Katie Coates

The Cities of the Silk Road tour proved to be one of the most fascinating trips I have ever had the pleasure of taking. The historical sights in Uzbekistan were simply awesome and all we could say was 'wow' because there were no words to convey the sheer impressiveness of what we felt privileged to be looking at. Turkmenistan was something else; entirely different and a country of cultural extremes. Ashgabat is to behold. The city is awash with hugely impressive marble buildings of gargantuan proportions but, of the 700,000 inhabitants, we saw few, excepting the army of street sweepers and lamppost polishers whose task is endless.

Moving away from the gleamingly smooth Tarmac roads, complete with lit up road markings of Ashgabat, into the countryside, the sights and experiences are quite different. The uneven, pot holed 'roads' are guaranteed to provide a tremendously bumpy journey and the village houses are little more than shacks. People seem nervous about speaking with foreigners but those who do venture to communicate, in the main by way of smiles, mime and the odd word, were delightful. Children, who are unaware of the regime and constraints of their country, are excited to see travellers and grab the opportunity for a photo session.

Overall, both countries are exceptionally interesting in their own, unique way and I wouldn't have wanted to miss the incredible, thought provoking experiences of either of them.