There is something weird and quirky when you visit Ashgabat, the capital city of Turkmenistan. It is not about place names and the remnants of Soviet rule in this traditional Central Asian society. After the downfall of Communism, the country regressed into a totalitarian government ruled by the late image-worshipping leader Saparmurat Niyazov also known as Turkmenbashi ("Great Leader of the Turkmen") as a ripoff to Kemal Ataturk.
Ever heard of the Ruhnama? It is the green equivalent of Mao's Little Red Book where it is openly displayed everywhere you go. In fact, you will see gold statues of Turkmenbashi holding that book. How can you live in a country when every aspect of live revolves around him.
With its oil riches, the country has excess electricity that they use to literally light up buildings from the outside. Competing the bright lights of Las Vegas, Ashgabat lights up like an oasis in the tundra. Far removed from the secular society of Turkey, Turkmenistan remains in doldrums of self-searching for identity.
Long to be the part of the original Silk Road, the country were criss-crossed by invaders throughout its history. It even became the bargaining pawns in the deadly chess match between the Russian and British Empire during the Great Game.
Another weird place to visit is the so called Gates of Hell in Darzawa. It is literally the same as the hell described by Dante Alighieri in his seminal work "Inferno." The noxious gas-filled cave was discovered in the Karakoram Desert when geologists were looking for natural gas.The fire in the collapsed area has never been extinguished since 1971. Want to go there?