After getting to bed around 1am it was nice to be able to sleep in a bit. We didn’t have a ton on the agenda for today since it was mainly just a bit of final sightseeing around Ashgabat before a late afternoon flight to Mary. First stop was the Tolkucha Bazaar, otherwise known as the Altyn Asyr Bazaar. It was opened in 2011 to replace the old bazaar, and like so many of the new buildings in Ashgabat it was built to resemble something. The most famous product for sale are the red Turkmen rugs, so the buildings of the bazaar were of course built in the shape of a common patter on these rugs.
Unfortunately, photos are not allowed in the bazaar, and frankly I thought the whole place was a huge letdown. Nothing terribly interesting for sale – lots of computer gear and such, a small area selling fruits/vegetables, and tons and tons of clothing. Nothing interesting, however…I was hoping maybe for a fun Turkmenistan t-shirt or something, but nothing at all. Looked to be mostly surplus clothing from the US/Europe. I did manage to get one shot of the area between some of the buildings, mainly to prove there were at least some people walking around:
Perhaps the most interesting part of the bazaar was trying to park, because there were hundreds and hundreds of cars dropping people off and picking them up. There were certainly lots of people walking around, and maybe our guide failed to show us the most interesting part of the bazaar, but I failed to see the attraction to local citizens as there wasn’t even a lively place for common products that we could see.
Our guide was seeming a bit puzzled by what more he could show us for the rest of the day, so I asked if we could go take pictures of the “World’s Largest Indoor Ferris Wheel” that we had driven by the previous day. He agreed that would be a good idea, so off we went. View of the ferris wheel from the car park:
A little perspective on how big the thing is…nearly 300 feet high:
There were maybe 10 other people there – I can’t imagine this thing makes any money. Waiting in line to ride…total cost was maybe $3 or so for a 10 minute or so ride:
View from about halfway up:
What we didn’t know, is the ferris wheel is part of the “Alem Cultural and Entertainment Complex.” This meant there was a giant arcade and video games. Ian couldn’t resist one of the driving games…I’ll let him comment on just how awesome he did…
I mean seriously, how can you resist a shooting game called “The Hillbilly’s” [sic] in the middle of Turkmenistan?
There was also some terrorist/hostage game, which Ian had to take a crack out. Only a few innocent hostages perished:
After spending an hour there, our guide suggested we go to the Ashgabat Cable Car. It’s an approximately 4km long ride from the city of Ashgabat up into the Kopetdag Mountains which form the border with Iran. Waiting to board:
View on the way up:
Once we got to the top, the view of the mountains was great:
We had lunch at the top, and sat enjoying the outdoors for around an hour before taking the ride down. A short way into the ride down we crossed this strip of land. This was the “first line” defence zone between the old Soviet Union and Iran. It’s still barbed wire on both sides of the strip, and there are guard towers and motion sensors. Since so much of the border is mountainous and difficult to patrol this is meant to be a buffer zone for anyone who made it this far over the border:
By the time we got back it was time to head straight to the airport for our domestic flight to Mary. We were hoping for a bit of drama that might mean one of their few flightworthy old Soviet planes would be pressed into service, but it was not to be. Check-in was very easy, as was security. We only had to wait about 15 minutes before it was time to board.
Turkmenistan Airlines flight 131
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (ASB) to Mary, Turkmenistan (MYP)
Depart 17:20, Arrive 18:00, Flight Time: 0:40
Boeing 737-700, Registration EZ-A008, Manufactured 2009, Seat 20D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 115,112
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,305,249
The plane was hot. Very hot. It was nearly 110F outside, and the ground air conditioning unit wasn’t working despite this being a relatively new 737. We finally found out where all the people are in Turkmenistan…apparently on board our completely full plane:
Mini bottles of water and candies were passed out, and there’s not much else to say about the quick 40 minute flight. It was super bumpy due to the warm outside temps but nothing too bad. Maybe it just seemed bad because we were so far back, and I can’t remember the last time I sat behind the wings! Both coach and business class had pictures of the President to watch over them. Supposedly it’s rare to see the 737 on this route, and they normally run economy-only 717s on the route. Had I had the option, I would definitely have paid the extra for business class since the one way economy ticket was under $40!
Welcome to Mary Airport…picture of the President greeting you on the rather long walk (maybe 200m or so) into the terminal building:
Mary Airport from the car park.
Now it was off to the hotel to enjoy two nights in Mary!