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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Turkmenistan - 8 September, 2002

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Ashgabat (Hotel Nissa) N3755.750' E05823.220' 253 meters .
-  Tolkuchka Bazar . . . .
-  Russian Bazar . . . .
Finish Ashgabat (Hotel Nissa) N3755.750' E05823.220' 253 meters

30 km

Total Leg 3:

30 km

Total Leg 2:

2,153 km

Total Leg 1:

3,018 km

Grand Total:

5,201 km

 

Weather: Clear, sunny and very very hot.  Warm/cool at night.

 

 

Today is the big shopping day - we want to see how much damage we can do.  We will be heading out to the famous Tolkuchka Bazar, or Sunday Market.  It is located on the outskirts of the city and sprawls for across of acres of desert. We head off just after 8 AM and arrive there thirty minutes later and just jump into the teeming masses of people trying to sell just about everything to the prospective buyers.

 

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But first we decide to go and inspect the camel market, where camels are sold by the colorful traders.  We thought it might be fun to buy a camel and try to take it back with us - we had heard that they cost about $150.  We try to ask the price of one, but they must not think we are serious buyers so they ignore us (probably saying something like "dumb tourist").  Well, all camels do is fart, stink and spit and are very dirty, so maybe it is just as well they do not seem interested in selling us one.  Then it is off to the carpet section of the bazar.

 

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There are thousands of carpets laid out or hanging from bars in the sandy compound.  The moment we enter this section of the bazar, we are surrounded by about a dozen ladies trying to sell us all kinds of wares from robes to hats to bags.  They seem pretty eager to sell and when we are able to negotiate some good prices on the robes (about $4 each), w decide to buy.  Then we shoo them all off and go and look at some of the carpets.

 

But it is more difficult than we thought.  Many of the pieces hanging there are clearly new ones and may have been made with artificial dyes.  It is only by looking carefully through each stall and under stacks of carpets that we find some of the older carpets that look much more interesting.  However, you have to be careful to inspect them for damage and worn patches.

 

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We find one stall run by about four ladies that has some interesting carpets.  They invite us to sit down and have some tea.  We pick out two carpets that look good and start to haggle over the price.

 

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We had heard that the women stall keepers were tougher bargainers, and that appeared to be true.  We had our work cut out for us, and it took walking away a couple of times, but in the end, we got the price that we were offering for the two of them (plus a few dollars to save face).

 

A local lady with a young son had attached herself to us and offered to help.  She said that she comes to the market each Sunday to practice her English with foreigners, but we were not sure about her true motives (it is a shame to be so suspicious).  At times she would say that a price was outrageous and other times she said that we got a good price.  But we never knew what she discussed in Russian with the vendors (even though she did not do that often).  She left when her boy got tired and wanted to go home.

 

As we wandered around looking for other carpets, we came upon some other handicrafts such as the traditional wedding hat, jewelry and some bags made out of carpet weavings.  We picked up some of these souvenirs as we went.  After we had purchased the two carpets, we were chased around the market by another lady who tried to get us to buy one of her carpets.  In the end, we also picked up that one - it was quite nice and the price was good.  Finally Lars went in search of one of the local Turkmen hats.  They are the huge, bushy hats made out of sheep's skin and wool and make you look like you have one of those afros from the seventies.  Lars found the biggest, baddest and smelliest one available in the market.  The Turkmen use it to keep cool (believe it or not), keep away the snakes and scorpions when sleeping (scorpions hate sheep), as a water container and, in the old days, as a means to check out if a women was a good prospective bride.  He would unexpectedly throw the heavy hat at the covered women in the street and if she withstood the assault without falling, she was robust enough to take care of a family in this harsh environment.

 

We left the market exhausted but happy with our morning of shopping.  We drove back into town where we went to the Russian Market to go cook group shopping.  It is a great place to go food shopping, with all kinds of great things including fresh roast beef, caviar, meats, cookies, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, etc.  We spent almost two hours there picking up a good supply of food for the group.

 

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We then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around town and having some lunch (the usual shashlyk).  As it is Sunday, all the shops and museums are closed, so there is not too much to do.  Walking back to the hotel, we try to find another way that we have not used.  This time we head by the Earthquake Memorial (in 1948 the city was leveled and two-thirds of the population lost their lives from an earthquake that measured nine on the Richter scale) and down Karla Marxa blvd. passing by the War Memorial and onto the hotel.

 

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We continue to be impressed by all the images of Turkmenbashi that decorate the city and country.  This building not only had the typical larger than life photo and the slogans, it also had a statue.

 

Back at the hotel we take a well-earned rest in the air-conditioned room and a well-needed shower to wash off all the dust and sweat from the many hours we spent in the markets.  And then we headed out for a group dinner at one of the Turkish restaurants in town.  It was not a bad place and a nice venue for a group dinner.  We walk there and back.  We are now getting very familiar with these streets both during the day and at night.

 

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