MaverickM11 From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 18281 posts, RR: 47 Posted (7 years 10 months 2 weeks ago) and read 11430 times:
This is my first TR so here goes nothin'. If the pics work it'll be a small miracle. Anywho I and a friend decided to go to Turkmenistan for the long Memorial Day weekend. And by decided I mean we both wanted to go for a while so we applied for visas which meant getting letters of invitation etc etc. It was much less spur of the moment than it sounds; we even had a tour package (not coincidentally also the source of our letter of invitation) that included a roundtrip flight to Mary to see the ancient site at Merv. I was excited about the whole trip but I thought a roundtrip on Turkmenistan Airlines would be the icing on the cake. Turns out...it's a lot less exciting than it sounds.
The day started with a 0430 wake up call which was no problem since we were still so ri-gawdam-diculously jet lagged at that point that sleeping past 0300 took heavy meds. Our tour guide took us to the airport where we went through umpteen checkpoints to get to the ticket counter.
By the way, since Turkmenistan isn't a very democratic or capitalistic country; there are not many jobs to be had, other than in the government, checking your passport every ten steps at the airport. It seems like a third of the population creates "bloody bits of paper" for another third of the population to collect five steps later all at the Supreme-Leader-International Airport. I've traveled quite a bit through Latin America and Africa where there are endless document checks (9 last time in LIM!!) so I totally expected it, but the absurd level to which they take it in ASB just cracked me up constantly. At one point on our way out to FRA, we had our passports checked three times within 6 average-human-steps by three different people. Checkin was a bit of a cluster--we allegedly had "reservations" but it looked like anyone could just walk up to the counter and buy a ticket, and they'd fill your name in on the next open seat on the seat map, top to bottom, left to right. No assigned seats. Also apparently Turkmen pay next to nothing to fly domestically. There are many daily flights to the "big" cities of Mary, Dashoguz, and Turkmenabaat, and they only pay a couple of dollars for a seat. Us foreigners had to part with $25. Eight or nineteen document creation and document check points later, we arrived at the boarding lounge. Three flights were coralled in the fairly large room and there was a small cafe in the back where mostly men were standing up and drinking tea. Boarding was in the Afro-Indo-Latino style (as others have termed it on here); the flight is called and everyone ploughs forward:
I, of course, was plastered against the window looking onto the ramp at the airplanes, so when our flight was called I happened to be on the leading edge of the wave surging toward our 717. Once on board I took a few pictures (all fuzzy for some reason).
We had two seats behind the partition (there was no difference in service or seat on either side of the bulkhead...all economy). In the grid system of seat assignments, I wound up with a MIDDLE SEAT. I was not bitter. No I fly Turkmenistan Airlines ALL the time, why would I want a window? The flight was completely full. And there was nothing to....uh....scrapbook (read: steal) from the seat back pocket or anywhere.
I believe Dashoguz was leaving from the gate next to us. I'm not sure what the purpose of the gates are since all passengers are sent via the ramp and there aren't any jetways attached to these bridges.
My seatmate in the window was a Turkmen woman and she seemed very nice even though she didn't speak any English and my Turkmen is nil. She seemed to not my mind my boarding house reach across her to grab a few shots of the ramp.
Announcements were made in Russian, Turkmen, and English I believe, with several references to Dear Leader. Most of the passengers were definitely "locals" with the exception for us and a mostly American tour group of about a dozen. We don't really blend in . The boarding process was fairly quick and shortly afterward we were airborne on our flight that was not even an hour long--about 40 minutes. The flight attendants came through and offered water or some greenish soda that tasted like Sprite with a foul aftertaste. I went for water.
They followed this with a buy-on-board service where you could buy all kinds of candies, snacks, and drinks. Buy on board. In Turkmenistan. On the flight you paid $2 for... Whoda thunk? Of course in no time we were approaching Mary over, errr, Mary.
