Day 80 (2): Stuck in a place where I don't want to be
Dashoguz Travel Blog› entry 115 of 260 › view all entries
We arrived in Dashogus at 1.30 pm. I was happy, this would mean I could actually cross into Uzbekistan today and thus save a day. My euphoria was short-lived. My Uzbek visa was not valid until tomorrow. While I had made sure to have all my visas for Central Asia overlap a few days, I never had felt the need to do so with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. After all, with a 5-day transit visa, I wasn't going to miss out and leave the country a day early, now was I?
So I was stuck in Dashogus. What made it worse was that the only budget hotel in town, Hotel Dashogus, is currently closed for renovations, so I had to go for the second-best option, making it my most expensive night on this trip so far. To make matters even worse, the cheapest rooms were booked out, so I was forced to take a 'semi-lux'.
Fortunately my second experience with the people of Dashogus was far more positive. I went for a bite to eat at the restaurant across the road and experienced a heart-warming moment of “stupid tourist corrected by honest employee”. When I asked for the bill I was presented with a calculator which said '34'. I cringed a bit. 34 manat, that was $ 12, which was quite steep for a plate of dumplings, some yoghurt and a beer. Ah well, last day in the country, so I might as well get rid of excess currency.
But again, a heart-warming experience. He could as easily have taken the 34 manat and put the change in his pocket and I would never have known.
There isn't much to see or do in Dashogus.
They had eased on the white marble buildings though. There were a few, but for the most part the local government had decided to save some money and just restore the old Soviet buildings. All the buildings (at least, the ones facing the main streets) have been painted in pastel colours and look in pristine condition. And again I had to conclude, cities in this country are not not ugly. What must have been a very drab and boring town in Soviet times, is now at least quite a pretty and boring town (take note, local municipal governments elsewhere in the former Soviet block!).
So that was Turkmenistan. Normally I would say that blazing through a country in a mere four days is nowhere near enough to properly see it. Well, in this case you could actually see a lot in four or five days. In fact, I have seen all I wanted to see of this country, and a bit more even. By taking the tour I had definitely been able to see more than I had anticipated. OK, there are two more places I would have liked to see: the ancient city of Merv and the Yangykala canyon. Merv was simply in the wrong direction and of the three UNESCO sites in the country Konye-Urgench seemed the most interesting to me (I have seen pictures of Merv, not much there apart from a few medressas).
But a sensible person (i.
So to sum it up, Turkmenistan is an absolutely bizarre, over the top, crazy and in a way a unique country that is still governed in old Soviet style. Well worth a visit, although I hope for the people of Turkmenistan that there will eventually be a change in government which will give the people more freedom as well as more sensible spending of the oil wealth (education or health care, anyone?).
By the way, did you know the country holds claim to several world records? The largest carpet in the world was woven to commemorate the 10th anniversary of independence. The carpet is so large that the museum which houses it had to be built around it.
The world's largest irrigation canal is also in Turkmenistan, though this is actually a remnant of Soviet times. The 1370m long canal was dug to water the cotton fields along the Turkmen-Uzbek border in the north and runs almost the entire length of the country.
Turkmenistan is currently building the largest artificial lake. Deep in the Karakum desert this lake, costing a staggering $8 billion, is supposed to improve the life of the communities living in the desert.
There are so many silly things in this country. In 2004 all the street names in Ashgabat were renamed to 4-digit codes. Might be easy for postal delivery, but it becomes a nightmare to drive around and search for an address in the city.
After independence Turkmenistan moved from Cyrillic to an adapted Western alphabet, which has since been copyrighted under the name 'Elipbi'.
Despite being a small country, the government has no less than 28 ministries. My favourite of these, the Ministry of Fairness.
After independence Niyazov renamed several of Turkmenistan's cities. Krasnovodsk became Turkmenbashi (named after himself), Charjou became Turkmenabat. Besides renaming the names of the days of the week and months, he also renamed several common items. One example is the Turkmen word for bread, which is named after his mother.
He did make one law I can agree with though. He banned lip syncing at public concerts. Niyazov felt that this undermined the development of Turkmenistan’s musical arts.
This has definitely been the weirdest country I have ever been to.