The Country of White Elephants

Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan

Located on the coast of the Caspian Sea, near Turkmenbashi, Yelken Yacht Club is a place where Turkmen elite goes for short holiday breaks. If you are tired of crowded touristic resorts, this is the place to be. You might even find yourself wondering whether you are the only guest here.

Everything is world class – excellent service, nice swimming pool, reasonably good food, it’s just that Turkmenistan is not the hottest touristic destination and unless you are searching for alternative travel experience, you probably would never consider going to Turkmenbashi, which is also home to the country’s crude oil refinery. You would need to jump through hoops to get a visa, as application procedure is complicated and involves submission of  your university diplomas.

Only a bit over hundred thousand tourists come to Turkmenistan every year, which is quite ironic as the government has recently unveiled a brand new international airport that has capacity to handle 14 million passengers a year. With a roof in a shape of flying falcon the airport is all in marble and gold. White elephant? There will be many as you move into the capital – Ashgabat.

The road to the White City is impressive. Victorian style latterns every ten meters, air conditioned bus stops and carefully manicured plants. Almost sterile cleanliness. The drive is quick as there is no traffic. The exterior facades of all buildings in Ashgabat are white, with more than 500 of them also being marble-clad  –  a reason why Ashgabat made it to the World Guinness Record Book.  Locals say that the government has even suspended imports of coloured cars and is requiring exporters to ship only white cars while existing cars are strongly encouraged to undergo whitening treatment.

The city resembles Dubai and Pyongyang at the same time. Its lavish streets and parks are noticeably empty of people. You never need to worry about making a reservation for a restaurant as there is a high probability that you will be the only client, especially if you go for the higher end gourmet food.

Images:  ©2017 Peachtree Alley