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Checking into the Panopticon

Ashgabat: Hotel Turkmenistan

There’s something about checking into a hotel where you know the rooms are bugged, or at the very least used to be. Read the opening paragraph on this page. Hey – if you’re traveling alone, at the very least it gives you someone to talk to.

I suspect the paranoid-desire-to-hear-all will have been toned down since that guidebook description was written, and whether the Soviet era listening devices still work sufficiently well – if you thought adding WiFi to a building was a bitch imagine trying to re-bug an entire hotel. Or maybe the $70 a barrel oil price sweeps all considerations in its path?

The kinds of travel I’ve been doing for the last few years comes with its fair share of real-world paranoia – I’ve come to appreciate being the right guy in the right place at the right time, and occasionally the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s never whether someone is listening, but whom, and their motivations today and tomorrow: whether you’re using the phone network; the internet; or on occasion – room 212 in the Hotel Turkmenistan.