In no time we were on the ground and deplaning again via the ramp.
Where in the world is MaverickM11?
Oddly enough there were no document checks between deplaning and leaving the airport. They should look into adding several checks there...they could employ the rest of the country .
This is the outdoor boarding lounge at MRV. It's a nice way to wait for a plane!
In Mary we had breakfast and then headed to the archaeological sites at Merv. I won't bore you with the background but here are some pics from Merv:
We also went to a small market in Mary where I took a pic of some Iranian soap that caught my eye for obvious reasons.
In all Turkmenistan is a wacky, wonderful country (ghastly personality cult aside) that I really loved visiting and would absolutely go back and recommend to others. Questions or comments? You know where to send 'em.
KLM685 From Mexico, joined May 2005, 1577 posts, RR: 18
Reply 1, posted (7 years 10 months 1 week 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 11255 times:
Hey there! What a nice trip report although i'm curious as to why Turkmenistan? Seems like a weird choice, nonetheless I would go there if I had the opportunity to do so. It's all about trying different places right?
Well done, I like the trip report alot! You also got some good pictures.
Airbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4352 posts, RR: 50
Reply 2, posted (7 years 10 months 1 week 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 11224 times:
interesting to read/see this report. The flying experience seems a bit different then overhere in the 'West'. Does Turkmenistan A/L also operate Russian made aircraft, or is it now all B737/717's? As you're from the US apperently, what route did you fly into Turkmenistan? It would be great to see those reports too!
"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
MD90fan From Bahamas, joined Jul 2005, 2931 posts, RR: 7
Reply 3, posted (7 years 10 months 1 week 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 11167 times:
Thanks! This definetly caught my eye, one of the more interesting TR's to say the least, Maverick. What other aircraft were at ASB? How are things now that the great leader made his "transition"? Turkmenistan Airlines definetly sounds like an attractive option if your trying to go to India or Turkmenistan ($10 local flights!)
Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 2): Does Turkmenistan A/L also operate Russian made aircraft, or is it now all B737/717's?
7 B717-200, 3 B737-300,2 B737-800,4 B757-200 and 1 B767-300s IIRC.
I really wanted to visit a place with a personality cult (ie North Korea, Togo and Turkmenistan until recently) plus I'm really interested in the Silk Route, so it was the best of both worlds so to speak. I'd also read that Turkmenistan is such a wacky place given all the things that the former nutso leader did.
Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 2): Does Turkmenistan A/L also operate Russian made aircraft, or is it now all B737/717's? As you're from the US apperently, what route did you fly into Turkmenistan?
It looked like all the Russian aircraft were parked on the south side of the field. As far as I can tell all flights are operated by 717s, 737s, and 757s. The state has a 763 as well.
I flew CO (772) to FRA, and the LH (333) to ASB via GYD (Baku). Didn't take any pictures though, although the meal on the LH flight back to FRA was the most disgusting thing I've ever faced *shudders*. And it may have given me food mild poisoning.
LH648 From Kazakhstan, joined Sep 2006, 593 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (7 years 10 months 1 week 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 10260 times:
Quoting Abrelosojos (Reply 9): Amazing TR! Thanks for sharing this. Central Asia is a big hole in my travel map ... let me know if you plan on another trip and need a travel partner. I promise I am fun.
Central Asian countries are very different.
Turkmenistan is really weird and glamourous at the same time.
Tajikistan is pour and dirty.
Kyrgyzstan is pour but clean.
Uzbekistan is oppressed but very cultural.
Kazakhstan - check Borat movie.
Gunsontheroof From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 3516 posts, RR: 9
Reply 13, posted (7 years 10 months 1 week 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 10013 times:
Really fascinating trip report...I'd certainly like to see more from the Turkic nations make it onto this site. Really interesting to see that the personality cult is still alive and well after Niyazov's death. Where there pictures of "Dear Leader" Berdymukhamedov on the 717 bulkhead?