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 18, 2023

Welcome to Turkmenistan, country #61

We had to get up at 4:15am in order to walk to the airport bus stop for its 5:00am departure. We had said goodbye to Cheryl the night before so we didn't have to wake her. We packed our bags and headed out the door.

A twenty minute walk in the rain got us to the bus stop where the bus was already loading. We paid our 149 lira ($7.25 CAD, $5.34) and with very little traffic at that hour we made it to Istanbul Airport (IST) in an hour and ten minutes. Much better than the two and a half hours it took when we arrived!

That meant we had lots of time before our 9:45am flight to Ashgabat. 

We found the Turkmenistan Airlines check in counter and got in the line. When we got to the front, the guy said "This line is for Ashgabat." as if to ask us if we were in the right lineup. "Yes, we know," and he shrugged his shoulders. Okay. Not many tourists go to Ashgabat, and especially on Turkmenistan Airlines! 

We got our boarding passes, but the girl said we had to check our carry on bags. We figured that was okay, so they were tagged and sent off.

Not many people can say they've been on a Turkmenistan Airlines flight!

We had a couple of hours to waste before boarding, so we made our way to the premium lounge to get some breakfast. 

Ruth in the new Istanbul airport.

There's our plane!

We boarded right on time!

The first class section.

But we sat near the back.

Everything is in Russian and English.

And we're off!

We left the gate right on time, but it was almost 10:15am by the time we took off.

We got a nice meal on the three and a half hour flight.

Almost everyone on the plane was a Turkmenistan citizen. They have a visa free travel agreement with Turkiye, so it's one of the few countries where they can actually travel. We did not see any other western tourists.

Arriving in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. All the roofs are green!

More green roofs.

On the ground.

Ashgabat has a new billion dollar airport terminal. In the theme of everything else in the city, it's all made of white marble with gold and silver decoration. The leader of Turkmenistan likes white, silver, and gold. In fact, there is a law in the city of Ashgabat that every car must be either white, silver, or gold.

Oh, and green. They definitely like the color green here as well.

Inside the terminal.

We made our way to passport control where we first had to get our entry visas. We already had the letter of invitation approved, so we presented that, and had to pay $99 USD each (in cash) to process the visas.

Then went through passport control and we were stamped in to Turkmenistan.

Into the arrival area where we quickly saw our driver holding a sign. He was an older fellow who only spoke Russian. 


You can have any color of car you want, as long as it's white, silver, or gold.
And, cars must be kept clean. If your car is dirty, you will receive a fine.

The airport terminal is very cool!

Wide boulevards, with very few vehicles on them.

A lot of monuments and statues.

Yes, everything is white, gold, and silver.
And green.

Our hotel was about 6 kms (4 miles) from the terminal. We were checked in, and told that free buffet breakfast was the next morning between 8am to 10am.

Our room.

View from our 7th floor room.

This building is used for horse show events.

The WiFi works, but many sites are blocked. There is no access to any social media, but gmail and most google services work fine. Our blog is run by google, so we are able to update it, but aren't likely to have internet once we leave the hotel.

We went out for a walk around.

There are a lot of parks like this one.

As tourists, we are allowed to wander Ashgabat freely, however once we leave the city we have to have a guide with us.

This is a big shopping mall.

Outside the Russian Bazaar.

There are a lot of statues, however some have guards posted where we are not allowed to take photos.

And there are a lot of fountains.

Back at the hotel, we met up again with Lauren and went out to have some dinner. The rest of the group arrived overnight, so we won't see them until breakfast.

I had the beef medallions with cheese and spinach and grilled vegetables.
It was delicious.

Ruth had lamb curry with rice.

And Lauren had lamb chops.

Total bill for the three of us was under $21 USD. Restaurant food here is fairly cheap!

We're heading down for breakfast, and then we set out on our tour at 10:30am with the rest of the group.

10 comments:

  1. I see you are allowed different colours in your room. Your food looked delicious. This is going to be a very interesting trip to follow. Enjoy x

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    Replies
    1. Lol, yep they do make allowances for the hotel rooms, I would imagine it would be very difficult to keep a hotel really clean if it was all white! The service was super slow that the food was all made fresh and it was delicious and very inexpensive.

      It was definitely a very interesting trip, and we really enjoy it and learned more about a country that we knew very little about.

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  2. Wow, that's incredibly inexpensive for that meal. One entree plate would be at least that much in the US. I can't imagine trying to find one's car in a parking lot with those color restrictions. Our yellow Kia Soul is always easy for me to find, just one of many reasons I like it. I wouldn't care for that many restrictions. Really glad you were able to post your blog, though, since I know you weren't sure if you would be able to or not. Be safe and have fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The meal prices are very inexpensive even when they are expensive, if you know what I mean!

      Yeah, we aren't sure either how they would find their car in a sea of white. I guess they really make note of where they parked it. I am sure there are also apps for stuff like that or you just put a pin on your map app so when you come out from shopping you just follow the route to your pin.

      They do have some restrictions but overall life is pretty good in Turkmenistan, or at least what we saw of it, and we did see quite a bit from all our walking and driving around. I think the biggest restriction is having certain sites blocked on the internet, such as all the social media but many of them seem to find a way to circumvent that issue.

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  3. Mexico at one time, not long ago, was to have a new airport almost identical to the one in Turkey. I bet the president, where you're at, is happy with the billion dollar terminal. He needed that to park the new 757 presidential Dream liner he bought from Mexico for a song and a dance. We are looking forward to your visit. It looks like it will be a learning experience for us. We are anxious to know all about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A mistake on my part. Too many Stans out there. The plane was sold to Tajikistan.

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    2. Was that the airport that they started building and then halted it in 2018 and then started buiding another new one in a different location? We are hoping to go to Tajikistan too. :-)

      I hope that you will enjoy our blog posts of Turkmenistan, it was definitely an interesting country to visit and we are so glad that we made the trip there.

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  4. Hi Kevin and Ruth…..it’s been a while since I’ve read your blogs! Time to catch up! But somehow, something’s changed from the last time I commented ( probably pre-Covid) and I’m not sure if this comment would be published…we shall see….anyways…..I am super excited to read about your upcoming blogs……safe travels! Lynnette






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  5. That is great that your flight and every went smoothly. What a beautiful area and I just didn’t expect the modern and well maintained areas hotel and all. Meals looked wonderful. This is going to be so exciting. Enjoy and have a safe journey 💕😁

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We were thrilled that everything went according to plan with our Turkmenistan flight. It was on time, the airline attendants were great and we even had a tasty hot meal on board our 3 1/2 hour flight.

      I think quite a bit will surprise you about our trip to Turkmenistan. We went in with low expectations and we were blown away by the capital city itself. It is so hard to describe it, it is beautiful but in a very strange sort of way, definitely very modern.

      Our meal was delicious, service was a little slow but we weren't in a rush and the food was all made fresh so it was hot and delicious as well as being inexpensive.

      I think you will enjoy our posts on our time here in Turkmenistan.

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