Young Pioneer Tours

Soviet Style Fun: Central Asian Theme Parks

Like an aeroplane in the sky, it barely looks like it’s moving from a distance. When you see an aeroplane you know it’s travelling at maybe 900km an hour and likewise, the largest indoor Ferris Wheel in the world covers a substantial distance very quickly, but looking at it from afar it appears to be stationary.


All over Central Asia, as with most of the former Soviet Union, a great emphasis was placed on recreation. All over the region are some amazing attractions. Tashkentland (formally Tashkent Disneyland, but they changed their name as part of the country’s attempt to become more palatable to the West and Western investors) is another one. As I understand it, the goal of roller coaster rides is the perceived fear creating an adrenalin rush. The aptly named Boomerang (Боомеранг) at Tashkentland goes past the perceived fear and take the rider to a real fear of death. The screeches and odd sounds emanating from this giant steel soviet beast would surely land a themepark CEO in prison elsewhere in the world.

Outside Bishkek there are chairlifts that have a sign advertising how long it has been since the last accident. If this is meant to be reassuring, it isn’t. Every small town will have a run down old carousel or small ferris wheel; usually consisting of more rust than paint. One will even find an aqua park here and there, never mind that often the water slides are made of concrete or have uneven tubing, providing a rather bumpy ride.

The Wheel of Enlightenment is in a different category altogether. Building the biggest Ferris Wheel in the world was of little interest to the powers that be. Instead the biggest indoor Ferris Wheel was built, encased in a structure of white marble, gold plating and spotless glass. When you enter the Alem Centre on which the Wheel is built, you enter an amusement facility housing games, billiards and a small cinema. You then catch a lift to just near the base of the Wheel, taking your last steps up what seems to be the worlds longest ramp, but also most unnecessary ramp. The journey itself in the Wheel isn’t really all that enlightening but does provide some amazing views of the white marble capital.

When you’re finished becoming enlightened by your 10-minute journey, you may be able to enjoy the world’s emptiest food court. On occasion we have seen food here, but most of the time it seems to be completely void of any movement, as does the entire centre. Surely it’s only a matter of time before the Guinness Book of Records also give it the title of the World’s Most Deserted Ferris Wheel.

Discover Central Asia’s weird answer to Disneyland and be somewhat enlightened on the Wheel of Enlightenment with us on our Easter Turkmenistan Tour and Uzbekistan Tours.

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