Je bekijkt de reis...
31 mei 2015
Please find below a first insight in everything that we experience on our journey following parts of the Silk Route. If you do not wish to receive this, please drop Merel an email.
After 5 days of relaxation on a perfect island in Turkey (Gokceada), we headed to Istanbul to fly to Turkmenistan. Arriving at the airport in Turkmenistan we were a little nervous: it had been very difficult to acquire the transit visa on arrival, and now we were going to see whether ‘the system’ would let us in yes or no. It was in the middle of the night (3 AM) when we arrived, but still warm outside. Entering the airport we received a surprise: the officials spoke English! All in all it went quite quickly and our driver was waiting outside to bring us to the hotel. The next morning we barely were in time for breakfast and then caught a taxi to one of the biggest bazaars in Central Asia, in the middle of the desert.
The next day we had a guided tour through the city (of course, with air-conditioned car ;)), and we were lucky! Today (25-5) was the anniversary of Ashgabat in the Guinness book of records, with most white marble buildings in one town. We went to the exposition palace, where all kind of businesses involved in building and decorating these buildings were having an exposition. Including the gas-companies, maintenance companies, new building projects for the Asia-Olympics in 2017 (like a completely new airport terminal in the shape of a local guitar). During our city tour we were shown some of the ridiculous, nevertheless beautiful, buildings in Ashgabat: there is a giant, beautiful mosque outside the city, where hardly anyone can go to because it is too far away from the city center, but is was built there because the previous president was born in the village close to this location (and by the way, his mausoleum is there too). There is a bank which is indicated as bank because there is a giant coin on top of the building. The ministry of education has the form of an open book. The ministry of export has a globe on top. The building of marriage looks in our opinion like a giant panda at night time, etc etc.
After two days of being dazzled by white marble buildings it was time to go to ancient ruins of a city on the silk route; Konye Urgench. We had a driver taking us from Dashoguz right through the country side of the river delta in the North of the country. We crossed cotton fields (to be harvested in November, so still very small plants), many sheep and goats, and small towns. This gave us an impression of country life in Turkmenistan. Konye Urgench had many Turkmen tourists, we saw one other ‘Western’ tourist, from France. We also went to a local market, where at first we thought that we were the tourists watching the attraction, but frankly it was the other way around: we were the attraction.
We asked about unemployment, but that is apparently nonexistent in this country. People lose face if they have to beg, so family or other village people will always make sure that you have a job. Well, we indeed have not seen anyone beg and from some ‘inefficiencies’ we have seen that literally jobs are created. Such as a museum with around 10 employees while hardly anyone visits (maybe once a month there are some tourists (in Dashoguz)). One or two of the employees are there to walk with you in the museum (amongst others to ensure that you don’t take any pictures), at least two sit at the entrance for 1) selling ticket, 2) writing ticket. And then two other are there to check your ticket and write down your name and nationality before you enter the museum. We saw similar systems in restaurants (with separate cashiers, the one who brings your food cannot take a supplemental order etc). One of our drivers told us that he (as many others in his country) has two jobs: during tourist season he is a driver, but in winter time he is a welder. He goes to all different countries for maintenance on the gas pipeline, built from Turkmenistan to China.
In general we were pleasantly surprised by the welcoming nature of the Turkmenians: literally everyone we met or spoke to, was very enthusiastic and helping us around. From the old ladies picking berries from the tree for us, to the sales person on the market dressing us up with local attributes. In our opinion people show hard work towards further development the country, with great results already showing: Not only in Ashgabat, but also on the countryside with new houses, new schools and modern sport facilities. We have enjoyed the colorful dresses of the ladies, including the jewelry and the shoes. And we have enjoyed but wondered about the very warm sheep hats of the men. Until we discovered that in wintertime it can be up until -40 degrees! One thing that struck us is that everybody always wants to be the first in case of any line. From taxi stand to airport queues to traffic lights. There is little patience to wait until their turn – maybe in general Turkmenians are eager to progress quickly.
And we enjoyed the food and local beer! We cannot decide which is best, Zip or Berk, but for sure Berk has the nicest bar serving it (Iceberk in Ashgabat).
