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Thursday, August 05, 2004

I fooled a Turkmen today! Twice!

Yes, I fooled a Turkmen today! Now, before you conjure up some image of a poor pensioner on a street corner fooled by some westerner (me), let me assure you that I did no wrong.

But, I managed to get an extra day on my Turkmenistan transit visa by confusing the idiot at the counter. I'm no fan of the arduous visa process, and Turkmenisan, being in the same league as Belarus and North Korea as far as wanting to keep pesky foreigners out gets zero respect from me. Sure, I've wanted to see the country, but only because the President is a crazy man and builds crazy stuff all over his capital. I'll get some photos up of some of it when I get them. Despite it being illegal to take a photo of it, I promise I will do whatever it takes to get one of the giant golden statue of the President that spins on top of the 'Arch of Neutrality' in order to greet the sun in the morning and set it off in the evening.

Anyway, he wouldn't take my money for the visa -- $31US. I gave him $100 but the note had a small tear so he wouldn't accept it. He also wouldn't give my passport back. Now, I claimed I had no more dollars and was quite bothered that he would keep my passport even when I told him to take the visa out and give it back. Anyway, not wanting to get the mighty Irish diplomatic core on the case of the Turkmen, I went away after much protesting with the guards in order to go 'change my money'. In Central Asia they're really finicky with the dollars they'll take, to the point where I wonder if people keep them pressed between glass as soon as they get them.

Upon my return to the embassy I paid, then complained about the length of stay -- I tried for seven days and was granted five. When I protested that the five day period they gave me was no good, I first asked for another five day period, then another. In the end I got a whole extra day! What's the big deal? A sixth day that I probably won't use just is like Christmas morning...to fool some Soviet-type bureaucracy like that. To top it off, he gave me wrong change and gave me a whole extra dollar in change. There goes Niyazov's plans for another stupid monument or world's biggest something or other in Ashgabat. Just in case somebody asks you where the world's biggest fountain is, it is in Ashgabat. Why? I don't know. Why not?

Anyway, I'm in Tashkent now but tonight I hope to begin a bit of a whilwind tour of Uzbekistan's main 'sights' of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.