Azerbaijan was never in my bucket list. I wasn’t even familiar with the country. I knew about the “stans” — Khazakstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan but Azerbaijan? Nope. But life has its own twists and turns and it was a conference that brought me here. It was my colleague who showed me the call for proposals for the ISME Conference in… tadaa!.. Azerbaijan. After the initial excitement had worn-off, we counted the costs and the logistics (visa application had to be done at the embassy in KL) we decided it was just too expensive. But then, life dealt another twist. We had forgotten to tell another colleague that we had crossed-off the conference. She sent one and…. was accepted. After the guilt had worn off, the thought of going to Azerbaijan suddenly became exciting. Never mind that I should be writing my dissertation instead of heading to a trip. It was too enticing. Besides, I get to have an excuse for a vacation counted as official business.
So 18 hours and 2 flights after, I’m writing this in the spacious room at the Jireh Baku Hotel in the Old City I share with my colleague. Our home until the 21st for the International Society for Music Education (ISME) World Conference. Already, I sense I’m gonna like Baku. The drive from the airport to the Old City showed wide highways and avenues flanked with beautiful modernist buildings and grand architecture.
It did take a lot of work to come here. We had to contact the Azerbaijan Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to ask if they could process our visas, send our passports to them via DHL and get them back. We had originally planned to enter Azerbaijan from Georgia but I was denied an e-visa. We flew from instead Manila to Istanbul then a 3-hour layover before the 2 hour plus flight to Baku.
However, it was surprisingly painless and hassle free. Even the 11 plus hour flight to Istanbul didn’t seem that long (finally go to see “The Greatest Show on Earth”). More importantly, Baku, at least on first impression is beautiful. I’m excited.