Web: Our Nomadic Life – We visited Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on a work trip. We hardly had any knowledge about this country (did not know even the name of the capital and where it is located), We managed to get some information via the web but it got us a bit worried as the country seems to be known as the North Korea of Central Asia!!!
This was an extremely rare opportunity for us to visit the country and fortunately our organization could issue us two invitation letters, as it is very difficult to enter Turkmenistan. In all, we stayed 5 nights in Ashgabat.
We flew from Jakarta to Ashgabat via Dubai. Ashgabat airport was really clean and shiny like a 5 star-hotel. But we hardly saw anyone there. Surprisingly, almost 30% of the passengers in our flight were Japanese and they seemed to be traveling on an organized tour. We wondered why they have chosen Turkmenistan for their holiday destination but we did not have a courage to ask them…
As instructed by the organization, we queued the line at the visa counter. Unfortunately, there was only one officer handling visa for everyone but it was not a big issue as there were not too many people in the queue. We waited for about 30 minutes.
Our turn came and the invitation letter was accepted without a problem. We paid 19$ each at the counter next door. It said ‘exchange’ but it seemed they are only for payment for visa and no money exchange could be done there.
We paid visa fee and got visa on our passports. We needed to register eyes and fingerprints on a brand-new machine. After that, we proceeded to the immigration counter. We were asked if this was our first time to Turkmenistan and allowed to enter the country.
We collected our luggage and at the exit and our driver was waiting for us outside. Then again not many people around… Everything is quiet and looked spanking new, very different from Jakarta. Then, the driver informed us that this airport had been opened only 2 days ago. No wonder everything was so spanking clean.
It took about 15 minutes from the airport to reach our hotel. The driver exchanged some US dollars into Manats with a bit better rate than the official rate. The shape of the hotel was interesting as it was the shape of a water drop. We were amazed by the shining interior of the hotel. Really gorgeous indeed!! It was spotlessly clean and with perfect finish. At the same time we arrived, a tour group had also arrived and it took us some time to get checked-in.
We were again pleasantly surprised with the size of our room which seemed to be bigger than our apartment in Jakarta. There was a TV next to the bathtub and it could comfortably accommodate 5 adults. Toiletries were from Bvlgari. At 140US$ per night it was quite reasonable. The hotel is in the middle of nowhere, almost in the middle of a desert. We were too tired to go out or explore the hotel. We just ordered a mushroom soup and smoked chicken salad, which were not too bad.