol rally folks do these days, or through the Russian Caucasus. Iran is increasingly becoming more open with the thawing of relations with the West, we ... read more
Train in Alat ferry port
Waiting to board at Alat
Anchoring off Baku

Asia » Turkmenistan » Mary October 1st 2014

Sept 27 - 28 Mary/Merv This morning we were set to visit Gonur Depe, an ancient settlement that dates back to 7000BC !!! A two hour journey from Mary in a 4WD vehicle, to Gonur regarded by the Russian archaeologist Sarianidi who discovered the site in 1971 as 'one of the greatest civilisations on the world', this site was the birthplace of Zoroastrianism. There is evidence of four fire temples on this huge site which is surrounded by city walls. There is some limited excavation going on which has revealed an astonishing scale of housing, temples, palaces, kitchens, pottery firing ovens. By 3000BC, this civilisation had moved they think because of the changed river direction which left the area barren. We were amazed at the lack of protection as it was possible for us to walk ... read more
Merv -Erk Qala 6thC Achaemenid city
Merv - Domed roof of Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar
Gonur Depe - horse Skelton fossilised

Asia » Turkmenistan » Ashgabat September 30th 2014

Sept 24 -26 Turkmenistan Early morning start from Nukus to the old cementry near the Turkmenistan border, the Mizdakhan cemetery. Inhabited from the 4th BC until 14th AD, Mizdakhan continued to be a sacred place with tombs being placed here until the 20thC. Was an interesting collection of tombs dating back to 10thC , and some pretty spooky mausoleums to explore, some underground and still containing their ancient sarcophagus's. We made the border crossing with no issues, other than the barking guard dogs, and the 1km walk in no-mans land between the two guard posts. Got our Turkmenistan visa on arrival - country no. 73 - so that was a relief after reading about all the potential dramas that can occur on this border. Our customs 'interrogation' was limited to "do you have guns? , and ... read more
Turabeg complex Konye Urgench
Wedding 'place' Ashgabat - biggest in the world
Independence statue Ashgabat

Asia » Turkmenistan » Turkmenbashi August 16th 2014

Greetings from on board the Akedemik Hassan Aliev, in the middle of the Caspian Sea en route from Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan (named by former Turkmem president Turkmenbashi after himself) to Baku, Azerbaijan. When I last wrote, I was in Ashgabat preparing for the five day journey to the Caspian Coast. From Ashgabat, my first stop was at Geok-Depe, the site of a brutal massacre of approximately 15,000 Turkmens by the Russians towards the end of the 19th century, which marked the end of Turkmen resistance to Russian colonization. Russia was primarily concerned in the 19th century with finding a "natural" southern border to its empire, with the hopes of ending nomadic raids into Russian areas. Turkmen nomads, partly just for sport, would raid Russian villages and capture Russians to be sold in Central Asian slave markets. The ... read more
Mosque built to commemorate Turkmenbashi's first Haj

Asia » Turkmenistan August 9th 2014

I last left you in Termiz, Uzbekistan, having just returned from Afghanistan. From Termiz, I travelled northwards, first to Samarkand by shared taxi, unpleasantly sandwiched between two women with vomiting children on their laps, their stomachs unable to cope with the sometimes 150 km/h speeds that our young taxi driver was driving at. My plans to have a quick visit of Samarkand that afternoon before taking the train to Nukus were unfortunately scuttled by a sudden detour to the toilets of Samarkand train station (and the toilets of train 54 thereafter). Ah the glories of central asian travel! From Nukus the following day, I traveled eastwards to the border post, receiving an invite from a charming man on the way in the mashrutka to stay in his house for a few weeks to learn Karakalpak, the ... read more

Asia » Turkmenistan » Dashoguz May 26th 2014

Darvaza The Darvaza gas crater is probably the best attraction in Turkmenistan. The government has been trying to close it for years, but has not yet succeeded. The Russians were drilling for gas in 1971 and the ground collapsed, leaving a large crater. Gas was escaping, so they decided to burn it off. It has been burning for forty years or so. The temperature was 110 F abandnd the road was poor. There were lots of camels and lots of nothing along the way. At least we were allowed to drive out of Ashgabat. We spent a hot night camping in the desert so we could see the crater in the dark. The following day was only 106 F. It was escape from Turkmenistan day. The three best things about Turkmenistan are the gas crater, the ... read more

Asia » Turkmenistan » Ashgabat May 24th 2014

Ashgabat 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 ... read more

Asia » Turkmenistan » Turkmenbashi May 22nd 2014

Turkmenbashi There were 18 other tourists on an overland adventure tour on the ferry. They are on a 6 month excursion on a big converted truck. The ferry trip across the Caspian took 14 hours. We anchored a little after noon to wait for the previous rail ferry to clear the dock. The ferry docked at 6:30, and we unloaded at 9:30. Then the fun began. The Turkmenistan entry process is incredibly slow, tedious, and incomprehensible. Everything is written by hand and stamped several times. Wehad to visit 10 different windows, some several times, make 4 different payments in two different currencies, and collect up 14 different documents (all filled in by hand). We set a new record. Into customs at 9:30 PM and out at 7:00 AM. Nine and one half hours just to get ... read more

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