From Merv we headed south-west to Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, a long four hours in a shared taxi mainly due to the appalling road conditions (unmaintained dirt roads in Australia are main roads in Turkmenistan).
Ashgabat is an interesting city, every building is a large white-marble building, usually with gold trimmings. This was the vision of previous president Saparmurat Niyazov, who also built numerous fountains and gold statues of himself. All this gives Ashgabat a very unique look.
We didn’t dare to take photos due to the stories we had heard of other travelling being detained by police, that with the fact all buildings looked like government buildings with guards on every corner. A number of times we were reminded not to take photos even though we didn’t even have the camera visible. The Russian bazaar was something we hadn’t seen before, an outdoor bazaar with refrigerated displays selling cheeses and meats, when we tried to take photos we were quickly instructed to delete them.
Finally, for some reason, everything is closed as well, the Earthquake Museum, Museum of Fine Arts and even the twenty-million dollar Turkmenbashi Cableway. At the cableway we did get to take photos with fields of poppies, as imagined, they grow like crazy in this region.