September 30, 2005

I had been warned of Turkmenistan's liking for bureaucracy. Peter Forwood, who has been travelling around the world on his Harley motorcycle since 1996, has just visited Turkmenistan.

One thing that strikes me about this plain spoken Australian's travels is his dogged determination to avoid having to bribe corrupt officials. You can tell from reading his accounts that this kind of extortion really goes against his grain, and he's quite good at avoiding it. In many countries around the world cops, border guards and customs officials expect a little bribe to get you on your way.

  • In Laos, he threatens to photograph the official.
  • In Pakistan, citing the local laws and asking to see the official's boss did the trick.
  • In Tanzania he asks to go to court over an unexpected "fine", a delay tactic that works well as the official realizes he will be wasting valuable bribe extortion time, and gets let off with a warning.
  • In Indonesia, after one cop attempts to extort a bribe, Peter develops the inability to see cops, even those waving a red flag, trying to pull him over.
  • In Russia, Peter exploits language difficulties "Me no speak Russian", and plays dumb, again wasting the the officials extortion time until he is waved on.
  • Peter holds his ground even in the Central African Republic where the military tries to extort money at gunpoint.
    • great link, un-. i'm looking forward to reading it all!
    • Great post, un-!
    • Interesting find, -un! This is the first mention I've seen anywhere of cinema being banned in Turkmenistan, though I"d suspected that was likely to be the case, with most other performing arts not considered Turkmen being forbidden, too. The bribery and corruption of officials in Turkmenistan is notorious, and even Bashi is powerless to stop it, it seems. He has complained at length about it, and fired many for it. (Though with what actual justification in particular cases it is hard to say). Two years of military service for boys is compulsory after finsishing the ever-shrinking public education offered by the state, so it's not too surprising there are so many checkpoints along the road -- they must be kept busy, one supposes. The military comprises about 750,000 boys and men from 15-49, and the total population of the country's only five million, so one in every 6 to 7 people in the land are in the military under Bashi. Bashi's official policy is watchful neetrality. HIs neighbours are none too reliable, and Bashi isn't a trusting sort of person, as nearly as one can judge.
    • Dammit, so close and no Turkmenbashi expose? Nothing about the bribee, by Turkmenbashi decree, having to shave and trim their nose hairs in front of the cop? Seriously, this looks like a neat site (thumbs up on the pics) and I'm gonna settle in and read it in its entirety. In a way, I have sympathy for underpaid civil servants, yet I despise abuse of authority, so I'd have a devil of a time trying to figure out what to do if I were travelling.
    • I'm just impressed that he's been to so many countries, some of which I'd be wary of visiting myself. And on a motorcycle. In his recent entry from Afghanistan he says he thinks it's safe for travel, but just about the time he was there, a Japanese couple were murdered.
    • I olny had time to read the Turkmenistan entry. Does he make an effort to learn the language? He says they were helpful with directions and such. I'm a wuss about travelling to countries where I don't speak the language -- always learn the basics beforehand.
    • V. interesting reading. Ta un-!
    • Tracicle, I believe he's basically just an English speaker, but I'm sure he's picked up some useful phrases along the way. And it seems at least a little English is spoken even in remote areas. He's certainly the adventurous sort.