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.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Ashgabat city tour...amazing!

A lot going on, and not nearly enough time or internet access available to tell you all about it. But I am going to squeeze in a quick blog post about the Ashgabat city tour we did on Thursday morning. 

The rest of the group arrived overnight and so we saw them all as they made their way to breakfast that was served in the hotel between 8:00am and 10:00am. We had a departure time of 10:30am set so that they could at least squeeze in a couple of hours sleep because most of them arrived from Istanbul on a flight that landed here at 3:30am.

So, we set out for our city tour.

Ashgabat is the capital of Turkmenistan. It has a population of about 800,000 people. Although the city has been in existence since the 1880's, there was a massive earthquake in 1948 and the city was almost totally destroyed. Over 200,000 people lost their lives. The only building that remained standing was the original railway station that is still in use today. (We will see that station when we leave the city by train this afternoon.)

The Monument of Neutrality.

Our first stop was the Monument of Neutrality. Turkmenistan is a neutral country on the world stage, and does not get involved in the politics or problems of other countries. It is proud of that fact, and build this monument in 1998 to showcase it's stance.

85% of Turkmenistan's economy is based on natural gas. The remaining is agriculture based on the production of cotton. 

The president likes everything to be clean and manicured, and certainly Ashgabat is that! It's quite amazing. Everything is built of white marble, with accents of gold, silver, and light green.

Big wide boulevards with hardly any cars.

Our guide Aziz.

Aziz is university educated here in Ashgabat and he speaks perfect English and is also fluent in Russian and a dialect of Turkish that is spoken around here. It's very similar to the Turkish they speak in Turkiye, and he says they can understand each other. Turkiye has a visa free agreement with Turkmenistan, and many Turkmenistan people go to Turkiye on a regular basis.

Education is "almost free" for every citizen of Turkmenistan. I think he said that parents have to pay the equivalent of about $10 USD per month to send their kids to school. However once you reach university, they pay you a stipend of about $200 USD a month to attend school. The average working citizen makes the equivalent of about $400 USD per month, but things are very inexpensive. For example, the beer I had with lunch today cost $1.15 USD. A liter of gas for your car is also almost free... about 8 cents a liter!

A guard at the Monument of Neutrality.

A tv tower far off in the distance. 
Also made of white marble.

Another view of the Monument of Neutrality.

There is a funicular and elevator that goes to the top, but Aziz said it is only open randomly, and it was not open during our visit.

Everything is decorated in gold.

Taken from the bus window.

The Monument of Independence.

Built to signify the independence of Turkmenistan after the fall of the USSR in 1991.

There are a lot of statues in Ashgabat!






Turkmenistan flags.



There is a lot of interesting architecture!

An old Lada... painted white.

It was nine years ago that the president made a law that every vehicle had to be white, silver, or gold...with the preference being white. Anybody who didn't already have a white car had to have their car painted white at a cost of about $200 USD, although that was partially subsidized by the government. These cars are known locally as Michael Jackson cars because many were turned from black to white. Nowadays when someone sells a car that is older than 2009, they are asked "is it a Michael Jackson car?" Meaning, was the car originally white, or has it been painted?

There are a lot of new cars on the road, and we don't see very many that aren't in good condition. The standards may be high, for example you will get fined for driving a dirty car in the city.

The design of many buildings is similar to the purpose they serve.
For example, this molar shaped building is the dentistry center.

Where is everybody?
Either working, or attending school.

There are a lot of fountains, most of them working.
If they are not working, they are being cleaned which happens about once every two weeks.


Typical apartment buildings.
These are not for wealthy people... just ordinary citizens.

We were brought to the largest shopping mall in Turkmenistan.

Amazing!

They love horses in Turkmenistan.

The mall.

After that, we headed out on the highway towards the Gates of Hell.

Children in their school uniforms.

There are a lot of fancy traffic circle monuments.

The roads are in perfect condition, and everybody follows the speed limit exactly.



However, once outside city limits, things go downhill quickly!

That's all the time I have now... gotta go!

16 comments:

  1. Wow - I was expecting drab, Soviet-style buildings. It almost looks like a theme park!

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    Replies
    1. Ashgabat is far from drab and Soviet like! Yep, theme park is a good description, I like to say that it is like Las Vegas without the crowds.

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  2. Wow, so amazing how clean it is. The roads look like they have been scrubbed and polished! So different from the US.

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    1. The city is super clean, especially in the more modern "white building" section of the city. We either read it or Aziz mentioned that some areas really are scrubbed down, not sure that it was the roads he was talking about but more likely the paths in the parks and around the monuments. Things change once you are out of the city though.

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  3. The city reminds of North Korea where everything is scrubbed clean with wide boulevards with no evidence of people enjoying their city. I don't see any locals walking, driving, or shopping at the mall. LOL love the Michael Jackson cars!! I also love their neutrality stance and mind their own business. The city kind of gives me the creeps...twilight zone feeling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Things are definitely spic and span clean in the city but there are certainly cars on the roads, it is just some roads are busier than others and there are people around but they are more around the downtown area where the shops and markets are an out in the streets near where our hotel was. I know the pictures Kevin showed of the shopping mall looked void of people but it was actually quite busy in other parts of the mall and the grocery store was packed with people, we should have taken a picture there but hindsight is 20/20.

      We thought the Michael Jackson remark about the old painted cars was pretty funny too. Yes, their stance on being neutral is a good mind set to have, They really just want to remain at peace.

      The city is beautiful but strange at the same time, definitely odd!

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  4. The city certainly looks incredibly clean and orderly and yes…..looks like a theme park even better than the Disney theme parks. …..

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    Replies
    1. It is a very clean and orderly city for sure. It reminded me of Las Vegas but without the crowds of people, so in a way it is sort of like a theme park.

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  5. We could learn a lot from this country…just beautiful!

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    Replies
    1. In some ways yes, we could learn something from this country and in other ways it could learn from other countries. It isn't a perfect country, just like all the other countries but they are defintiely doing some things right.

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  6. Why are cars limited to only three colors?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not totally sure of the reasons, whether it was just for astectic reasons or not. I had also read that the President is superstitious and it is believed that that white is a lucky colour. The colur change happened back in 2018.

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  7. As someone already mentioned - it’s like the Twilight Zone!

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    Replies
    1. Agreed, it is a litle like it is out of the Twilight Zone. It is a beautiful city but also a little odd at the same time.

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