MaverickM11
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Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Mon Jul 16, 2007 11:32 am

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 Silly. 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.


Guess who!


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 Wink.

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.
E pur si muove -Galileo
 
KLM685
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Mon Jul 16, 2007 3:36 pm

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.


Cheers!
KLM- The Best Airline in the World!
 
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airbuseric
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Mon Jul 16, 2007 4:17 pm

Hi

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!  Wink

Rgds
Eric
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md90fan
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Mon Jul 16, 2007 5:15 pm

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!)  silly 

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.
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Alessandro
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Mon Jul 16, 2007 8:56 pm

Now the Turkmen leader is gone, hope things change for the better without him....
From New Yorqatar to Califarbia...
 
MaverickM11
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Mon Jul 16, 2007 11:42 pm

Quoting KLM685 (Reply 1):
why Turkmenistan?

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.

Quoting MD90fan (Reply 3):
What other aircraft were at ASB?

I don't remember exactly but I know I saw several IL76s, TU154s, TU134s, a C17...

Quoting MD90fan (Reply 3):
How are things now that the great leader made his "transition"?

Sounds like things are more of the same, although perhaps a tad better since the new leader is rolled back the reduction in education that Turkmenbashi instituted (eliminating 10th grade I believe).

Quoting MD90fan (Reply 3):
like an attractive option if your trying to go to India

They must offer a cheap fair between London/Birmingham and Amritsar since all the flyer reviews of the airline online are from disgruntled passengers flying UK-Amritsar.

Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 2):
what route did you fly into Turkmenistan?

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.
E pur si muove -Galileo
 
buck3y3nut
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Tue Jul 17, 2007 12:16 am

hey great trip report... enjoyed the pictures because not many people tend to go to such places...
thank you very much for sharing...
 
ba319-131
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Tue Jul 17, 2007 5:46 am

Very nice indeed!

Interesting destination and pictures, a nice break from the continual DL & SQ reports Smile

Look forward to more of your reports.

Regards

Mark
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Milesdependent
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Tue Jul 17, 2007 8:50 am

Very nice report. Thanks for sharing.

I went to North Korea a few months ago, so share your enthusiasm for off-beat countries with messed up leaders Big grin

Turkmenistan Airlines sounds fairly normal compared to Air Koryo!

Turkmenistan is definitely on the cards for a 2009 visit.
 
abrelosojos
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Tue Jul 17, 2007 2:38 pm

Quoting MaverickM11 (Thread starter):
Boarding was in the Afro-Indo-Latino style (as others have termed it on here);

= Aah .... you noticed. I called it the ILBST (Indo-Latin Boarding School of Thought). First reference at (http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/88311/)  Smile.

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.

-A.
Live, and let live.
 
LH648
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Tue Jul 17, 2007 4:12 pm

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.
 
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OA260
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Tue Jul 17, 2007 6:14 pm

Hi nice pics . Looks like a cool place. Love the soap powder ''barf'' LOL.....

Thanks for posting

OA260

[Edited 2007-07-17 11:15:11]
 
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Coal
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Tue Jul 17, 2007 9:38 pm

Quoting LH648 (Reply 10):
Uzbekistan is oppressed but very cultural.

But aren't the people a**holes?  wink 

I'm planning a trip to Almaty in the future as one of my colleagues is from Kazakhstan and she's showed me some really nice pics.

Cheers
Coal
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gunsontheroof
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Wed Jul 18, 2007 3:13 am

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?

Great pics from Merv, love the barf.
 
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mke717spotter
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Wed Jul 18, 2007 4:05 am

Very good report and pictures! That livery sure looks great on the 717!
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MaverickM11
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RE: Turkmenistan Airlines Ashgabat-Mary (pics)

Wed Jul 18, 2007 5:22 am

Quoting Gunsontheroof (Reply 13):
Where there pictures of "Dear Leader" Berdymukhamedov on the 717 bulkhead?

There were not unfortunately. They're just about everywhere else so I was surprised there wasn't even a Ruhnama to peruse in the seat back pocket Wink.
E pur si muove -Galileo

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