After 5 days it was time to head to Uzbekistan. Our driver brought us to the gates where we had to go through several steps before we could exit Turkmenistan: 1) show passport at the gate, 2) fill out a form, 3) have the form and the passport checked, and the form stamped, 4) have our luggage checked extensively, 5) have our passport checked and stamped and our forms checked, 6) have our passports with all stamps checked one last time and a taxi called (the land between the two countries is so large, it takes about 10 minutes by taxi). At stage 6, the official asked us whether we had some chocolate or chewing gum from the Netherlands with us. We did not, but we did have some Peijnenburg-cookies. We handed it over and our cab was called. We wondered whether this would fall in the category ‘bribes’, but we decided for the better: nevertheless, we will never know what would have happened if we didn’t have any Peijnenburg with us. This whole process took us about an hour.
Then we arrived at the Uzbek-side of the border. We had a similar process: 1) show passport at the gate, 2) have the passport information written in a book by someone in a white coat, 3) have our passport stamped, 4) fill out two forms of entry, 5) have our forms of entry stamped, 6) luggage check, 7) passport check at the gate. The first three steps went very smoothly (luckily because it was getting over 30 degrees and we were carrying all our luggage). The fourth step, filling out the form, was a bit difficult, since it was only available in Cyrillic… We asked for an English form and someone went searching for it. About 30 minutes later, another official came and asked us what we were doing. We asked the same question and about 15 minutes later some other official (higher in rank, he had more stars on his shoulder), told us that there was none available in English, but they had one translation which we could use as a guidance. After we filled out two copies each (both to be stamped now, one to hand in, one to keep for exit), we entered the next building where they had airco, thank you! We were first in queue after 1 lady, she had been walking back and forth many times filling out new forms and having her luggage checked multiple times. We had to wait on a little bench, while there were two officials, of which only one was helping the lady. We decided that it wouldn’t make any difference to make a scene, so we just waited. Three other people were helped before us. And then, after another 30 minutes, we found out why it had taken so long before they could help us: someone needed to fetch the passport scanning machine and hook it on to the computer! After this, we were helped quickly and were allowed to skip the luggage check and walk towards the gate. No Peijnenburg cookies needed this time and there was our driver. All in all, the border formalities had taken us over 3 hours. But we arrived in Uzbekistan!
Next time more about Uzbekistan!
Foto's bij verslag (4)
31 mei 2015 15:15 | Door: Lieke
Wat een verrassing om wat van jullie the horen. Erg leuk!
Veel plezier in uzbekistan!!
31 mei 2015 21:23 | Door: marion van wanrooij
Zo wat een gedoe zeg aan de grens, lekker bureaucratisch allemaal, maar eigenlijk ook wel weer grappig waar pijnenburg al niet goed voor is
1 juni 2015 10:08 | Door: Kim
Hopelijk gaan de volgende grensovergangen wat soepeler. Maar als iedereen zo aardig blijft en je helpt komt dat vast goed. Geniet van de mooie dingen in Uzbekistan!
1 juni 2015 12:42 | Door: Ibrahim en Dennis
Wat leuk om te horen dat jullie veel plezier en lekker weer hebben, we moeten het wel toegeven dat het een leuke verassing was dat we iets van jullie horen.
Team 1 wenst jullie hele soepel toegang en fijne verblijf in Uzbekistan.
1 juni 2015 16:40 | Door: MB
Haha mooi verhaal Wanrooij, jullie vermaken je wel daar. Tof om iets te horen, bijzondere landen (en procedures haha)... Geniet en verwonder!
4 juni 2015 09:44 | Door: josje zuurbier
lieverds, goed zo, laat ze maar lekker hard voor jullie werken, Ali Baba is in town! Inmiddels hebben we in jullie heerlijke huis vertoefd, de poezen logeren bij de buuf, het gaat goed. Toen we op het terras in de zomerzon zaten kwamen ze op bezoek en hebben de fruitboompjes bemest en onze afvalbak gecontroleerd. Alles kits en vrolijk. Geniet van de reis en blijf je verbazen. Wij genieten van het verslag. Zijn er foto's? Veel liefs en good luck xxxxxx Josje en Peter.