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Seoul2b
Half Way Home: 2 Guys Driving Back to UK
Special Contribution
By Chris Barrett
Turkmenistan is a Turkic country in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR). It is bordered by Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the southwest, Uzbekistan to the northeast, Kazakhstan to the northwest, and the Caspian Sea to the west. The name Turkmenistan derives from Persian, meaning "land of the Turkmen."


Half way home
20,118KM covered:
countries past through: 7
near death car related incidents: 2
police interactions: 49
general mood: perky
Money raised for UNICEF, Macmillan Cancer Support and Dyslexia action: Ј3292.02 [www.seoul2b.com/donate]
current location: East Turkey

Seoul2b – half way home

A month or so ago we drove into Turkmenistan. It turned out to be one of our most amusing and longest boarder crossing but I won't yap on about that. My only knowledge of Turkmenistan was from a documentary titled 'The Happy Dictator' from that I gather that Turkmenistan would be a 'fun' place.

Its also a place with the rather fashionable tag line 'the North Korea of cetral Asia.' Me and Rob have both been to North Korea. Rob went on a weekend trip from the south and I went for over a week flying into Pyongyang from Beijing.
We were both interested to see evidence of the parallels already drawn up by our research on the place.

In keeping with the daily running of our drive back home, which we have now titled 'journeyshermerney,' we were glad to find out that Turkmenistan is not so much the experiment of a mutated Soviet dream, technically run by a dead man inhabited by a lot of skiny, ill, abused people who deserve the right to food, sanitary living, heating, personal choice, opinion, respect and dignity ... with that in mind Turkmenistan seems a lot more like a Joke.

I'd describe it as 1 part dictatorship 1 part Soviet Disneyland and 3 parts sand – it use to be run by the founder of independents (in 1991) from Soviet rule Turkmenbashi ('the happy dictator') who died in 2003.

He left behind him a gas rich country, a capital with the wish to be completely built out of marble which house's more fountains than trees (it would seem), a book he wrote which is also a subject in school and university and has its own TV channel and statue.

I'm only a few pages in to the book but i already have my favourite quotes ... 'time is a mace, hit it or be hit' and my personal favourite so far 'ignorance and laziness is like a sour cucumber.'

You'd imagine that he'd go on to explain what he means ... but he doesn't, the book is filled with random wisdom such the above the quotes with no further explanations ... its great!

'The Happy Dictator' so called 'The Happy Dictator' from his many smiling photos that are planted all around the place. As with all good dictatorship's portraits of the man in charge are never enough. Turkmenbashi was a wise man and realised that in the ever increasing hustles and bustle of a dictatorship there is a great need for a great many statues of himself. My favourite being the golden statue that revolves to always face the sun.

Or if you many have been born in Turkmenistan then the sun rotates to always face Turkmenbashi.

So to the rules of the land; there is an unspoken curfew where you should be home by 11, if driving in the capital you should have a clean car or you are likely to get fined ... We never found out if the dirty car thing was true. It rained while we where driving into the capital plus in the car park of our bugged (says the guid book) hotel we gave Kang Won-Kee (our car) a wipe down with our 'Im not a Russian girl' Tshirts donated by Babo tshirts.

Sadley I must say that we never found out if the rumours that most Turkmen leave the gas on in their homes because its cheaper for them to do that than keep buying matches! But we did find out that the former president did change the name of the days of the week and the towns and cities that can be found in the country which is mostly desert ... One city he even named after himself.

From our short visa restricted time in Turkmenistan we drove on to Iran

Iran ... I had my doubts about the place. To me I thought it would be my least favoured country. I could see myself getting annoyed with the culture of religion. The boarder crossing took us a while ... Well, a day ... ㅁnd when I mean us I mean Won Kee ... We got into Iran within a few hours but the man that was needed to stamp a form saying Won Kee could come in had gone home!

In our 30 days in Iran we covered a lot of the country. A full tank of diesel being the same price as 1 litre in the UK! Was a great insenditve to do as much driving as we could ... Not content with this and realising won kee was a little dirty we ask the petrol station attendent to clean our car with diesel knowing that even doing this would still be cheap than a quarter of a tank in the UK! But he declined.

Iranian hospitality could quiet possibly be the best in the world! We where invited into so many people house to eat food and sleep if we had no where else. We soon realised that we both had had a truly ignorant and unbalance opinion of the place and the people before we arrived.

I cant speak enough about who enjoyable our time in Iran was, so i wont but what i will say is, 'if i had a I heart Iran tshirt I'd wear it to church' ... The country has a lot to offer and its people apart from the fool that filled our tank of diesel with petrol rather than the diesel we asked him twice to put in resulting in a long day arguing with the owner of the garage who I must say was a boob.

The people are deserving of a lot more respect than the terrorist tag they are very aware that their government and many other government are happy to entertain. I found Iran a deeply interesting country in its present state and rich history.

In Iran we also happened to find by chance 'the smallest school in the world' while looking for a quiet place to swim in the Persian Gulf for our new years holiday day.

As I said we where looking for a quiet place to swim on the west coast of Iran kicking our way through the sand when a young boy came up to us and pointed to a building. He waved us to follow him, intrigued and use to Iranian hospitality of free food and tea we followed. In a small dark room we shook the hand and said our salam's to a young guy who showed us a video on his mobile phone of a CNN report. The report showed us the place we where now stood, the three kids that where looking at us from small desks in a tiny room no bigger than 4meters x 4 meters ... and their teacher, the man holding the phone. We spent three days unearthing the story of the smallest school in the world as we where past along one family to another meeting a social documentary photographer and physiologist of a small fishing town which proved to be one of the most eye opening places for a true look at the heart of Iran rather than the face.

Well I think ive done my bit for Iranian tourism soon I hope to get my commission from Turkey.

For more information on Chris and Rob's charity drive back to Briton from South Korea please visit and show your support by donating what little money you can to UNICEF, Macmillan Cancer Support and Dyslexica action via their website – www.seoul2b.com



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