“Midnight at the Oasis” – Brand New Heavies.
Make no mistake about it – Turkmenistan is totally worth the trip. It has a truly stunnigating capital city – Ashgabat. This is really the city of the future. It is a city full of crazy, cool and architecturally marvellous buildings and structures. As Turkmenistan is a right wing, one party military dictatorship, the streets are clean, everyone has a job and the country is rich. Visas can be hard to get and indeed this was the final country of the former Soviet Union states that I would backpack to. The first was Russia, the second was Belarus – both back in 2007. In 2018, I was finally here to explore this magnificent city of white marble and gold. Despite housing 650,000 people, most of the time the wide boulevards and main sights in Ashgabat are empty and bereft of people. It is a truly weird and unusual city, often compared to Pyongyang in North Korea.
I loved my time here. We stayed in the Wedding Palace Hotel and also had a few other trips around Turkmenistan, including to Merv, Mary, Darvaza, Dizar-Bekir, Konye-Urgench, Anew, Jerbent and Ruhubelent. But this post is all about the capital city – what a place. It’s simply amazing and full of crazy buildings! I won;t go into great detail on each of these sights, but try and check these out when you are backpacking in Turkmenistan.
1.Ruhnama Statue Book
By law, everyone in Turkmenistan must read Ruhnama. It’s the national book and was written by President Niyazov. If you read it 100 times, you are guaranteed to get into heaven. Head to the huge book statue in the central park.
2.Arch of Neutrality
There are just so many of these wacaday buildings in Ashgabat that they can get confused with one another, especially on the maps. As Pawel and I backpacked through the city we were trying to figure out which monument is which. The Arch of Neutrality is an unmistakable gem. It looks like a spaceship! This crazy building allows a view of the city, we headed to the top. It was amazing!
3.The Ferris Wheel
Another work of sublime art in a building is this crazy indoor Ferris Wheel. We decided not to pay the price for a ride.
4.Bagt Koshgi Hotel – The Wedding Palace
Bagt Koshgi Hotel – The Wedding Palace was where I slept here in Ashgabat and it is probably the craziest and coolest looking hotel building I have ever stayed in.
5.The National Football Stadium
As a football geek and veteran of over 501 football matches, I simply had to see the national stadium. Amazingly, there was a groundsman here who opened the door and let me in to see the pitch and stadium. I loved the green and white seats.
6.Museum of Turkmen Values
This museum sits in a park near Independence Square and loads of locals come to talk to us and pose for photos. They had never seen foreigners before. Here there is also another golden statue of Saparmyrat Türkmenbaşy the Great, in front of the huge Museum of Turkmen Values building.
7.The Vagina Hotel
OK so officially it is not called the Vagina Hotel, but to Pawel and I, this crazy hotel (which was empty and just 5 minutes walk from our hotel).
8.The Palace of Turkmenbashi
You are not supposed to take photos of The Palace of Turkmenbashi and I respected this. however many exist online, so I have included one of those here.
9.The National Archives
This series of buildings was at the back of Independence Park. Again, it was very empty.
Turkmenistan has never hosted the Olympics but yet it has an Olympic Village as it once hosted the Asian Games. It’s still used for multiple sports and at night is lit up.
11.Ashgabat International Airport
Put simply this has to be the swankiest and cleanest airport I have ever been in. It is a magnificent white and green structure, so clean, so pure, so pristine. I have to also add that the immigration, check in and departures all ran very smoothly.
12.Statue of Lenin
The Soviet Union’s former communist leader Lenin is remembered with his own statue in a square.
13.Wacaday Building: Minara Restaurant
We didn’t eat at the Minara Restaurant but we entered this truly wacaday building on our walk around the city. It looks like a spaceship!
Again, photos weren’t allowed in the National Museum unless you pay something ridiculous like $10 US for the privilege. So I decided not to take any. It’s a guided tour and you are followed at all times. We got lots of photos outside it and in the lobby.
I headed with my Polish friend Pawel for food and some shopping at the swanky new Berkhera Shopping Centre.
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