Tea growing near Pu Mat National Park at Con Cuong, Vietnam.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Con Cuong (Pu Mat National Park), Vietnam.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Ninh Binh, Vietnam.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Ashgabat at night... like Las Vegas, but without tourists!

One of the guys hired our bus to take us around to some of the other sights that weren't officially included in our tour. We had about three hours to waste, and let me tell you, it's not that difficult to waste three hours in Ashgabat.

In fact, Ruth and I could easily have spent three more days in Ashgabat alone. So much to see and do!

Out of our group of twenty, sixteen of us decided to continue on to see the sights. Our first stop was a throwback to the USSR days of Turkmenistan prior to 1991.

A statue of Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Russian Communist Party.

Relief statue outside the Political Archives building.

The largest mosque in Ashgabat.

While Islam is the dominant religion, most people in Turkmenistan are not very religious. As our guide Aziz said, maybe one day he will conform with prayer several times a day, but for now he is quite happy eating pork and drinking alcohol. Some people are devout, but not many.

This is the largest mosque in Turkmenistan.

Ruth went inside and took some photos with our old phone.



We drove by the old train station, the only building that survived the big earthquake of 1948...

Hard to get a decent photo from the bus.

The President loves dogs, and in 2020 built a statue of his dog along with a revolving video display of the dog in various situations.

Next stop was the huge Memorial Park. There are three prominent monuments to events in Turkmenistan history. The first is the Earthquake memorial remembering those who perished in the 1948 earthquake. The first president of Turkmenistan survived the quake, but his mother and two brothers were killed. His father had perished in WWII. 

So the monument is a bull, with the earth in its horns, giving it a good shake. And out of the top, rises the President's mother, holding her baby, the future President up to the sky.


Ruth, standing at the base of the earthquake monument.

Another view. 
It is really quite impressive!

The mountains in behind form part of the border with Iran.

This is the monument to those Turkmen killed in the battle of Geok Tepe in 1881.

And this huge monument is for those who fell during the Great Patriotic War from 1941 to 1944.

From the memorial site, we had a great view of the five star luxury Ýyldyz Hotel.
This is where we would be going for dinner!

As dusk fell, all of the buildings and monuments began to light up!

We then arrived at the Guinness World Record largest indoor Ferris Wheel!

The previous President was obsessed with the Guinness Book of Records, and wanted Turkmenistan to be included. So he built the world's largest indoor Ferris Wheel. Which really doesn't make much sense, since you ride the Ferris Wheel for the views. right? And if it is indoors, how do you have a view?

Anyhow, we were lucky that the Ferris Wheel was operational, and we paid the huge sum of about a dollar each for the privilege of riding it. It used to  be very busy, but it was built in 2010, and all of the locals have ridden it, and there aren't many tourists... so you just pay and they fire it up for whoever shows up!

Some of our group on their way up.

You do get a bit of a view through the glassed in areas behind you.

Notice the city lit up in the background!

Back on the ground, we headed back towards our hotel. But not before a quick stop at the Wedding Palace...

Everything is lit up!

Fantastic!

Notice the lights in the background? That is a path called "The Walk of Health" with lots of stairs that the original President had built to keep people fit. It is lit so that it can be used at night as well. You can read more about it here... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walk_of_Health

The Wedding Palace.

The Wedding Palace has three huge ballrooms, one for up to 1,000 people, and two for up to 500 people, as well as many smaller ones. However in Turkmenistan, if you have less than 300 people at your wedding, it is considered to be a flop. The more people, the better!

We went inside to check things out...

There was a wedding going on, and we easily could have crashed it. In fact, they invited us in and would probably have set a table for us, but we didn't have time to stay!

A decorated wedding car.

View of the city from the Wedding Palace.

But we're not done with the fun yet!

Back at the hotel, we got cleaned up and changed and went down to meet everyone at the hotel bar for a quick drink before taking the bus over to the fancy expensive five star hotel. Most of the group were flying out at around 3:00am, so they booked dinner for like 9:00pm so they would just stay up and make their way to the airport right afterwards. Some, like Ruth and I, were lucky in that we had the full night before leaving the country.

Sitting at the outdoor bar at our 3 star hotel.

Funniest beer glass ever!

Then we took the bus over to the five star hotel. Some reports actually call it a six star hotel. If you book a room, breakfast in bed is included free of charge! A couple of the guys booked a room just for fun. About $240 a night USD. Cheap, by today's standards!

The lobby of the Ýyldyz Hotel.

We went up to the 23rd floor restaurant.

We could have had this private dining room, but we had too many people!

There was an outdoor balcony with a view. Can you see the Ferris Wheel we had been on?

Wow... maybe better than Las Vegas!


Another view of the Wedding Palace, as seen from the Ýyldyz Hotel,

Part of our group.

And the other part.

Another fancy lit up building in the distance.

Ruth and I each had the chicken stuffed with spinach and cheese. I can't remember, but it might have been the cheapest item on the menu. Either way, considering where we were, the final bill including two half liter beers for me, and a gin and tonic for Ruth was about $46 USD ($63 CAD) for the two of us! Crazy cheap!

What a day. And what a trip. And our time isn't over yet. We didn't fly out of Ashgabat until the next afternoon, so Ruth and I took advantage of the next morning to do some more exploring.

Stay tuned... a crazy border crossing into Uzbekistan is coming up next!

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And in Canada...

5 comments:

  1. You guys really picked a good country! What a cool place. Everything looks so well-kept. Apart from apartment buildings, Russians were famous for creating tile mosaics in every city depicting communism. There should be one somewhere there. Great post.

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  2. Wow!! Amazing trip and the city blows me away with cleanliness, lights, and love, love, love the walkway. The six star hotel is gorgeous...who stays there? Cost must be high for upkeep.

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    1. The city blew us away too, it is a little over the top but we really enjoyed it. We would have loved to have walked the Health Steps pathway. I would expect that business people would stay at that hotel as well as some tourists, again the cost for the locals would be a fraction of what a foreigner would pay.

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  3. Who built all the hotels, monuments and glitz on steroids? Was it the Chinese?

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    Replies
    1. From the quick research that I did, they used French, Turkish and Turkmen to design many of the buildings and monuments and many locals to build them.

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