The Silk Road was once a crossroads for the movement of people, goods, and ideas between Europe and Asia that included the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Frequent listeners of our show will have already learned a bit about Central Asia from prior episodes #136 – Central Asia with Bradley Mayhew, and #133 – Travel to Kyrgyzstan with Stephen Lioy. Today, writer Tom Masters, who was originally on Ep. 140 about The Maldives, returns to our show to share his knowledge about Turkmenistan, perhaps one of the most mysterious countries of an already semi-unknown region.

Merv ((photo courtesy of Tom Masters)
What Scott and Trevor knew about Turkmenistan beforehand:

Scott: A little bit – my Dad and I almost went through Central Asia in 2019. I’ve read the excellent book ‘The Great Game’ by Peter Kopkirk, about Britain and Russia’s jockeying for control of Central Asia, which was very interesting and piqued my interest further. I have tons of spots throughout there marked on Google maps. All I have to do is get wealthy and have time. I’d love to just got for a year through that region. 

Trevor shares some facts from Wikipedia and various YouTube channels he watched before the show, and then admits that Central Asia is such a geographically remote region that he would know far less than he does if they hadn’t recently had Stephen Lioy on the show to talk about Krygyzstan and a few of it’s neighboring countries.

Tea house in Dashoguz (photo courtesy of Tom Masters)


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Guest Intro – Tom Masters

Originally from London, journalist, travel writer, and worldly gentleman Tom Masters has covered the world and then some. Based out of Berlin for more than a decade, he specializes in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Latin America. He’s also interested in human rights, ecotourism, ethical travel, and languages, of which he speaks five: Russian, German, French and Spanish and English. He’s written books for Lonely Planet, covering countries from Turkmenistan to Cuba, worked as a documentary producer for the BBC, Discovery and he joins us online from Berlin.

Ashgabat (photo courtesy of Tom Masters)

Listen to Episode 150 to hear Tom’s answers to the following questions about Turkmenistan: 

  • Where are you currently, and how long have you been living there?
  • When and how did you first become a travel writer?
  • What first brought you to Asia and where did you go on that first trip?
  • What first brought you to Turkmenistan?
  • How was the experience of writing a Lonely Planet about Turkmenistan being that it’s a bit closed off from what we understand? 
  • You’ve written other regional LP guidebooks too, correct?
  • Can you give us a Coles-notes version of Turkmenistan?
  • What typically draws travelers to Turkmenistan?
  • What are the key sites people must see if they travel to Turkmenistan?
  • What is travel like within Turkmenistan: by bus, train, car, plane?
  • What are the people like in Turkmenistan?
  • What’s the food like?
  • How do you get to the country typically if you’re going to travel there?
  • How safe is it to travel around these countries?
  • How long would someone need at a minimum to have a proper trip there?
  • If someone wanted to spend five days in Turkmenistan, what’s a great travel plan?
  • Best memory as a traveler in Turkmenistan?
Konye Urgench mosque (photo courtesy of Tom Masters)


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