Baku

Trip Start Dec 01, 2011
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Trip End Jan 20, 2013


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Flag of Azerbaijan  ,
Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan.  The train was 16 hours from Tbilisi.  I slept most of it, so that was no problem.  My visa for Azerbaijan started on August 6 and I departed August 5th and arrived the Azerbaijan border at about 9 PM.  Luckily they let me pass through 3 hours early and didn’t say anything. 

 

The main part of Baku is the old town.  This is where I stayed in the only hostel in this area.  It’s not a good hostel at all.  I had a book that had the top 10s of everything .  I remember Xian China
had one of the top 10 city walls and so did Baku.  This small area takes about 15 minutes to
walk around and is open on the side that is close to the water, but surrounded on the 3 other sides.  There are numerous back and side alleys to explore.  You can definitely spend a day here.  The walls have turrets every so often and it looks like you can walk on the walls at some
point, but it was closed off when I was there.  There are probably 3 to 4 entrances to the old town.  This is basically the only area of Baku where tourist sites are clearly marked.  There
are signs in English pointing to where the sites and hotels are.  There is also a palace inside the walls thatlooked quite amazing, but I didn’t get the chance to explore as I was quite busy with my trip conflict.  There is a few other interesting things in Baku.  The Caspian Sea is here and I thought I would be able to swim here, but it may be the dirtiest sea I have ever seen.  There is so much oil here and the water is very polluted with it.  The walk along the water is great.  It goes about 4 or 5 KM and takes over an hour to walk it.  There are sidewalk restaurants everywhere along with some amazing parks.  You have to try and walk underneath the trees because it is very hot.  There are also like circus rides here and water fountains everywhere.  It is all very interesting.  The fountains are different shapes and sizes.  The landscaping here is some of the best in the world.  All the plants are trimmed toliterally perfection.  Fountain Square is the other main tourist attraction in Baku and is 5 minutes walking from the city walls.  This is a giant square where there is a lot of shopping and a lot of water fountains.  There are several fountains here and many restaurants surround the fountains to give it a good atmosphere.  The last big 
attraction in the actual city of Baku was the flame towers.  Baku is famous for its oil, so they made
three giant towers that are curved so that they look like burning oil.  They light up at night and it’s a pretty cool attraction.  I tried to go to a wrestling club while I was here called Club Dynamo. 
It’s a pretty big club with all sports there.  The Olympics were going on in London, so
there were no wrestlers here.  Baku was literally completely torn apart when I was here.  It is going to transform itself into a Dubai type city.  This whole city will be completely different in 5 years.  Right now, 90% of the sidewalks were under construction and there are several skyscrapers under construction also.  The part of the city that is completed like fountain square or the sidewalk along
the water is very impressive.  Baku is not a great place now, but in 10 years, it will be.  They are also planning a project to build some man made islands kind of like in Dubai.

 

When I applied for a visa to Azerbaijan, I had two choices.  There is a tourist visa and a transit visa.  The tourist visa was $140 and the transit was good for 3 days and $20. I thought since Azerbaijan was not that big of a country that I could see it all in 3 days and I saw a good portion of what it has to offer, but I had some extremely bad luck.  The last piece of the puzzle for my trip was Turkmenistan.  I was told that I can get a visa on arrival with a letter of invitation.  I received
a letter of invitation from the Turkmenistan Embassy in Ankara.  They told me I could get the visa at any border on arrival including the ferry to Turkmenabashi.  I went to the port of Baku on my 2nd
day and tried to get my tickets sorted out to Turkmenistan and they told me that I could not board the boat without a visa in my passport.  I told them I had a letter and they said no.  I was pretty pissed off because I spoke with Turkmenistan authorities in several embassies including USA and Yerevan and they said I should e good to go.  Azerbaijan has nothing to do with Turkmenistan borders laws and customs.  They should have let me go and let me solve the problem with Turkmenistan as it doesn’t involve Azerbaijan.  The next morning, I went to the Turkmenistan Embassy and they were closed and would not open for 3 more days on August 10.  I asked the authorities in Azerbaijan the penalty for overstaying my visa and they said it was 400 euros.  This is ridiculous. 400 euros for one day.  I was not happy.  I looked into a flight that same morning to
Ashgabat, which is the capital of Turkmenistan and it was 400 euros, which is also ridiculous as you can buy a ticket to USA for that and the flight is only 1 hour.  I went to a travel agency and
asked for a different routing or to skip it and go to Uzbekistan and the cheapest option there was 500 euros, so I decided to go to the Lufthansa office in Baku and try to buy my ticket and they said 700 euros, then later it changed again to 3000 euros.  I did everything the Turkmenistan Embassy told me to do and it’s a shame it did not work out.  I was upset as this was the missing link in
my trip.  I decided to use my frequent flyer miles to book a ticket to see Claire and spend the last 3 weeks of her trip with her.  I pick up the last leg of my trip leaving Claire on August 30 and going to Kazakhstan to finish the last part going down to Kyrgyzstan and China, then flying to Philippines to meet my mom, then Australia, New Zealand and that is all I have planned at the moment.  If Claire wants to settle down, I would love to settle down and stop traveling.  I guess that is the goal in the end.  It is not to see the whole world.  When things go good, I want to keep traveling and when they are not good, I hate it.  Today was one of those days when I just wanted it to be over and be with Claire.  I hope to someday finish the parts I have missed out on like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan another day, but it won’t be for a long time.
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